No doubt, the highlight of a Somló trip is the winery visits: You get to meet passionate winemakers and taste excellent wines. I included below a list and a short profile of my favorites. The list reflects my own impressions based on visits and tastings, and also those of respected Hungarian sommeliers whose expertise I sought out.
Naturally, it's subjective and in some cases incomplete (for example, if logistics prevented me from visiting a winery, that place wouldn't be included). You'll find both the corporate-owned heavyweights and the small operations, but I’m partial to family wineries that convey a special sense of place. Finally, note that only wineries that accept visitors are included and that I never accept financial or any other incentives in exchange for coverage.
If logistics prevents you from a personal trip, you can order wines directly from the producers or from the Somló Wine Store, which delivers internationally.
A few things to keep in mind
Try booking a tasting as far in advance as possible since not all wineries are open throughout the year.
If you’re at least somewhat knowledgeable about wines and curious to learn more, gently convey in your email that you’d love the head winemaker to lead the tasting (with family wineries this is often the default case).
A tasting costs around €10-15 per person. Hungarian visitors often end up buying several bottles afterward. For foreigners, logistics can complicate things, so consider leaving a generous tip if you don’t purchase any wine.
Tastings usually go for an hour, but they can last much longer than that. It’s prudent not to schedule more than two, maximum three, winery visits per day.
If you’re driving, or simply don’t feel like getting loaded at midday, use the spittoons provided. By smelling and swooshing the wine around your mouth, you’ll still be able to get a sense even without swallowing it.
Not all winemakers speak flawless English but most of them are conversational.
It can be pretty cold in the wine cellars even in the summer months, so be sure to bring a sweater with you.
Imre Györgykovács (0.4 hectare / 1 acre): The uncrowned king of Somló. Despite a teeny-tiny parcel, this uncommonly modest man is worshiped across the country, with Michelin-starred sommeliers and local villagers alike tending to wax poetic at the mention of his name. Be it furmint, hárslevelű, olaszrizling, or gewürztraminer, his wines have been at the top since the mid-nineties. "To the proverbial desert island, it would be a Györgykovács hárslevelű that I'd take," said Máté Horváth, one of Hungary's top sommeliers.
The recipe of Györgykovács's success? It’s some combination of an incredible work ethic, a deep understanding and appreciation viticulture, and decades of hard-earned experience. Together with his wife, Gyöngyi, the two of them have been doing all aspects of winemaking themselves, including the farming. They never expanded from their one-hectare plot because they worried that quality might suffer. With both of them in their 70s now, they've sold off the vineyards, retaining only a few sites adding up to 0.4 hectare. Still, Györgykovács can be found there every day of the week. He's pruning, weeding, inspecting — the passion clearly hasn't abated. Unfortunately, he doesn't accept outside visitors but you can purchase his wines in Bortársaság stores across Hungary.
Stephan Spiegelberg (location; 2 hectares / 5 acres; [email protected]; +36 20 311 4534): German-Hungarian Stephan Spiegelberg is a unique character with an independent vision and a diverse background (he was a sound technician and later a test driver for BMW before moving to Somló). Despite being a self-taught winemaker, today his wines are widely featured in fine dining restaurants and his 2010 juhfark was picked as one of the best wines globally by Wine & Spirits Magazine. Spiegelberg believes in organic farming and in the centuries-old traditions of Somló like aging the wines for years to reach maximum flavor. Yet he also isn’t immune to contemporary wine trends as evidenced by two Georgian-style terracotta vessels buried deep inside his wine cellar.
Kreinbacher (location; 70 hectares / 173 acres; [email protected]; +36 88 236 420): The 800-pound gorilla of Somló, this massive winery is a pet project of Hungarian business tycoon József Kreinbacher. Although not admired by all, the company has helped to put Somló on the radar of many wine drinkers and improved local infrastructure with a network of paved roads. The state-of-the-art winery, restaurant, and guest houses, designed by a renowned Hungarian architect, draw many well-heeled visitors to the region. In 2009, under the helm of French champagne expert Christian Forget, Kreinbacher launched a line of sparkling wines, which have since earned international acclaim and account for half of the 600,000 bottles sold annually.
