From gas-fitter to owner of Chateau Dereszla

Today we are going to make a side trip to Tokaj where, believe it or not, Lőrinc Mészáros, who is considered to be Prime Minister Viktor Orbán’s front man (stróman in Hungarian), is in the process of buying a vineyard. Not just any old vineyard but Chateau Dereszla, a 54-hectare estate owned by Count Patrick d’Aulan, an internationally known vintner with large estates in France and Argentina. Apparently, Dereszla has been a successful business since about 2000, with well-established markets in Poland and Russia. Mészáros’s purchase of the vineyard came as a great surprise to the locals.

Isn’t it interesting that Mészáros decided to follow in the Orbáns’ footsteps, whose very first business undertaking was a vineyard in the Tokaj region? It was a joint venture with Dezső Kékessy, a wealthy Hungarian businessman from Switzerland. The Orbáns’ share in the company (held in the name of Anikó Lévai, Orbán’s wife) that Kékessy formed was relatively small, but they became key business partners due to Orbán’s position as prime minister. Here’s how the deal worked. At that time the largest buyer of grapes in the region was a state bottling company that was close to bankruptcy. First, the Orbán government injected billions into the bottling company to make sure that the Orbán-Kékessy Estate’s grapes could be sold. In two years the bottling company received 4 billion forints in state subsidies. But that was not all. The vineyard that they bought was not worth much. The stock was old, and to make it a successful business a large amount of capital was needed to plant new vines. The Orbán government came to the rescue: the Orbán-Kékessy Estate initially received 41,475 million forints and later, on two separate occasions, an additional 64.5 million forints in subsidies. Thanks to the excellent investigative work of the late Krisztina Ferenczi, all this eventually came to light. There was embarrassment but nothing else happened, except that Anikó Lévai quickly sold their share of the estate.

The pending purchase of Dereszla was a well-kept secret, but by now it is certain that the happy new owner will be Lőrinc Mészáros, the gas-fitter and friend of Viktor Orbán. He has never been known as a connoisseur of fine wines, unlike most vineyard owners whose palates have been refined by years of studying the mastery of wine-making.

In the past, before the communist takeover, Tokaj wine was highly regarded, but it soon “became world famous only at home,” as the saying went. Dereszla was first acquired by a French co-op right after the change of regime. Later it was purchased by the D’Aulan family, who put a great deal of money into the operation, planting new stock and introducing the most modern equipment. Although Russia and Poland are the largest markets for Chateau Dereszla wines, they are also available in the United States. The wines of Dereszla were chosen to be among the representative wines served at government functions and at embassies. In 2012 “Count Patrick d’Aulan was honored with the Knight of Merit by the President of the Republic for his dedication and promotion of the wines of Tokay.”


So, d’Aulan’s estate will be added to the growing number of business schemes of Mészáros, who over the last few years has become a billionaire. He has so many irons in the fire that he is sometimes confused about just what he owns. A while back he had no recollection of a business he had established in Russia. More recently, he purchased the Osijek football club (NK Osijek). Mészáros’s purchases run eerily parallel to Viktor Orbán’s interests: agricultural land, real estate (hotels), football clubs, and now vineyards.

Why the sudden interest in Tokaj? Andy Vajna, a Hollywood producer and now a businessman in Hungary with close ties to Viktor Orbán, is also interested in purchasing a vineyard in Tokaj. One, maybe the most important reason, to look for estates for sale in the Tokaj region is that 40 billion forints in subsidies are going to be sunk into the region by the Orbán government. This amount is over and above a 100 billion forint package that was announced in January 2014 by János Lázár. The plan is as follows. The state will buy 1,000 hectares, which will then be parceled out either in the form of 25-year leases or even outright sales for those close to the government and Fidesz. There is also talk about planting perhaps as much as 2,000 hectares with new vines, which would make the wines produced in the region more desirable and naturally more expensive. Here and there one can hear talk of a new bridge across the Bodrog river and new roads.

