Grand Vin de Barnag | Bence Szilágyi

'The winemaking studies and system in Hungary is still very stuck in industrial winemaking and old ideas. So you basically end up doing the opposite of everything you are taught in school.'

Balaton, Hungary

Region

Organic (Uncertified)

Farming

3 hectares

Size

Bence Szilágyi is an exciting young winemaker based in Barnag, a small village which sits alongside Lake Balaton, Central Europe’s largest lake. After his family moved from Hamburg to Balaton, his father picked up winemaking as a hobby (as a lot of people in the region do) and began making a few hundred bottles a year for friends and family.

Bence may have studied winemaking in both Hungary and Germany, but Grand Vin de Barnag started out as an experiment, and was never meant to become a full-time thing. It was in 2017 that Bence officially made the first vintage of Grand Vin de Barnag, a play on words of the more illustrious Grand Vin de Bordeaux from France. It was through the discovery of natural wine however that really catapulted Bence’s small project into a full-time focus, and Franz Weninger has been a huge inspiration in the evolution of his winemaking style.

Since the dismemberment of Hungary after the First World War, when it lost 70% of its land mass and crucially its coastline to the Mediterranean,
Lake Balaton has become the country’s “coastal” holiday destination, with many people from nearby Budapest flocking here for their Summer holidays. This has meant that property and land prices in the region has become extremely expensive, making it almost impossible to buy vineyards. Of the fruit that Bence uses for his wines, 50% of it he farms himself using rented vineyards, whilst the other 50% he buys from a negociant farmer which he says he is very fortunate to work with. Total vineyard size is around 3ha. All of the fruit is organic, planted in predominantly limestone soils, and although the region is typically quite warm, the wines always have a very bright natural acidity to them Bence makes his wines in a cellar situated under his house, and the space is actually dug into the limestone bedrock. Because of this, fermentations move very slowly, and generally speaking only finish in the following spring. This is a very important thing for Bence, as he believes this is fundamental to developing structure and aromatics. His wines are always fermented and aged in old oak barrels (he uses a mix of French, Austrian and Hungarian oak), and vintage 2020 was the first vintage where no sulphur was added to the wines. Production is now around 10 000 bottles a year.

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