Corruption in the Hungarian wine industry

Vines of the Romsics winery. Source: Facebook

While the coronavirus might affect other businesses more, wineries have their own struggles as well. However, it seems that some of them in Hungary have significantly more financial help than others, even during the pandemic.

At the end of January 2021, the Hungarian Tourism Agency gave two associations almost 1,5 billion forints (more than 4 million euros): to the Balatoni Kör (“Lake Balaton Circle”) and the Stílusos Vidéki Éttermiség (“Stylish Country Restaurants”). The money was divided between 40 members. Both of these associations consists of winery owners and others working in the hospitality field.

Not every member was selected to get a portion of this money. According to 24.hu, some members were indignant because of a list that the president of the Balatoni Kör, oenologist Bence Laposa, gave to the Hungarian Tourism Agency. The list shows the businesses who received parts of the aid, and the amount of money they got in a descending order. The two corporations on the top of the list are owned by Laposa – they got 71,5 million forints (about 200 thousand euros) each, making him the one who received the biggest amount of money.

“I don’t think he’s the only one in the country who’s doing this,” says Bence Romsics who is an oenologist as well. “His sudden huge success was pretty suspicious from a technical point of view. Businesses in this profession usually grow slowly, step by step.” Romsics thinks that “a lot of people knew about this” and “it was just probably too much for someone now and they wanted to knock him down a bit.”

Márton Rupper who was interviewed by 24.hu, questioned why they were interested in his project. When they told him that it’s because the building of his wine terrace and guesthouse are financed through public funds, he simply said: “And?”.

Some restaurants said that they will not buy from the Laposa winery again after the incident. The Jedermann Café in Budapest wrote in a Facebook post that “We’re selling our Laposa wines to our dear guests because we will delete them from our selection forever. There are a few bottles left, these can be taken away for a freely chosen amount.”

Jedermann’s Facebook post announcing that they will delete the Laposa wines from their selection

Yet Romsics doesn’t think this scandal will have a lasting effect. “People will forget about it soon enough,” he says. “Every wine-country that is popular is popular for a few years and then another one takes over.”

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