Béla és Bandi

Bandi says he’s got two siblings and they are both about the same age: himself, Béla and the tractor. Nevertheless, one of the brothers will be replaced by a new one: by the American John Deere. He’s going to be green, since according to Bandi, a tractor should be green and American.Actually, there are four of them: most people also know Béla’s wife, Éva Mentovics, for the books she has written for children and adults, but only those who have not tasted her pea soup.

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Why Balatonszőlős?
Béla: Our mother’s side of the family has been living here for a long time, my father’s family moved here from Nagyvázsony. They were land-loving, hard-working, farming people who were called landed gentry and later became kulaks, i.e. wealthy peasants.
Bandi: There are hardly any more places in the world like this. From above the limestone, clay soil, Gella Hill hijacks the storms and hail. To the south, behind the hills, there is Lake Balaton. In the village, there are four springs and there is the most versatile soil in the area. The Avars and the Romans lived here and cultivated this beautiful valley.

Who is in charge of what?
Béla: Bandi literally spends the whole day in the vineyards. He has his headphones on, and underneath him there’s the four-cylinder engine of the John Deere 4500 tractor. We only see him in the cellar at the time of the harvest, as that’s more my field. He lays the foundations, while the result is my responsibility.

Did you learn winemaking at school?
Béla: We are lucky since the profession was classically passed down from generation to generation. We only did an intensive course, but in reality we became winemakers step by step, and we’ve been learning ever since. Earlier, everyone worked on the land here. To become a winemaker, one didn’t need a certificate, but knowledge, experience, humbleness, so that one listened to what the older people said.
Bandi: We learnt everything from granddad and dad. Granddad was a precise man. A lot of people observed what and when the Fodors did something out in the fields and they followed it. When my grandfather told me this, I laughed, but now it feels good that some people in the village adjust their work to ours.
Béla: The most important thing we learnt from them, and sometimes from our own experience, is that as in all fields of life, in the vineyard as well, one has to look at nature as a whole. They were thinking holistically, only they had no clue about it.

 

One hears these words pretty often these days: bio, eco, organic, biodynamic… Which one are you?
Béla: Bio cultivation is not the aim, rather a tool. We got here gradually, with constant learning, tonnes of disappointment, realisation and the rediscovery of old things.
Bandi: For the last 16 years, there have only been grapes and wine in our lives. We have been fine-tuning every since. We’ve not sprayed with chemicals for years, and we left copper and sulphur behind as well, and we are trying to achieve natural balance.
Béla: The family lost everything during the kulak era. We started again and with small steps we grew to 10 hectares, which is the maximum. We cultivate small parcels, which are close to the village but far away from one another, as people here used to do. Our ancestors knew why they did it that way: if the freeze took one parcel from the six, there were still five left for the family. In today’s world and in this society, everybody takes out more than what they give back, and in the meantime we merely look on anxiously to see when nature will take revenge. Nature comes from deep down. We limit artificial things, and strengthen the immune system of the soil and the grapes. Grapes are like humans, if their immune systems are strong, they won’t fall ill and won’t need medicine.
Bandi: I strongly believe that there’s enough nutrition in the soils of the Carpathian Basin for several hundred years, although a stressed plant cannot take the nutrition up.

One of the wines is Balaton. Is it so important?
Béla: The most important. First, the Béla and Bandi name, then the label with the tractor was born thanks to Attila Tálos and Géza Ipacs, the graphic designer, in 2006. Then came the Balaton. As kids we used to go to the lake a lot, now during the wine weeks in Balatonfüred, we spend most of the day on the beach – it’s also our holiday.
Bandi: From here on the hill we marvel at it every day, but I couldn’t even tell you the last time we dived into it.