Borbély wines from Badacsony, Balaton, Hungary

All shades of Olaszrizling

Grow du Monde 2024, Balatonfüred, Hungary

The 3rd edition of GROW du Monde international wine contest took place from 28 to 31 May in Balaton wine region. This year, the event aimed at promoting Olaszlizring grape variety in international markets and sharing experiences among winemakers. More than 50 producers gathered to present their Olaszrizling wines on the last day of the competition at GROW After tasting. Maria Pozzo-Tonkova represented at the tasting, she earned the right to be our reporter by completing our recent Olaszrizling quiz without mistakes, along with Elizabeth Smith wine writer. Maria interviewed three participants at the tasting, here is what she learnt about the challenges and dangers for Olaszrizling producers.

Our other GROW article with the results is coming tomorrow.

More than just a low-budget wine

On the last day the participants and the guests gathered in Balatonfüred Congress Center to find out the winners of this year’s winners and to taste the wines. It was a unique opportunity to discover the variety of wines made from the Olaszrizling grape. As noted by Borbély Tamás (Borbély Family Winery), also known as Mr. Olaszrizling, Olaszrizling “is more than just a low-budget wine”. “We can work with this grape variety in a lot of styles: from the light fruity wines to the single vineyard selection full body mineral terroir wines and sweet wines”, he said.

This opinion was shared by Davide Bortone, a wine critic from Italy who was among the judges of GROW du Monde this year.

“This kind of competitions are able to show that Olaszrizling has beautiful shiny sides that people should know better than ‘Fröccs’ (Spritz) side. With Olaszrizling, you can produce from easy to more complex wines aged in oak or late harvest wines with botrytis. It can be a big thing for the future of Hungary and of all the countries involved in the production of this variety”, he emphasized.

Tornai wines from Somló, Hungary
Tornai wines from Somló (Balaton region)

Marketing challenge

In order to promote Olaszrizling in the international markets, a marketing strategy is needed, estimates Tamás Tornai(Tornai Pincészet). He also thinks that customers are looking for fresher wines. “We have to make fresher wines. It has to come out the same year as we harvest it. But a little bit more smelling, some kind of unique thing. This is what the customers need. Just a good wine is not enough!”, he said.

Davide Bortone also pointed out to legal issues with Olaszrizling marketing. “In Italy, we can’t mention the word ‘Italico’. So, Rizling is often confused with Rhine Riesling. Under the point of view of the law, one of the possibilities for us would be to find a synonym in history and start a new marketing for this variety. Not trying to rewrite the history, but to find a new way to promote this variety”, he said.

New danger

But marketing is not the only challenge for Olaszrizling producers. Nowadays, this variety is endangered by climate change. According to Tamás Tornai, due to higher temperatures the grape ripens much earlier than before. “When I was a child, we harvested Olaszrizling in late October – early November. I had to heat my fingers because it was so cold. Nowadays, we are harvesting it in the end of September, so one month earlier”, he explained. Tornai thinks that winemakers should be innovative with their solutions to address this challenge. “That is a danger and we have to be ready. We have to learn. We have to find out how we can handle it. We have to make some kind of shadow”, he added.

Grow Balaton poster Hungary 2024

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