“We have to discover Somló for ourselves before the world gets there!“.
This piece of advice was offered a few years ago at a gathering of friends at the College of Wine in Budapest. So, what are the distinguishing features that make Somló so special? The list of memorable attributes is a lengthy one, but the two most prominent characteristics are terroir and local grape varieties.
Somló sits on the eastern periphery of Hungary’s Great Plain, not far from the towns of Ajka and Pápa. Somló Hill itself is a solitary volcanic peak rising 1417 ft above sea level, with vineyards reaching an altitude of 1150 ft. Somló Wine Region also includes Kis-Somlyó and the Ság, two smaller hills some 12 miles to the east and northeast of the eponymous mountain.The core of Somló’s soil consists of Pontian (Miocene) lacustrine deposits with clay-marl and sandstone overlays. A huge volcanic eruption covered all this with a spread of basalt and tuff. These two different types of rocks provide a vital topsoil combination and are also responsible for the unique flavor character of Somló wines. At the foot of the hill, sandyclayey and loess adobe dominate. Higher up on the hillsides, mixed basalt and weathered tuff debris resulted in excellent soil rich in trace elements and minerals. Some of these substances have leached out of steeper slopes due to rainfall, now enriching adobe soils at lower elevations below. In some Somló locations, there is no “traditional” soil at all because every inch of the ground is covered in crushed basalt, called “corn-basalt“. This blanket of weathered volcanic basalt grains is intermittently present as you work your way up the hill but breaks off abruptly in a perpendicular direction. Intermittent spits or „tongues“ of lava impart extraordinary
concentration and opulence of flavor to the wines grown on them, provided the yield is not allowed to cross a certain
volume. Prior to the phylloxera epidemic, at least 30 different grapes were cultivated in Somló. Today, the best-performing grapes in Somló are the same Furmint and Hárslevelű that made Tokaj famous, along with a local variety, Olaszrizling.