Viktor Orbán’s first business venture in Tokaj 16 years ago was small potatoes in comparison to Mészáros’s purchase of a thriving winery with an established name. Then, the Orbáns were satisfied with a few hectares of third-rate wine produced from old stock that should have been replaced decades before. They were content to sell their inferior grapes to a state bottling company that produced cheap wine. Mind you, that was only an interim solution while they waited for government subsidies to be able to plant new vines. The money at that time came solely from the Hungarian government because in 2000 Hungary was not an EU member. Now it is really free money: the subsidies come from the hated European Union. Unless Brussels gets tired of doling out money to countries that refuse to cooperate in solving the refugee crisis or that have a proven track record of corruption.

May 28, 2016
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May 29, 2016 1:20 am

EU money flow into Hungary = the money that can be stolen by a corrupt & dictatorial ruling clique, in billions of euros.

2004: 0.71
2005: 1.36
2006: 1.84
2007: 2.43
2008: 2.00
2009: 3.57

2010: 3.65
2011: 5.33
2012: 4.18
2013: 5.91
2014: 6.62
2015: more [no final data yet]

May 29, 2016 2:18 am

“He (Mészáros) has never been known as a connoisseur of fine wines” – most Hungarians I know don’t know anything about wine even though Hungary’s production is sizable. The average folks simply don’t have the money to buy it anyways. I’m personally stunned to see how expensive some Hungarian wines are, notably in the Eger region, many more expensive than some great French Bordeaux or Bourgogne wines which have a world-wide reputation. I also went to the Bock estate some years ago for a wine tasting evening; the cheapest wines we tried were so bad I was wondering how they could serve them. And then, speaking about Hungarian wine, I cannot help but think about wine sold in 2L plastic bottles…

Reality Check
Reality Check
May 29, 2016 5:47 am

You can find bad wines anywhere. Hungarians make some excellent wines at very reasonable prices. I have spent many evening in Budapest drinking a bottle of Hungarian wine of high caliber that would have been two to three times as expensive as in the US.

A corrupt straw man bought a winery, no need to dismiss one of Hungary’s better products because of it.

May 29, 2016 7:52 am

Yes, of course there are good wines (and extremely good ones too …) in Hungary at reasonable prices, you just have to look around and try some.
My friends and family from Germany always go on a “wine shoppig spree” when they visit us.

We just bought some ok wines at the Tesco even (!) for around 500 HUF per bottle and very good stuff from Villány at around 1000 – but you really have to try, the price alone doesn’t mean a thing!

May 29, 2016 1:57 pm

I know you can find good wines at reasonable or even cheap prices in HU. I nevertheless find the pricey wines over-rated. And the price alone does not give you a clear indication as to whether the product is good or not. A good Hungarian friend of mine who’s a cook told me Hungarians tend to rate the wines they drink based on the price, not the taste/quality.

May 29, 2016 2:24 am

Has Count Patrick d’Aulan got an offer he couldn’t refuse?

May 29, 2016 4:08 am

A deputy of the green LMP party said. Benedek R. Sallai stated that the billionaires of current times had similarly large estates as Hungary’s pre-war aristocracy.
This really looks like a return to Horthy’s feudalism – unbelievable!

May 29, 2016 5:23 am

The Grand Looting of the Orban mafia is unbelievably huge and brazen, but the reaction, or rather the lack of it, by the populace is even more incredible.
Hard to save one from oneself.

Jon Van Til
May 29, 2016 8:26 am

If such a campaign can be mounted in Mexico, then why not in Hungary?

From The New York Times:

Grass-Roots Drive Is Forcing Mexico to Confront Its Corruption

May 29, 2016 8:36 am

Thanks, Jon! – but in Hungary?
The definition of corruption here is still:
It’s only corruption if I’m not a apart of it …

The NYT also has an article on the rise of fascism all over the world – Putin, Trump, Erdogan and of course Hungary …

May 29, 2016 10:12 am

I think we’ll be living with that for quite a while. That genie is out of the bottle. It’s an understatement to say democracies will be under great challenges. Already the grave burrowing has started.

