Two French guys in a Hungarian vineyard
3 months at biodynamic Kristinus
Text by Guillaume Plewa
Jeremy and I have completed a master’s degree in international business and wine in France, with different studies in business as well as in viticulture and oenology. We have worked in different areas of the wine industry in different countries but we did not work in the cellar for the wine-making process, so we wanted to find a job to learn more about it and to get a new experience.
At the beginning we focused on North America, to discover a new region, we made several job interviews and some wineries offered jobs, but COVID made visa applications complicated. So, we decided to find a job in Europe, in a country that does not border France, to go to a place we know less about.
If money matters
We looked for in Hungary and https://hungarianwines.eu/ made our work easier, because there was a list of good wineries and it was written in English. We contacted Ms. Ágnes Németh, who gave us some advice and we contacted the different wineries. Thus we found a three-month job in the biodynamic Kristinus Wine Estate in the winemaking process.
I must say that it was not so easy, because not everyone speaks English. Moreover, it is important to talk about salary, because it is lower than the French salary (the minimum salary is 2 times lower here, or even more), so it is important to negotiate benefits and other things beforehand. However, if the financial aspect is not a problem, skip this step.
It is also important to find a company that handles all the paperwork, we were very lucky with domain Kristinus, the team helped us all the time, thanks again to them (they will recognize themselves).
“Biodynamics is still a step above…”
Now let me talk a bit more about our experiences and compare with our previous experiences:
– We can say that biodynamics is something that requires a lot of time and manpower, because a lot of work is manual. We worked for organic wineries, but biodynamics is still a step above, requiring real know-how and undeniable knowledge.
– Compared to France, the specifications are lighter, you can plant more different grape varieties and offer a wider range of wines, with original blends. At Kristinus estate, we used different methods of vinification, it is quite incredible the work of the whole cellar team: plot by plot vinification, whole-bunch maceration even for some whites, full vinification in barrels, maceration in amphora….
– Orange wine is something more popular, in France it is also produced more and more, but it does not have the same popularity yet. In any case, it requires more work than classic white wine maceration.
– There are lots of young estates (created less than 15 years ago), so they have their whole history to create so marketing is used a lot, because it is essential to become known if you want to sell your wine. We also noticed that around Balaton, a lot of wineries are using Californian style wineries (restaurant, hotel…), ideal for wine tourism. In France, we are more and more involved in these projects, but we are still a little late.
– From a communication point of view, in France our communication at work is much more informal. But this has not prevented us from creating links thanks to the kindness of the employees.
Sun cream – a luxury product
We also notice that the life in Hungary is far from being simple, for the locals considering the cost of life. Many products are imported in Hungary, they are expensive, for example the electronic devices, the cars. Not to mention the price of gasoline, the costs for a doctor… One example that particularly shocked me was the price of sun cream (imported product), it was even more expensive than in France, as a result the employees don’t use it.
This remains our point of view, anyway this experience has been very enriching, but not easy every day because in Hungary few people speak English well, except in Budapest. It is difficult to communicate, except if you have some knowledge of German, but fortunately at Kristinus lot of people speak English well.
We would like to thank everyone and especially Florian (Winemaker & Director) and Lászlo (the Vineyard Manager) who welcomed us very well and showed us different places and vineyard, the culture, the gastronomy…
Thanks also to Marcell, for guiding us in the cellar (your knowledge and experience were priceless), Nikolett for being present at all times and especially with the administration (not easy every day), Bianka for all the papers to fill in, Orsolya for all the dishes cooked and especially for her time accorded to help us…