Gellavilla – Our stone house in the middle of nowhere

It’s the middle of May, it’s raining frequently and quietly outside – the type of rain that’s said to be worth its weight in gold. We’re inside a 222-year-old cellar where everything has a patina. The key to the door turns, yet it doesn’t open easily, the air is clean and cool, and you can almost bite it. The great silence is only broken by the glass wine thief that clicks sometimes against the wine glasses. Apart from a classic basket press, 10 barrels and a couple of tanks, there is nothing else here but an awareness that a wide variety of people have been here in the last 200 years. Those who are captured by such puritanical and lasting things must feel strange in such surroundings. This is the old stone cellar of Gellavilla, caught sight of in 1997 by our colleague Attila Tálos, founder and owner of Bortársaság.

 

 

’God’s own country’ is what Tom Howells [the other founder of Bortársaság] calls the county of Somerset, in England, where he lives. And that’s what I say as I’m driving out of Füred and see Szőlős,” says Attila, as we are heading towards Balatonszőlős, to give the village its full name.

 

The quiet rain soaks the soils of the 6.5 hectares of vineyards around the cellar, which were for the most part planted with Olaszrizling in the 1970s, but also with a bit of Tramini and a total of one hectare of black grapes. The plot surrounds the cellar, even the farthest row of vines is barely two hundred steps from there. The whole story started with two hectares in 1997, and only after a total of 12 transactions did the current plot come together. It has been cultivated without herbicides and pesticides since the beginning, and three years ago growing transitioned to organic, with weeds in between the rows and cover crops.

 

 

“1998 was the first vintage. We did it without electricity, and for the Olaszrizling I bought the 10-hectare barrel from a cooper in Füred. Since then, there haven’t been two identical vintages here, but I’ve loved them all the way they are. We always decide about the vinification, whether to ferment on the skins and ageing during the harvest,” says Attila, as we’re tasting the 2020 wines, which have been ageing without sulphur and any intervention since the harvest. Fermentation halted in the winter cold and has now started again in the barrel. “It’s always the case that when spring comes and the trees bloom, the wines kickstart again in the barrel. But we shouldn’t be afraid, we must believe in ourselves. And in the grapes,” he adds.

 

 

Ever since the beginning, the laconic Bandi from Béla & Bandi has been cultivating Attila's grapes. One of the reasons for this is that Bandi is connected to the place, and part of the plot used to be his. The other comes from the first: he is the one who knows these parcels the best. Dávid Bökő joined in 2018, and since then, during the year, he keeps an eye on the barrels, in addition to his own wines, and at the time of the harvest, he organizes, plans and fine-tunes proceedings together with Attila. “Every year is different, there will never be two identical vintages with such a small quantity, but in the background there is something in every wine that is the Gellavilla style. It’s hard to describe, but these wines have a classic character,” says Dávid.

 

 

So, except for the winery’s yellow screw-cap Olaszrizling (which has been fermented in the village, in Béla and Bandi’s temperature-controlled tanks since the beginning), every wine is made here, with a basket press, local yeast and via spontaneous fermentation. We are now introducing three new wines – two rich whites, plus the winery’s best Kékfrankos to date.

 

“For me, the grapevine is the only plant that brings a more exalted estate vibe. But we didn't really buy the old cellar to make wine, but to have a stone house in the middle of nowhere” says Attila Tálos.