Konyári Winery – Balatonboglár
We’ve had a strange spring. At the beginning of the year, winemakers were talking about drought – they said that the grapes were a month ahead of schedule and that the harvest would start at the beginning of July. And now, as we’re writing this, it’s raining. It’s raining and cold! The grapes have slowed down and the winemakers have more time to talk as it’s impossible to get into the rows between the vines. Nevertheless, that’s precisely where Dani Konyári likes being the most, when he’s not travelling the world.
“When I was a child, we had two concrete tanks walled with glass tiles, and we transported the wine in jerrycans to the bar at Boglárlelle train station in the family’s Fiat 850. I hated the vineyard, just like all the other kids who had to work there but after the harvest we were allowed to go to the forest to pick mushrooms, which I enjoyed a lot. One day, my dad sawed the top off the Fiat as he wanted to try it out as a convertible but it fell apart completely, which meant the end of its career.
From the beginning,
we’ve been doing it together. I went to university in 1995, attending the food industry faculty, which was almost pointless. But once, I accompanied a girl to an exam in the ‘canned food’ department. I was waiting for her in the corridor and a teacher came up to me and said that if I’d like to get a scholarship for Udine, then I should write my name on a sheet of paper. I did. They called me the next day and told me I’d got it. I don’t know if anyone else had written their name on it or not, but for me it was this trip that made me get interested in this profession.
I worked as a cellar hand in Portugal, California, South Africa and New Zealand. In 2001, I was working in the US, when everything changed after September 11. I felt that I had to come home, even though I still had a couple of months to see out there. I hopped on the first plane, and I went to a Félix Lajkó concert at the Music Academy that same evening. The electricity had been cut off and Lajkó played in complete darkness and I knew I’d made a good decision to come home.
The next day,
still completely jet lagged, half asleep and a bit hungover, I was driving my Vespa on the Kishegy. I saw this terraced hillside, alongside which we’d always passed on the way to the Kishegy restaurant, since 1991, as all the younger family members waited there. Then, we decided that we’d forget about the already received permission for the new winery building, because there we could build such a gravity- fed winery like the ones I saw in California. And then we had a go at it. Had I not come back then, had I not gone to that place and noticed that hillside, then everything would be different today.
The two Lolienses
started together in 2003. We had three tanks, the joiners were still working on the roof, downstairs a few wines were dripping. I was the only cellar worker. During the early days, in the evenings I used to have a beer with my friend, Keszeg, we watched a football match, then I went down to the cellar to do the pouring over of the little tanks. We planned a small family winery with 18 hectares in complete freedom that is very liveable and enjoyable. There are still only two of us in the cellar – me and my colleague, Lehel. Ever since the beginning, it’s the two Lolienses that provide the backbone of everything. They are very important wines, I make all my decisions based on what is good to go into the red and the white ‘loli’. The lighter, fresher raw material I blend into the Fecske, and what stands out upwards in terms of thickness or juice, I put into the Sessio or the Páva. It’s an exciting puzzle done barrel by barrel. Now I taste and make decisions alone. The red version can only consist of Bordeaux varieties – that world has always been the closest to our family, while into the white one, I put Sauvignon Blanc, Olaszrizling and Chardonnay.
I do the same as in 2003, maybe in even more freedom now. We’ve managed to cut down our vineyard area from 43 hectares to around 30, concentrating on the vineyards that are around the cellar, while we’ve also been able to reduce the number of our grape varieties and concentrate on the ones that we like. I’m strict in the vineyard and in the cellar, as I was lucky to have seen wineries that are close to perfect, and I know what to go for on the Kishegy. It’s not just our own parcels that I’m trying to handle with more and more savviness but I’d also like this wine region to become what it used to be before the state collectivisation era. Meadows, pastures, water habitats, birds, frogs and snakes. These are all needed to have harmony here. This landscape used to be like this, it still has its memories, so we know what the aim is, here on Kishegy, on the neighbouring Jánoshegy or below Szárhegy. I don’t want to become numb from this work and this place, but instead I want to recreate what was very nice beside the grapes, enjoy it and love it in the same way winemakers do it in the world’s best places.”