What happens when you leave behind city life and a career in advertising and DJing, to instead direct all of that creative energy into farming and winemaking? If you taste a bottle of Attila Homonna’s captivating Tokaj wines, you’ll find out.
His project and his wines represent a larger rebirth of Hungarian wine; having only emerged from decades of communist rule in 1989, independent winemaking — and indeed independent thinking and creativity — is now thriving, and the global wine community is thrilled to reap the fruits of this new emerging community’s efforts, with Attila leading the way.
People: Attila Homonna
Place: Tokaj, Hungary (Határi, Csáky and Rány vineyards), and Balaton
Varieties: Furmint, Hárslevelű and Blaufränkisch
Did You Know? His very first wines were sweet; following tradition they were made in the traditional Hungarian Szamorodni style (meaning they contain grapes affected by botrytis — a type of ‘good’ mould which creates lovely rye bread flavours, and which is behind many of the fine sweet wines of the world, such as the Sauternes wines of Bordeaux also). But soon after, his focus turned to re-imagining dry styles. Inspired by his travels, he wanted to create quality-focused wines that mirrored the wines he himself liked to drink. That meant the pursuit of freshness and drinkability. He also spoke with chefs, and wanted to make wines with higher acidity, which would pair better with a variety of dishes.
Very quickly in his farming journey, Attila decided to work organically — he only sprayed with chemicals for one year before he changed his mind. He explains,
“I was the first generation to make wine — my dad was an engineer, so when it came to farming I had a clean slate. There was a very kind elderly gentleman who had a vineyard next door, and he told me what to spray. So, I did what he did, but I quickly realised that there were a lot of chemicals. I felt really bad working against nature, and I didn’t know what was in those chemical boxes. I began reading about organic farming and visited vineyards throughout Europe. I realised there was a different way. After choosing the organic path, my fermentations were also much healthier, and the taste and smell of the wine changed. I became certain that’s what I wanted to do, and I was one of the first in Tokaj to work organically. Now, there’s 20 or 30 of us.”
In addition, he has become the consultant winemaker for vineyards in Balaton, where he has managed to fulfil his dream of making red wines from Blaufränkisch (known in Hungary as Kékfrankos). He jokes that he was always envious of his colleagues across the border in Austria, in the Burgenland — where Blaufränkisch is King — so when the opportunity arose, he jumped at the chance. Through taking on this partnership, he has also enabled and helped other growers convert to organic viticulture, further encouraging the low intervention scene in the country. He has also recently purchased and planted his own Balaton Blaufränkisch vineyard of just 0.5 hectares, which will soon be old enough for him to begin making wine from it.
It has been a long road — almost two decades — to reach this point. He says:
“In Hungary, we have a joke that says, if you want your winery to make you a millionaire, first you have to be a billionaire.”
We laugh; his career is stable now, but it hasn’t been an easy ride. He tells us about an incident that took place ten years ago: