Hand-crafted in Hungary
Photos by Ilona Robert
Location: Szent György-hegy, a popular hill above the north shore of Lake Balaton, Western Hungary
Owner & winemaker: Annamária Török and Attila Francisti
Vineyard area: 3 ha (= 7 acres), estate-owned or in long-term rental + occasional purchase of fruit from local organic growers
Vineyard management: practicing organic (in the certification process with Bio-Kontrol) and biodynamic
Soil: volcanic soil (basalt) with limestone layers, sand and clay in between
Main varieties: Pinot Noir, Kekfrankos (=Blaufrankisch), Welschriesling, Chardonnay + indigenous grapes like Furmint, Keknyelú, etc.
Winemaking: manual harvest, spontaneous fermentation only. Aging on lees in neutral oak barrels and amphoras. No pump used during the process, racking and bottling by gravity only. No sulfur added
Annual production (approx., as of 2022): 10,000 bottles
- Despite their young age, Annamária and Attila have a lot of winemaking experience under their belt. The couple used to work – separately or together – for natural icons like Gut Oggau, Heinrich or Michael Gindl. The most influential was the philosophy and work of Horst Hummel, whom they remain very close with and consult on a regular basis.
- Their vineyards are located on different places around the hill, resulting in a true mosaic of soil and sun exposures that the pair works with savvily.
- The winery name comes from the very first place where they made their wine together back in the day, a tiny cellar in Kolonia Street n. 52 in the Villányi area.
- The labels are inspired by a local folk tale (St. George killing the dragon) and feature two heads and two tails to symbolize that there are two people making the wine. It’s a linocut by Attila’s friend from Pecs, printed in their local risograph printshop with natural soy-based color on locally made organic-craft paper. Each is hand-stamped with their logo, as Annamária and Attila believe that “each bottle should pass through our hands, just like each grape!”
Jump to wines | Kolonia 52 Instagram
Sometimes you taste a wine and it instantly moves you – no, grabs you – and doesn’t let go, until the whole bottle is, oops, gone! That’s exactly what happened to us one night in Vienna, when the ever-curious, natural-wine loving owners of Bruder restaurant poured our buyer Phil Sareil a glass of Kolonia 52’s juicy, energetic red called Controlled Chaos. After having a few intriguing (and generous) sips from the bottle emblazoned with a compelling linocut dragon, we knew this was a project worth following.
It’s actually quite funny that we got acquainted with Annamária and Attila’s wines by such a coincidence, given the fact that we have so many mutual friends! They both worked at Gut Oggau, lived with Sepp Muster’s son Elias at some point, and they’re now almost neighbors with Istvan Bencze, another talented young Central-European grower in our book. “I know,” Annamária laughs, “but we actually didn’t want to push our wines much back then, given that 2021 was very first vintage we made after settling here in the Balaton winery.”
The wines are really impressive for a first go – as attested by the spark in our (well-seasoned and picky!) taster Phil’s eye: You don’t see such sapidity, balance and deliciousness every day, especially for wines made with zero additives, including sulfur. But Attila and Annamária are no beginners – before settling in the Balaton area, they worked both separately and together in many wine regions around the globe from 2016, in wineries both conventional and natural, including the afore-mentioned “temple of Oggau” or for other icons like Michael Gindl or Heike & Gernot Heinrich.
Forging the Path
The most seminal experience on their journey was staying with Horst Hummel at the end of 2018, when the couple basically moved in with him before they traveled to gather further experience in Australia. “We were living together, working together, having the flu together, went to see guys like Franz Strohmeier or Sepp Muster together in Styria… everything. We were like a family. It was really funny,” Annamária recalls the jolly couple of weeks that turned into a deep friendship. Hummel hasn’t influenced them so much style-wise, though: “We are making a totally different style of wine,” Attila specifies. “But Horst’s mindset, worldview and philosophy motivated us a lot. He has his own method of taking care of the vineyards, a kind of meditation, energy-focused way that avoids using any substances in the vineyards. Which might sound quite crazy, but it’s working pretty well for him.”
Their own approach combines this spiritual influence with biodynamic culture learnt from Heinrich and Gut Oggau and technical basics gained during their winemaking studies in Budapest (“useful for things like pumps and presses, but we obviously had to forget everything they told us about winemaking philosophy and plant protection,” the couple recalls the conventionally-oriented education). After making an experimental barrel here and there (including the very first wine made under the Kolonia 52 label, named after the location of their tiny cellar in Villányi), the first year of Covid finally brought them the opportunity to settle for real in the popular holiday area of Szent György-hegy (St. George’s hill), on the northern shore of Lake Balaton.
