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Garamvári Szölöbirtok
Terry and Kathy Sullivan

Garamvári Szölöbirtok Summary: On the southern side of Lake Balaton in Balatonlelle lies the Garamvári estate and winery. This winery is committed to producing quality still wines and sparkling wines. An elegant winery awaits wine enthusiasts. The focus of the winery is on sparkling wines, culture and the vineyard soil.

The Garamvári Szölöbirtok (winery) was founded in the early 1990s by Vencel Garamvári. In 1966 Vencel earned his degree in winemaking. For the next twenty plus years, Vencel made wines with an emphasis on sparkling wines. During the 1990s, vineyards were acquired as well as a cellar for the sparkling wine production. The winery was built in the Balatonlelle area. The wines were produced and bottled in Balatonlelle. The other property, the sparkling wine cellar was in Budafok close to Budapest.

Garamvári Szölöbirtok Today, the head winemaker is Péter Baranyai (pictured left, left), who along with the commercial director and one of the owners Miklós Gáspár (pictured left, right), an economist, took us on a tour of the facility and conducted our wine tasting. We asked Péter about his winemaking journey. Péter told us that his family always grew grapes in southeast Hungary and made wine. While attending the university, Péter was able to take part in the foreign exchange program. He was able to travel to California where he worked at a winery. After his studies, Péter went to New Zealand, California and then onto Hungary to further his winemaking experiences. During the tour we observed the vineyard and could just make out Lake Balaton in the distance.

Miklós talked about his background. He is an economist specializing in foreign trade. One of the focuses of Garamvári Szölöbirtok is to export wines around the world including the United States.


During the cool spring weather, the meticulous vineyards remind one of soldiers standing at attention. The company owns 12 vineyards comprising 85 hectares (210 acres). White Grapes planted include Chardonnay, Furmint, Hárslevelü, Pinot Blanc and Sauvignon Blanc. Red grapes planted include Cabernet Franc, Cabernet Sauvignon, Kadarka, Merlot, Pinot Noir and Syrah. Péter spoke about the effect of Lake Balaton on the vineyards. The lake is two km (1.25 miles) away from the vineyards and balances the temperatures in the vineyards. During the summer, temperatures in the vineyards are a few degrees cooler, while in the winter, temperatures are a few degrees warmer. Occasionally, a late spring frost occurs after bud break. The solution: “We can pray.” The vineyards are bothered by birds.

Garamvári Szölöbirtok


The cellar area is curved. You will not see cellar mold on the ceilings or walls in this clean cellar. Oak barrels sit one high along the curve of the cellar. Larger casks are stacked two high at the end of the row. Another room in the winery houses the stainless steel tanks and equipment. Péter pointed out that at both the Balatonlelle and the Budafok facilities, the company is constantly striving to improve the quality of the wines and sparkling wines.

Garamvári Szölöbirtok      Garamvári Szölöbirtok

Garamvári Szölöbirtok Wine Tasting

Our wine tasting took place in a sophisticated tasting room. We sat at a glass-topped table in the tasting room that also is used for events. We noticed that on the bottle labels of the still wines, there is an image of a bird. We learned that the bird is an egret. These majestic birds can be seen flying over the vineyards in Balatonlelle. At our table, in addition to sparkling and still waters, there were plates of cheeses and olives and a basket of Pogacsa (Hungarian cheese biscuits).

Garamvári Szölöbirtok Sparkling Wines

The 2015 Tokaji Furmint Brut was created in the traditional method. The secondary fermentation, in the bottle, lasted for 40 months. The wine had multiple columns of tiny bubbles forming a central and circumferential mousse on the surface. The aroma offered citrus while the taste was citrusy and floral such as white roses. The mouthfeel was both smooth and lively. The finish was crisp and refreshing. We learned that the decorative piece of metal at the top of the cork, a placa, is called a “kupak” in Hungarian.

The Optimum Brut was composed of a blend of Chardonnay, Pinot Noir and Pinot Blanc grapes. The 12% alcohol sparkling wine had a dark yellow color with multiple columns of tiny bubbles forming a mousse on the center of the surface. Apple and citrus were on the aroma and taste along with some lemon. The mouthfeel was smooth and lively. The finish was crisp and pleasing.

The Classic Brut was crafted with Chardonnay and just a splash of Pinot Noir. The 12% alcohol sparkling wine was a dark yellow color. Multiple columns of tiny bubbles formed a central mousse on the surface. There was tart apple on the aroma. The taste had apple and citrus with a lively mouthfeel. The finish was crisp and refreshing.

The Prestige Brut was made entirely of Pinot Noir grapes. The sparkling wine had a yellow color with 12% alcohol. Multiple columns of tiny bubbles formed a central mousse on the wine’s surface. Citrus and some red raspberries were noted on the aroma and taste. The wine had a lively mouthfeel and a crisp and refreshing finish.

Garamvári Szölöbirtok Still Wines

The 2018 Lellei Irsai Olivér was produced with 100% Irsai Olivér grapes. The grape was created in the 1930s to produce an earlier ripening table grape. They commented that the grape is a grandchild of Muscat. Then it was discovered that this varietal grape made nice wines. The wine had a light yellow color with 11% alcohol. The aroma was reminiscent of a bouquet of flowers. The smooth mouthfeel had tastes of honeysuckle, citrus and some tropical fruits. The finish was fruity and floral. The is a good 3P wine (porch, patio, pool).

The 2017 Lellei Furmint was a light yellow color with 11.5% alcohol. Péter mentioned that Lellei refers to the egret that lives near the vineyards. The egret is a symbol of purity and closeness to the environment. This wine had flowers and citrus on the aroma. The taste included roses and citrus with an oily mouthfeel. The finish was floral and fruity.

The 2017 Kadarka with 12% alcohol had a translucent ruby color with a red hue. The aroma was redolent of red and black berry fruits. The taste included strawberry, red raspberries, black raspberries and spices. The wine had a medium body with mild tannins. The fruity finish yielded to spiciness.

While in the Lake Balaton area, stop by Garamvári Szölöbirtok for a tasting. The winery is only a two-hour drive from Budapest and makes a lovely day trip.

Garamvári Szölöbirtok
Balatonlelle, Kishegy telep 42, 8638 Hungary



Article written April 2019.



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