LAKE BALATON, Hungary
Educated in computer sciences and mathematics, IT entrepreneur István Bencze is a surprising choice for Hungary’s biodynamic, zero zero (zero added sulfite) rockstar but it is a strange world after all. During a formative period in Florence, he worked remotely for the Budapest-based IT company he founded all while exploring the riches of Italian gastronomy. The pleasure of discovering new foods and wine rekindled a passion for plants left dormant since a childhood helping his grandmother tend her vegetable garden and the 5 or 6 grape vines that grew there. He decided he wanted to reimagine Hungarian wine and though he had originally thought to settle in Tokaj or Somlo, the stillness of Lake Balaton captured his imagination. He purchased and renovated an early 19th century estate with historic vineyards that had been left in a state of disrepair. His goal was to grow holistically from the beginning but his wines, though spontaneously fermented, were sulfured and filtered until he met fellow Hungarian Zsolt Suto of Strekov 1075 located across the border in Slovakia. Zsolt convinced him to step away from sulfite and filtration and by the end of 2017, István knew he couldn’t have it any other way.
The essential Bencze wine is a melding of young vine Kéknyelü, Furmint and Hárslevelü, the three iconic local varieties István replanted at his prized Templomdombi vineyard to which he attributes elegance.
Kéknyelü is challenging grape to grow that has all but been abandoned, István believes it's special for it's exotic aromas and began replanting in 2015 on a basalt rich, hillside parcel.
As István tastes through the base lots for Autocthon, the best amphorae get rerouted to produce the single varietal bottling yielding one of the best bottlings of Hungary's most iconic variety.