Interview with Zoltán Günzer, the man who made divine wine from the "Devil's Ditch"1993 Zoltán Günzer starts making wine in Villány 1996 Günzer wines are available at Bortársaság Vineyard area 20 hectares (ha), in Villány and Nagyharsány Locations Ördögárok, Jammertal, Csillagvölgy, Dobogó and Bocor vineyards Grape varieties Merlot 3.8 ha, Portugieser 3.8 ha, Kékfrankos 3.5 ha, Cabernet Franc 2.6 ha, Cabernet Sauvignon 2.2 ha, Kadarka 1.2 ha, Pinot Noir 1.1 ha, Syrah 0.8 ha Annual production 100 000 bottles (2009)
Are you from Villány? I'm actually from Palkonya, which is a lovely, small village just 6 kilometres from Villány. I went to Villány for kindergarten, school and even to the cinema, and when I was ten we moved to Oportó street (in Villány). We live among the vines, and I couldn't move far away from my parents' house. My mother lives opposite.
How did you get into wine? I'm from an old Swabian German family, our ancestors were mocked as "rafting Swabians" as some of them arrived by boat on the Danube. We're hard-working, grape loving people. We always had grapes in Palkonya and later in Villány as well. My grandmother and grandfather spoke only Swabian German. When I was with them, I addressed them in Hungarian and they replied in Swabian German. It was evident where I belonged to and what path was set out for me. It was my father who bought the first vineyard for me.
How come you opened the winery? I'd done many things until around 1990, when I got into winemaking in the state-owned Villány winery. I was coming up with ideas and tried to pass them on to the winemaker back then. I've been making bottled wines since 1993. In 1995 I met Bortársaság's Attila Tálos and since 1996, I've been selling my wines through Bortársaság.
And your brother is also a winemaker ...
Yes, Tamás entered the market in 2000 with bottled wine. He makes good wine, and luckily, there is room for both of us to exist on the market. The launch was a bit unfortunate, but now we've found peace with each other. It's much better this way, and I have someone to discuss things with ...
How big is your vineyard holding?
20 hectares, which I think is about the upper limit for a family-run winery. I don't want to grow larger than this, since this is the size at which you can still know everything about the grapes and the wines. When I go below the house to the cellar, I know every barrel and bottle, and what's in them. I can say: we're Swabian, if I do it, then I'm only going to do it well.
What does that mean translated into wines?
That's a very easy question to answer. With the increase of eight hectares our total output in fact dropped 20 per cent. Of course, it wasn't just due to our actions, since Villány was also beaten by the ice. The real reason is the production limitation required for consistency. You can't make mistakes with wine. For the same money, you should offer better, more concentrated wines from lower yields. That's the direction of development and growth.
And what about Ördögárok (Devil's ditch)?
This is the most important vineyard. In the place of a 50-year old forest, one million cubic metres of ground was shifted. Paths and channels for water were cut into it. We replanted it, believed in it and it repaid our faith in it. It's a beautiful place with an enormous possibility, and what comes out of it depends entirely on us.
Is everything in place?
Everything. Villány brings everything together. I don't think there is another wine region like this. We made Ördögárok together, we taste together, we ski and ride motorbikes together, and think about the future of the wine region together. There's a lot more between the winemakers here than a simple working relationship.
Franc or Sauvignon?
Villány is about Cabernet Franc, but Merlot is needed next to it. Together they can express the best of the region. In addition, the region is also more than capable of Kékfrankos and Kadarka with good concentration and delicious fruitiness when yields are strictly limited to 1Kg per vine. Still, Cabernet Franc is the first for everyone. It will be the icon.
What's your outlook for the future?
I'm positive now, we are fine with the grapes, wine, name and finally with the labels and appearance. We can't sit back and take it easy, we can't make mistakes, but as far as I can see the picture has come together. We are at a point from where we should further develop. It's an enormous challenge.