The grapevines in Zala are grown in one of the most interesting and picturesque regions in the country: along with the beautiful, declivous hills and valleys they form a special production region, so-called ‘terroir’.
The special world is characterized by special natural environment. This is the reason why such a classical grape-producing monoculture has never been established as in other grape-producing regions. The grapevines have always been planted on the eastern and western slopes of the hills going south and the white-washed, archaic pressing houses have been in line along the road at the top of the hills. It has been a well-known fact since the antique Pannonia that this ‘terroir’ is excellently suitable for grape-production: the combination of the soil, the climate and the grape-producing traditions is responsible for the birth of wine production in this region. Unfortunately, looking at the data of wine maps or just the hills with our own eyes, it is clear that there are an increasing number of abandoned vineyards on the picturesque hills and valleys along with a great number of formerly famous pressing houses that have already strated to get demolished by the passing time.
Concerning its history this wine region belonged to the Balatonmellék Wine Region for centuries, and primarily its excellent quality white wines have made it famous even beyond the county borders. The wine region had the name the Balatonmellék Wine Region from 1999, and then since 2006 it has been called the Zala Wine Region again. The settlements can be found scattered all over the region of the Zala-hills (‘Szalahát’). Currently the productive territory of the wine region is 6079 hectares, out of which a 4107-hectare territory is first class. However, only one-quarter of the productive territory, that is, 1604 hectares, belongs to this wine region.
The climate of the wine region is considerably determined by the annual 700-800 mm rainfall. As for the climate, it is one of the least extreme territories. The grapevines are rarely damaged by the frost. It receives moderate light, on average 1900 to1950 – hour sunshine annually, however, the terroir itself is cooler, and the average temperature is lower than the national average temperature. The soil of the grape-producing region is built on the sandy and clayey soil of the former Pannon-Sea. Above the deposition thicker or thinner loess layer formed. Thus, the type of the soil of the wine region is mainly brown forest soil and loamy soils.
Balatonmelléke was already a significant white grape producing wine region before the outbreak of phylloxera. Thus, its determining types are traditional white grape types: Lisztes fehér (Floury white grape) (in Zala: Tótszőlő), Rakszőlő (Silberweiss), Szlankamenka, Bakator, Csókaszőlő (in Zala: Cigányszőlő), Fehérboros (Juhfark, Sheep’s tail in English).
After the phylloxera the two leading white grapes are Welshriesling and Weisser Riesling. The Welshriesling is still the most common grape in the Zala Wine Region.
The current list of the officially recommended grapes in the Zala Wine Region includes Cabernet franc, Cabernet sauvignon, Chardonnay, Cserszegi fűszeres, Blaufränkisch,, Királyleányka, Merlot, Welshriesling, Ottonel muscatel, Pinot noir, Weisser Riesling, Müller-Thurgau, Sauvignon blanc, Pinot gris, Tramini
The list of the permitted grapes in Zala Wine Region includes Furmint, Hárslevelű (Lindenblättriger), Kékoportó (Blauer Portugieser), Kövidinka (Dinka), Pátria, Grüner Veltliner, Zweigelt.
The landscape in Zala has always been famous and memorable for its grapes, and it has become a region completely determining the Hungarian culture. In the historical Zala County there were 34000 wineries and wine cellars in 1860. The message of the landscape is ‘Visit it, listen to its advice, and understand its message!’.
The Wine Community Council in the Zala Wine Region was relocated to Nagyrada in 2008. Due to the changes in 2008, there are currently four out of the former 16 wine communities in operation. The Wine Community in Zalaszentgrót (headquarters: Zalaszentgrót, territory: 555 hectares, members: 1272 people), Zalakaros Region Associated Wine Community (headquarters: Nagyrada, territory: 329 hectares, members: 811 people), Nagykanizsa Wine Community (headquarters: Nagykanizsa, territory: 330 hectares, members: 2371 people) and Kerka- and Muramenti Wine Community (headquarters: Csörnyeföld, territory: 391 hectares, members: 1988 people)