Pálffy Szőlőbirtok és pince, Köveskál

We travelled again, visited Köveskál and walked around the early-blossoming almond trees and closed restaurants waiting for the season to start. Coming in from Balatonfüred on the left hand side, we stopped at the last house of the village. Stone built walls, racka sheep and their lambs grazing on the meadow next to the house, and the ubiquitous almond trees. In the house, four of the kindest and most relaxed people you could hope to meet. Gyula Pálffy, his wife, Bea, and their two winemaker sons, Attila and Gyula. It was great to arrive here and hard to leave back for Budapest. We spoke to Gyula Pálffy.  

 

Pálffy Pálffy Pálffy Pálffy Pálffy

Are you visitors here in Köveskál or locals?

I was born here and I grew up here. I brought Bea home from Tapolca with me. Our family name has been registered in the village for a long time and our paternal and maternal ancestors both came to Köveskál several centuries ago. Nobody could ever make a living off anything else but making wine here. My grandfather lived from it under Fekete-hegy, and it was also a significant part of my father’s life as well.

A traditional, family cellar, you say…

That’s the most crucial aspect. We returned here after a few years of a detour. Not too many people did, but we returned. That’s when winemaking occurred to us. Maybe it was when I forgot my childhood memories that while other kids played football, I pruned and hoed with my dad. I read an interview with Huba Szeremley in the Borbarát magazine about the past and possibilities – we had to learn everything from the beginning after the first impulse, in a self-taught way. Then came wine school.

Is that what you needed in order to become a winemaker?

Had I not gone to wine school, then I wouldn’t have had any qualifications for it. That’s all, [says a smiling Gyula]. What I learnt, I learnt from the vineyard, from friends and in my own cellar.

What would your grandfather, father say about your work?

My father would moan about it. He couldn’t understand why I restricted the yield of the grapes, why I looked for small-bunch grafts of Kékfrankos. He collectivised during the co-op times. I think my grandfather would have been proud of me. When we came home, we followed our own ideas but the wines didn’t get better than my dad’s. We had to learn the tricks, start again from the beginning, listen to those who are smarter. Then our own ideas started coming through as well. We bought small used barrels. The settled must ferments spontaneously, then ages on fine lees, the wines are made in the natural way. Grandad probably did something similar.

So have you arrived?

We have indeed. Now we have my sons, Attila and Gyula here with us, and both have graduated in winemaking. We try to take decisions and carry them out together.

Naturally?

Naturally. From ripe grapes, without chemicals, with copper and sulphur. We’ve been working with vegetable extracts since 2007. We try to show what the Fekete-hegy is capable of with concentrated base material and strictly selected fruit. During the time of our grandparents, one couldn’t realise mass production on the bush vines either. The aim is to concentrate the power and minerality of the place into the fewest and smallest possible bunches. That’s where everything is decided and what we eventually feel in the wine depends on this.

Six hectares?

Yes, now six, but with the help of my two sons, we can work a larger area. We are in a healthy growth stage at the moment, we are planting Furmint or “Szigeti” as they call it here. The Fekete-hegy has loads of potential, we just have to learn to live with it.