Olaszrizling and Furmint wines, generally regarded as the most successful Csopak varietals, show an interesting variation of character east to west. Those produced in Csopak proper tend to be elegant, delicate, and light, even at higher concentrations of alcohol and acidity. Wines from Balatonfüred, Balatonszılıs and Arács have more body and extract, but can be softer depending on vintage. These appear to be the current trends, but varying winemaking philosophies, harvest yields, and technical sophistication of newly emerging private estates may soon cause a few surprises. altering how we think of the region’s wine styles.
The Balatonfüred-Csopak district spans a 12 km-long strip between Zánka and Balatonalmádi on the northern shore of Lake Balaton. It forms part of the Balatonfelvidék, typically describing a geographical unit instead of the wine region of the same name. Its total acreage is 6,341 hectares, which includes 5,792 hectares of Class I sites, but only half of this are is planted with fruit-bearing vines. One reason for this level of underutilization is the fact that many excellent vineyards were parceled up by non-local owners for building weekend cottages. These sites are likely lost to wine production forever, unfortunately.
The tempered continental climate of the Balatonfüred-Csopak region is similar to that of Badacsony Hill. Angled hillside slopes and unique articulations of local terrain combine to from excellent microclimates in the area. Csopak region extends to the north as far as the ground surface rises; quality wine production ends where the terrain melts into the flats of Veszprém plateau. This phenomenon is easily explained: whereas the southern slopes are sheltered, the level ground above is ruthlessly exposed to cold northern winds swooping down from Magas-Bakony Mountains.
Regional geology is rather complex. The most ancient soil type is Silurian metamorphic phyllite, a type of schist, with volcanic intercalations that grow excellent wine near the villages of Alsóörs and Lovas, albeit in a very small area. The schist is overlain by Upper Permian sandstones of terrestrial origin, which result in distinct red soils enriched by silica. Layered on these sandstones are diverse carbonate rocks of the Triassic period – marl, calcareous marl, and dolomite – of weathered calcareous matter, which imparts a white color to the soil. This combination of red and white soils imbues the land with a unique geological appeal.
The sequence of soil formation described above is characteristic of the region east of Tihany Peninsula. The bedrock to the west consists of similar Triassic calcareous formations, but here they are mixed with the green weathered debris of an early tuff diffusion, and both schists and red sandstones are absent. In smaller basins, sandy-clayey Pannonian sediments are evident in patches.
To the west, young Pliocene basalt makes an appearance where the region borders on Kál Basin. The most visible example of this basalt outcrop is Hegyestő, a rocky crag dubbed the “Pointed Needle” near the village of Monoszló. Sloped vineyards here are covered by a thin blanket of loess, often no more than a couple of feet thick. With its prevalent basalt rock, Monoszló’s wines resemble those Badacsony region closely. On the other hand, wines produced near Balatonfüred and Csopak proper are akin to those from the western wing of Balatonfelvidék region, where dolomite and limestone reign supreme.
The flagrant disregard of natural geological boundaries in delineating Csopak wine region lends a sense of ambivalence to the region’s wines. Soil conditions are equally varied, with forest soils over schist, red Permian sandstone and Quaternary loess, as well as rendzina that formed over Triassic limestone, dolomite and marl. The influence of these calcareous soils on local wines is evident, specifically in the firmly etched acidity of wines grown around Csopak and Balatonfüred.
The hills making up the Balatonfelvidék rise gently from the sand bars and peat moors just north of Lake Balaton. This terrain is diversified and intensely articulated, lacking steep gradients. The range of hills parallel to the shoreline is dissected by valleys running inland from Lake Balaton (one example is Nivegy Valley, famous for its wines) and smaller intermountain basins, such as Pécsely Basin.
Viticulture in this region, historically known as Pannonia, possibly started before the Roman Conquest, and was certainly highly advanced during the tenure of the Romans here. This is corroborated by the ruins of Villa Urbana, a Roman residence from the 2nd or 3rd century that was unearthed at Balácapuszta. Clusters of grapes and vineyard scenes are recurring motifs of the ornamental reliefs and the frescoes found in this villa.