With Robert Gilvesy on Szent György Hill

When we reached Gilvesy’s cellar on the hill, we could only smile at Robert’s idea: “Let’s march up to the top of the hill and have a picnic as it’s wonderful up there at this time. We can taste the ’15 Mogyorós Sauvignon and the Tarányi Riesling there,” he said. 


We did. We had no idea he meant to do it literally at double marching pace. We had to go and find our photographer, Miklóska, twice, and following resuscitation we heroically made it to the plateau of the mesa. Robert asked us whether we think people would like to come up here to taste. Sure, but not at this speed, would have been our answer, had we regained our breath by then. On the serious side, if there’s anyone who’s never been to Szent György Hill, they should do it as soon as possible: basalt organ pipes, rock flows, castle ruins in the woods, seven old chapels (unfortunately some of them are in ruins) and an unforgettable view to the lake and the hills. Somló in the distance, which make ones heart throb. 

The bread

When we get back to the cellar, Bea Kovács, founder of the Búzalelke bakery arrives from Kisapáti with a basket of bread – five different kinds of the good quality stuff.

Bea: : It’s leavened bread, this time made from the yeast fermented from Robert’s Riesling must. We tried it with Sauvignon as well but that made it too distinctive. The fresh bread tasted as if duck fat had been spread on it. I think it has the hill in it, but maybe I just imagine it. It’s important that something else in addition to wheat is put into it, like the grapes. The secret of a good leaven is long fermentation and ageing just like in the case of wine. The two go together in the Bible as well.

Rob: I first met Bea at the Káptalantóti market. She always left me a loaf at the local corner shop and I left the price of it there. Today, we do the street food together in the village. We’ll be on the street, start a fire and eat there – that was the name of our first event. Everything comes from local things, and today, we even have an eatery together called Attrakció. Our favourite sandwich is the one with goat cheese, onion jam, salad, pressed at the ends. What’s more, we even have brioche with sheep butter from Dezső Ódor. He’s the local cheesemaker.


The man

Rob seeks perfection – whether it’s in the organically cultivated vineyard, or in the wines made from it, in the food, in the landscape, and as an architect, in the constructed surroundings as well. He is consistent in this on the human side, too: he surrounds himself with young people who think similarly to him. His winemaker, Márton Ruppert, is such a person.

Marci: In fact I found Rob and not the other way around. There was an e-mail written in broken Hungarian on a piece of paper hung on the wall of the school: ‘I’m seeking a winemaker for Szent György Hill’. I took a photo of it but didn’t bother about it for a month, then when I was deleting some photos one night, I thought that I’d drop him a mail, and we started a conversation… We’ve been cultivating the grapes and making wine together for six years, sometimes with big rows, but mostly in perfect agreement. Don’t have a picnic with the Canadian!

Rob: As a second generation Canadian with both parents of Hungarian origin, I grew up on a farm with my three siblings in Canada. I do miss Canada sometimes but there is a big lake here, too. It has a similar feeling. In my head, I’m a bit Canadian, in my heart I’m completely Hungarian.


The River Cottage at Balaton

Rob: I met Gill Merrel, the chef of River Cottage, not so long ago. We had a fantastic dinner which was greatly motivating in every aspect. The way he cooked and what he cooked, then we ended up talking for three hours. I love the River Cottage story and we are thinking about something similar. What they produce, find and catch, they can prepare really nicely. What they make is never ostentatious, but always very tasty. That’s what Gill’s courses were alongside my wines. For me the 2015 Riesling and the ham were the top.


The grape

Rob: Riesling is my fixed idea. Marci is into Olaszrizling, I’m more into Riesling. The first vineyard that I bought was the Tarányi. I was inspired by the Rieslings of Villa Tolnay and Káli Kövek and I fell for the variety. How did Sauvignon Blanc come into the picture? I didn’t have my cellar yet, but the old press house was starting to be resurrected from its ruins. A friend of mine from Budapest asked me for some table wine for his wedding, and I took some for him from my neighbour – north-facing side, 30-hectolitre old barrel and the wine was genius. I said to myself, I should try it, too: that’s what became the Mogyorós.

Marci: Even in the basic Sauvignon, we seek elegance instead of nettle and cat pee. First we rented the plot of today’s Mogyorós, then we bought it. The use of Kádár barrels with the Sauvignon Blancs started out as an experiment but we fell for it. In the single-vineyard one, there is the harmony of the hill, the barrel and variety.

Rob: We cultivate our own plots organically: copper, sulphur and orange oil form the basis of protection. Even though we make the wines in organic quality, the aim is not one day to put it on the label, it’s only a tool for us to be in harmony and feel good.

Marci: 2016 is a good example. It was a tough year with a spring freeze, hail and downy mildew but exactly because of the organic cultivation we could push it through. We are out in the vineyard on a daily basis; there is no such relief that between the two sprayings we can chill out for two weeks. We know every ‘move’ of the grapes and where it’s necessary, we get involved.


1. Most favoured variety?

Marci: For me Olaszrizling is the ‘universal’ variety, I’ve never been disappointed by it.

Rob: : I should say Riesling, but Furmint has just started producing and I’m really excited about it, too.

2. Favourite wine?

Marci: In Hungary, it’s Olaszrizling from a good plot, from the north-facing side. From abroad, it’s Martin Mullen’s 1997 Riesling.

Rob: Kéknyelű, Pinot Gris, let’s say from Villa Tolnay. From abroad, it’s Proidl’s Riesling. It was at least 15 years old but it was as fresh as if it was from last year.

3. Favourite place from around here?

Marci: Csobánc and the middle of Balaton where it’s crystal clear. Both with two bottles of wine.

Rob: Here in the cellar. That’s why I fell in love with it in ’94. And the tiny, hidden beach in Badacsony.

4. Favourite place in the world?

Marci: Tagyon Hill. I travelled a lot around the world when I was a dancer, now I do wine regions with Rob.

Rob: Well, here. I moved to my favourite place. The other one is the ocean.

5. If not here, where else?

Marci: Chile.

Rob: New Zealand.

6. Most favoured vintage?

Marci: 2013

Rob: 2013