May 29, 2016 10:54 am

The rise of fascism is directly proportional to the ‘dumbing down’ of the populace…Democracy requires the detailed comparison of competing ideas and plans. The ‘Jerry-Springer-Viktor-Orban crowd’…have no aptitude for subtle comparisons.

The most simple-minded, linear thinking is back in vogue: immigrants bring trouble, therefore, outlaw immigrants.

The rise of the Kafkaesque–sheeply fear and obeisance.

May 29, 2016 10:05 am

Just have to say it. For guys like Viktor and Lorincz who no doubt get pie-eyed drinking palinka they sure know how to follow the er…’noble rot’. As for Meszaros getting ‘confused’ on what he’s involved with maybe all that eros palinka has caught up with him…;-)…

May 31, 2016 5:13 pm

I think the reason Meszaros is confused on what all he is involved with because there are too many and too fast for even him to keep track of. It is a direct indicator that maybe, it is actually not his transactions. It points to him being a stroman even more so.

May 29, 2016 11:25 am

I think the European Union is enabling the return of feudalism in its worst by providing all the grants (non-refundable funding) to Orban, his front man, and to his friends.
Anyone with a half brain can see, understand, and witness what is happening in Hungary, but it is in fact the European Union that provides all the money to this. While Orban and his buddies stir up accusations on Soros (for what exactly?), they are buying up all agricultural, and other opportunities from the money provide by the European Union!

May 29, 2016 12:07 pm
OT: Tomorrow which is Memorial Day we here in the US pay homage to all who died in the service of the country. It is a day of remembrance for the war dead. Personally this has always had great resonance for me especially as I think on WWII where my father served in the Magyar army. Unfortunately he fought for the losing side. His government backed the wrong horse to his and the country’s detriment. I never knew what he thought about all that when he settled here since he died before we could have that discussion. Once again considering Magyarorszag’s new political course what can be said about the country’s future decision making? Is it perhaps a harbinger of disaster continuing the oppositional character of how ‘freedom’ is viewed in the respective countries? I always thought Magyarorszag would be chastened from the war but the post-war result doesn’t seem to have stopped them from dabbling in a new kind of muck called illiberalism. Perhaps Magyarorszag will escape from this dubious political detour. If not I’m afraid it could be that the quest for true freedom will have to rely on some to show great courage and put themselves into… Read more »
May 29, 2016 4:09 pm

Not too much OT:

Right wing “loonie news” outlet breitbart is reporting with glee that “Christian White Europeans”, especially Germans but also Belgians etc are fleeing to Christian Hungary and Poland to escape the wave of Muslims …

Real estate agents are selling houses near the Balaton in thousands …

Well, that is probably a bit over the top – from my experience they’re trying to sell what once should have been bought by the Russians which ran out of money after the Rubel’s fiasco …

The comments are “interesting” -all kinds of right wingers, outright Nazis and Russian trolls telling you “Putin is a pure Christian – the saviour of Christian Europe …”

May 29, 2016 4:51 pm

It is a total BS, as most right wing propaganda.

“Shocking, no German masses are moving to Lake Balaton because of immigration” reported a Hungarian news portal.

The government supporting media’s recent bestseller report based on the Bavarian local television’s report that German retirees are arriving to next to Lake Balton because of the cheap prices and the fear from the immigrants.
Well, a Hungarian news site inquired at many real taste agencies that specializes on Lake Balaton but the agents dd not experience any increase in the numbers of German real estate buyers.
In fact there are many Germans who try to download the properties they have purchased in the past. Maybe they are afraid of Orban’s Hungary more than they are afraid of the immigrants….

May 30, 2016 3:36 am

Thanks, some1, for the clarification and the sources!

From our experience I was thinking on similar lines.

May 30, 2016 9:48 pm

I think you mean off-load. Not download.