Kolonics Pincészet (location; 9 hectares / 22 acres; [email protected]; +36 70 337 4551): With nine hectares of planted grapes, Károly Kolonics owns one of the bigger family wineries in Somló today. He follows a traditional approach to winemaking while slipping in a few quirks. For example, he retains a bit of residual sugar to round out his furmints, and he likes to age some of the wines in acacia instead of oak barrels, believing that acacia leaves more room for the grapes to shine through. In 2020, he launched a delightful sparkling wine called “juhsecco,” whose name is — you guessed it — a portmanteau of “juhfark” and “prosecco.”
Fekete Pince (location; 4.5 hectares / 11 acres; +43 650 7015722): Now-retired Béla Fekete was a legendary Hungarian winemaker and a major figure in Somló’s post-communist revival. Over the years, his wines came to be known for their signature oily texture made from late-harvested grapes, especially hárslevelű. Well into his eighties and without a successor, it seemed that this iconic label may come to an end, but in 2014, a trio of wine enthusiasts — György Emmert, Gábor Riesz, and Ákos Dölle — banded together and bought the winery, committing to keeping the philosophy of Béla Fekete. Their first independently made vintages show a lot of promise.
Abeles Pince (location; 2 hectares / 5 acres; +36 70 258 5561): Imre Halász keeps a low profile in Hungary since almost all of his wines are sold in western Europe, in part thanks to his son and daughter-in-law who work as wine distributors in Belgium (abroad, he uses the “Holass” label). Imre is a charismatic man with an international perspective and strong opinions about winemaking. He farms organically, hardly filters his wines, and uses a combination of an egg-shaped fermenting vessel and a classic oak barrel for aging. I count myself among the people who think his beautifully weird and layered blaufrankisch-based rose is a must-try.
Barcza Pincészet (location; 5 hectares / 12 acres; [email protected]; +36 20 250 9633): You’ll have to trek up to the highest point of the hillside, right beneath a network of giant basalt columns, to reach Barcza winery but the views alone are worth it. Head winemaker Bálint Barcza is the fifth generation of his family to make wine in Somló, in fact, his grandfather still manages a plot on his own. A standout is the 2017 juhfark selection, aged with just a hint of new oak and showing off the best of this grape. Recently, Barcza has also been experimenting with native grapes like sárfehér and natural and orange wines.
Tomcsányi Birtok (location; 2.5 hectares / 6 acres; +36 30 863 3786): With a scenic plot high up the western side of the hill, Árpád and Nóra Tomcsányi represent Somló's youngest generation. The couple has been lured by the spirit of low-intervention winemaking, moving toward fully organic farming and natural wines. They brought a contemporary approach to things like social media and website design — other Somló winemakers would do well to take inspiration from them. In addition to winemaking, Árpád is the host of Borivók, a podcast featuring interviews with Hungarian winemakers.
Kőfejtő Pince (location; 4 hectares / 10 acres; +36 70 489 8740): Péter Tóth returned to Somló in 2011 after a stint as head winemaker in the red wine region of Szekszárd in southern Hungary. Likely this is why he’s among the few Somló producers who are also putting out red wines, in his case a blend of cabernet sauvignon, merlot, and syrah. But Kőfejtő earned most renown for its wonderfully balanced olaszrizling-based white blends and varietal-wines that are expressive of Somló’s soil.
Tornai Pincészet (location; 50 hectares of planted grapes; [email protected]; +36 70 33 99 822): One of the oldest and biggest family wineries in Somló. The late Endre Tornai headed the local state cooperative before setting off on his own and bottling the first privately made Somló wines in 1982. While most Tornai wines end up on supermarket shelves today, they also make premium bottles, most notably a single-vineyard juhfark from the famed Grófi parcel. It’s worth stopping by at their headquarters: there’s a wine store, a restaurant, a small exhibit about Tornai’s history, and the tastings include a visit to the massive wine cellar.
I select the featured winemakers above with the help of respected Hungarian sommeliers and I pay for all wines during my trip. Also, I only include wineries that I've had the chance to personally visit.