“We already knew this area, as I used to work for a small winery nearby. I just fell in love with this region, and we kept coming back here to visit friends and places. And then this happy coincidence occurred – we met the owners of this old winery and surrounding vineyards. They live in Budapest and can’t take care of it themselves but still wanted to keep the property and give it some real purpose, instead of just selling it to some rich city guy who would turn it into a vacation villa with a pool,” Annamária describes how they ended up there. “So they’re happy to see the estate come alive again, that we’re renovating the winery, replanting the vineyards… and we enjoy their trust in our vision, including the wild growing vegetation,” she laughs. Quite the win-win situation!
Balancing Above Balaton
The winery is located on the western side of Szent György-hegy – a part that’s a bit less on the radar than the Southern slope, which is the most sought-after by holiday-goers. “It’s way more chill where we are, rather bushy with scattered vineyards and grandfathers making wine for themselves in their old cellars. These parts of the hill used to be where the workers from the nearby mines or railroads lived, whereas the south side and its full lake view were for fancy villas and tourism,” Annamária smiles. “But our vineyards actually lay all around the hill. Because of the shape of the hill and its many valleys, we work with a full range of exposures, which we quite enjoy, as it allows us to experiment and explore the different expressions of the different spots on the hill,” Attila enthuses.
It’s an interesting game indeed: most of their vineyards lie on the eastern side, where the “cooler” morning sun is great for acidity and freshness, similar to the north-facing vineyards. “But even on the western side, which can get pretty hot during the afternoon, we know how to offset this influence – by working biodynamically and planting not only vines around our cellar, but also trees and bushes for shade. Another important variable is the variety, of course,” he describes the intricacies of terroir and the need to listen to it. “That’s why we chose to plant Furmint, a local grape that can really handle the heat while still keeping a nice acidity. It usually works great for natural winemaking, and we believe that it can produce beautiful terroir wines.” Welschriesling (locally called Olaszrizling) is a similar story, although introduced in the area “only” some 200 years ago.
As for the reds, Attila and Annamária are big fans of Pinot Noir, cultivated on the cooler eastern side to keep its acidity and elegance; the warmer western slope calls once again for an indigenous grape that’s well adapted to the hot summers, like Bakator or Keknelyu. To preserve all these diverse characters and energy in the bottle as much as possible, the winemaking is very minimal. The grapes are only harvested and destemmed by hand – “it’s very important for us to touch every grape, just like every bottle we make, to keep this authenticity and human connection,” they say.
Fermentation only occurs naturally, followed by aging in neutral oak in barrels or amphora. No pump is used during any of the processes; all racking and bottling is done only by gravity. “We don’t add any sulfur during any of the processes, or anything else for that matter,” the couple asserts, “we know SO2 can work as a kind of medicine sometimes, but for us, it simply has too much impact on the wine. And we luckily never had any major problems from working without it.”
Coming Full Circle
The couple now works with three hectares of vines in total, a number they plan to slightly increase in the coming years, although not much. “We always want to be able to live with the vines the whole year, to accompany them through every step of the season ourselves, from pruning to harvest. I think it brings luck,” Annamária chuckles. “Once you get past 5 hectares, you have to change a lot of things, the paperwork pushes you out of the vineyards, which is exactly what I didn’t enjoy in some of my previous jobs. So if we grow, I think it will be in a slightly different direction than just having more grapes. More into becoming a mixed farm with animals and trees in the vineyards, to live the whole circle,” Attila explains, “but that’s definitely step number two for us – first, we need to fully establish ourselves here, plant the vineyards we’ve planned, finish the winery…”
That said, he’s actually already gaining some experience on a nearby cattle farm for two days a week (Annamária teases him that he does it to avoid spending all his time with her, but their laid-back way around each other clearly shows they have joyful, well-established couple dynamics). Meanwhile, their vineyards also already enjoy a graze from a friend’s goat from time to time, avoiding excessive mowing or the use of a tractor. “We don’t really want to use it much, although we have a very light one – it still compacts the soil and hampers its life, a thing that we absolutely want to avoid. You should see the vineyards, especially in the summer, how beautiful they look, with all the flowers, it’s so full of life,” Attila describes almost lovingly. There’s no doubt about that – just take that one intriguing sip of their wines, buzzing with the same undeniable, compelling energy…
Plazma — Back to the top
A skin-contact white cuvée of typical grapes of the Carpathian basin – four in 2021, which inspired the name (plasma is the fourth state of matter). “While our red Controlled Chaos is always a bit more unleashed, with this wine we go for a more deliberate search for a good balance between the varieties, while still focusing on its zippy energy.”
Grapes: Juhfark, Furmint, Hárslevelű, Olaszrizling
Vineyards: Juhfark, Furmint, Hárslevelű: Somló hill, Grófi dűlő (South side); Olaszrizling: Szent György hill (South side). Volcanic basalt with limestone layers, sand and clay in between.
