Wine lovers are probably familiar with Mihály Figula Jr. who is the proud owner of the title “Winemaker of the Year 2022”. Like many others, we also reached out to him with a few questions.
Your father won the "Winemaker of the Year" award exactly 20 years ago, and you’ve been a nominee yourself for quite some time now. Can this award be seen as a sign from your late father that you’re on the right path? How did you feel? Did you expect to receive this title in 2022?
Yes, we really hoped so. It’s an important moment in our family. We’re very happy and proud that we were able to carry on my father's legacy in a way that earned us this award. Also, the fact that we haven’t changed the basic concept, we’re just trying to take my father's work to the next level shows that we’re on the right path.
So, if I understand correctly, you prefer to continue the traditions and don’t plan on any radical changes?
Basically, the main concept of making local wines was laid out by our parents. I wouldn't say that we’re not innovative, we use a lot of new technologies and work with modern machinery. But indeed, we don't focus much on entering new, potential markets, because we feel our core business would suffer.
What makes a local wine unique? What is the most important factor in making such a wine, and what makes Figula wines such high quality?
I always say it's easy for us, because Hungary has very good conditions for winemaking, so it's easy to make good wines here. Of course, I can only speak on our own wine region, but the conditions here are so good that if you’re a skilled professional, you could achieve high quality with much less work.
Indeed, Balatonfüred-Csopak wine region has extraordinary characteristics, of which Olaszrizling is an essential part. Your winery places great emphasis on it. How conscious was this choice?
The question of where to grow vine has long been settled, as our ancestors on our mother's side had estates here, lived here for generations, and now we continue to do so. In terms of variety, it was an easy choice since we believe Olaszrizling is the best white wine grape variety in Hungary. It reflects well the characteristics of the terroir. It also seems to adapt quite well to the changing climate, which is nowadays an important factor. So, we believe that if we want to make local wine, Olaszrizling is the best choice.
The public seems to agree, as you won this prestigious award last year. Does this recognition have an impact on the winery, let’s say from a commercial point of view?
The truth is that we’ve been cultivating the same 30 hectares for many years now, so we’re not growing, but our wines always sell out. However, the publicity for the award is great. We were invited to a lot of events and got a chance to showcase our wines, so the aftermath of the award is absolutely positive in this respect. All in all, we’ve had a very busy year, and the harvest is yet to come.
A lot of work goes into the production of even a single bottle of wine, both by nature and the winemaker, and much of it, as you’ve pointed out, is out of your control. If you had one wish for the winery, what would it be?
If I had one wish, it would be for the cultivation of our 30 hectares to be less challenging. That we could do all this work with much less effort.
Earlier you’ve touched upon the role of maternal ancestors in the life of the winery, and you just mentioned your grandmother. Do you have a memory from your childhood that played an important role in eventually getting to where you at today?
The constant presence of vine and wine in our lives, even as children, played a part. It was impossible to have a Sunday lunch or Saturday dinner without wine on the table or discussing the current duties in the cellar and vineyard. Once it becomes a lifestyle, like in our home, you just start pursuing it without even realising. Of course, we try to create continuity and raise our children in such a way that they feel it’s worth continuing the profession.
We congratulate you on the award, and hope Figula Winery will continue to surprise us with fantastic wines from the Balaton-Highlands for many years to come.