Lineage and Legend

Somlo Hill rises out of the Tapolca Basin

Somló Hill rises out of the Tapolca Basin

Somló is a paradox. It’s a small place with a long history. It lies along the slopes of a dormant volcano with a fertile micro climate. Fabulous white wines (and only whites) come from the varieties of grapes grown along its precipitous slopes.

Out of Hungary’s 22 distinct wine regions, Somló is the smallest at 832 hectares (2,055 acres). That did not stop it from becoming a favored wine of royalty, especially the Habsburgs.Legend has it (and there are lots of them associated with Somló), that winemaking in the region goes all the way back to the Romans.

The first documentation concerning vintner culture comes from the 11th century. From the start, Somló wines were used for medicinal purposes. A fascinating myth grew up around the power of these wines and was passed down through the centuries. Somló became known as the “wedding night wine.”

Legend says that if a husband consumed the wine on his wedding night, it would lead to the birth of a son. The Holy Roman Emperor Joseph II was said to favor wines from Somló. He had only one child, alas it was a son!

Somló wine was also held in high regard by Habsburg Empress Maria Theresa who was known for her great fertility. No word on whether or not she forced her husband to consume it on their wedding night. They must have been doing something right though.

She had sixteen children, but only five were boys.Somló’s unique landscape sprouts from the surrounding plains. Though the Somló Hill is only 270 meters (885 feet) in height, due to the comparative flatness of the surrounding plains, the outcrop seems to tower above the vineyards.

On top of it, lie the ruins of an 11th century castle which is associated with another legend. It is said that the Benedictine convent which was founded here by Saint Stephen (István) had to be disbanded due to the nun’s affinity for the wine.

Surely their excessive drinking was only for the wine’s reputed curative powers!A hike to the ruins also provides an excellent vantage point of the landscape for miles in all directions.

Looking over the north face, consider that the vineyards spreading across the hillside are the only place in Hungary where grapes are grown on a north facing slope.Once again Somló’s micro climate surprises and astounds. Whether the visitor is looking for lineage or legend Somló is well worth a visit.

The 11th century medieval castle on Somlo Hill

The 11th century medieval castle on Somló Hill

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About the Author: Leuko

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