Making of: the grapes were hand-picked. Juhfark was direct-pressed while the Furmint, Hárslevelű and Olaszrizling fermented 4 days on skins in open vats. The Furmint and Hárslevelű were then blended together in a 600L barrel, Juhfark went to another 600L one and the Olaszrizling went in 400L big barrel. All wines spent 8 months in the barrels on the lees, no racking. Final blend was made 2 days before bottling. No additions incl. SO2, no filter, or fining.
Personality: instantly enticing. The maceration touch is gently present, only to make things even more interesting – the star of the show is this wine’s incredible energy and vitality. Lovely stuff.
Controlled Chaos — Back to the top
Winemakers’ note: “Our idea of Controlled Chaos is an always-changing concept, based on the fusion of red and white varieties.”
Annamária first made a wine of this name and style on her own, back in 2019: “My life was a bit chaotic at the time, juggling many things at once. And since we found ourselves in a similar situation in 2021 – so many things the take care of, moving into a new winery, looking for a place to stay etc. – it felt very fitting to use it for our nascent red-white cuvée.”
Grapes: Pinot Noir, Furmint, Cabernet Sauvignon and a small quantity of unknown varieties from old bush vines.
Vineyards: Szent György hill. Volcanic basalt with limestone layers, sand and clay in between.
Making of: the grapes were early-picked. The Pinot Noir was destemmed and fermented 7 days on skins in open vat. After pressing, it went to a 600L barrel where it rested 8 months on lees. The other part of the cuvée is some whole-bunch fermented Cabernet Sauvignon and a small quantity of unknown varieties. Aged in 300L amphora topped up with some Furmint juice, until next spring. The blending happened two days before bottling, no additions incl. SO2, no filter or fining.
Personality: singing! a super fresh, juicy red with a wonderful crunch and low ABV (11%). “Easy-drinking” is an overused wine description these days but here it really fits 300% – the first bottle we ever tasted “evaporated” in like 5 minutes.
Furmint Pet-Nat — Back to the top
Vineyard: Pécsely, Sentio Birtok. Volcanic soil. Organic grapes bought from a local grower.
Making of: Manual harvest. 4 days skin-maceration, then pressed and racked into a stainless steel tank. Bottled under crowncap with 12 grams of residual sugar, without any addition, to finish the fermentation in bottle as pet-nat. Disgorged by hand after 12 months of lees contact. No filter, no fining.
Personality: fresh, floral Furmint with a touch of skins and saltiness and gentle fizz.
Furmint — Back to the top
Winemakers’ note: “Our biggest vision for the future is working with Furmint. We couldn’t wait until we can harvest the grapes from our own young plantation so we bought organic grapes from Ság-hegy, another basalt volcano in our region.
Vineyard: Ság-hegy, Dénes Birtok. Volcanic soil. Organic grapes bought from a local grower.
Making of: Hand-harvest. The 2021 grapes were partly botrytized (around 5% of them). Direct pressed, sent into a 600-liter big oak barrel for almost a year for a long and slow natural fermentation. Bottled by gravity, without any addition. No filter, no fining.
Personality: balanced, long and velvety with succulent acid backbone.
Bleu de Hongrie — Back to the top
The name of this wine (“Hungarian Blue” in French) is a poetic way of describing the signature dark-skinned grape of Central-Eastern Europe.
Grape: Kekfrankos (Blaufrankisch)
Vineyard: Pécsely, Sentio Birtok. Volcanic soil. Organic grapes bought from a local grower.
Making of: Hand-harvested. Grapes were left as whole bunches: 50% of them were foot-stomped while the other half were left intact.
After 10 days of skin contact in an open-top vat, the grapes were pressed in basket press and then went into a 600-liter big oak
barrel. After 11 months of barrel aging, the wine was bottled by gravity, without any addition. No filter, no fining.
Pinot Noir — Back to the top
Winemakers ‘note: “This Pinot Noir vineyard is the first 1 hectare owned by us. We picked the first half of the yard on the 2nd of September with 10,8 vol% potential alcohol – this became the base of Controlled Chaos 2021 blend (see above). The second batch, harvested about a week later, ripe but crisp and very healthy with 11,5 vol % potential alcohol, became this Pinot Noir 2021.”
Grape: Pinot Noir
Vineyard: Kisapáti, Diska dűlő on the cooler eastern part of Szent György-hegy. Volcanic soil. Estate-owned and farmed by Attila and Annamária themselves.
Making of: hand harvested. Around 60% of the grapes were destemmed with hand destemmer and the rest went into the open vat as whole clusters. One week on skins, then pressed it with a basket press. Past fermentation, the wine spent 7 months in a 600-liter big oak barrel. Bottled by gravity, without any addition. No filter, no fining.