Villa Tolnay – Burgundisch not Burgundy

Swiss owner Philipp Oser started building up the Villa Tolnay winery 15 years ago. Now the estate at the foot of Csobánc Hill has been expanded with the addition of a modern cellar, while the image is also being changed and new blends are being created. We visited them on a grey February day, but it was still obvious: here, everything is already about the spring and innovation.  

Philipp Oser is a Swiss businessman, a world-travelled wine fan and gourmet. In Switzerland, he managed an IT-company and he also had a Michelin-starred restaurant in Basel, called Viva. He visited Hungary at the end of the 90s for the first time, then he came increasingly often, travelled around the wine regions and fell in love with Csobánc. “The winery started in 2004, but first I made wines for fun for myself, for friends and for partners. I strongly believed from the first moment that this terroir can produce fantastic wines. We developed in small steps throughout the years, and now we are here.”

It wasn’t such a “small” step when winemaker László Nagy joined him in 2008. He’s a born-and-bred Badacsony man, even if it wasn’t obvious for a long time that he would work in wine. “Although, I’ve never forgotten my grandad’s Olaszrizling, which he dripped into my mouth during my childhood, my parents tried to hold me back from the winemaking and hospitality business for a long time.” Of course, as is usual, Laci eventually ended up among the hills, vineyards and rows of vines – right where he liked to be the most. It’s hard to find two so different characters, and yet there are qualities they both have in common: they are both extremely precise and perfectionists.

 

 

Philipp Oser: The new cellar will be ready soon. Only the press house will be above ground, everything else will be hidden in the stomach of Csobánc Hill. It’s great when a winery can draw on old family traditions, where knowledge is passed on from father to son. But if there is no such tradition, then we are able to define our aims by ourselves.  

 

László Nagy: They started digging the cellar when we changed the plans and we pushed it 15 metres deeper into the hill, thus the interior cellar climate settled by itself. The key word is consciousness, because what we create has to be maintained as well. That’s where the reductive wines will be made, where we’ll age the red wines, this will be the place of bottling and there will also be a 70-square meter vault where we’ll store a few bottles from the previous vintages.  

 

 

Burgundisch not Burgundy

 

P.O.: Our wines are about Csobánc, a micro region, and that’s what we’re also emphasising now on the labels. We’d been using the old labels since 2004 and it was time for a renewal. We’ve transplanted a classification similar to that of Burgundy to Villa Tolnay. Instead of the Tavasz series, one-star varietal wines are being released which can come from several plots. We indicate the blend with two stars and with their own names: Névtelen (No name”), C Cuvée and Tenger (Sea). It is called the sea because when we dug down 12 metres during the building of the cellar, it was obvious that we excavated Pannonian Sea sediment. With three stars, we indicate the single-vineyard wines that come from the Csobánc.    

 

L.N.: Burgundy’s purity was also a good reference point in that we should only keep the most important ones out of lots of varieties. Now we can see what these parcels are capable of and what varieties we want to work with. And these are what we now place on 20 hectares.

 

“I was interested in the vision of this crazy Swiss"

 

P.O.: I visited Hungary for the first time at the end of the 90s. I travelled around the wine regions and Csobánc for me was love at first sight. The winery started in 2004, but I first made wine for fun for myself, for friends and partners. I’ve been working with Laci since 2008. He came to Burgundy with me on his very first work day.

 

L.N.: I was born here, in Badacsony. I’ll never forget my grandad’s Olaszrizling, which he dripped into my mouth during my childhood, but my parents tried to hold me back from winemaking and the hospitality industry for a long time. Eventually, I ended up in the hills, in the vineyards and in the rows of vines. I knew that Philipp is a well-travelled person, knows a lot about wine and loves gastronomy. I was interested in the vision of this “crazy Swiss”. We are very different characters but we are both perfectionists. We became good friends during the past 11 years, and after the first arguments that we had, we can now discuss everything.

 

 

“We give more time for ourselves for recreation”

 

P.O.: Alongside the strategic novelties, it’s also important that we give enough time for ourselves for recreation. We travel a lot so that we can get to know even more Hungarian and western-European wineries. Piemonte and Wachau are among our plans for this year.    

 

L.N.: In 2017, the guesthouse gave us so much work, which we loved, but in the end we felt like the fool in the king’s castle. That’s why we decided that the winery comes first in future. Alongside it, the guesthouse and the wine terrace await guests but with not so many tasks that we cannot keep up. Until 2018, I lived here with my family, but we have since moved to Badacsonytomaj. That way we can even walk to Nemesgulács with the kids on Sundays to my mother’s for a good lunch.