In the 19th century, production of Champagne-style sparkling wines became popular in Europe and rapidly spread across the continent. J. E. Hubert established the first Hungarian sparkling wine factory in Pozsony, Hungary (today Bratislava, Slovakia), in 1825, and by 1876, Littke was producing sparkling wine in Pécs. In 1882, a new sparkling-wine producing center emerged in Budafok, Hungary, under the name of József Törley and Co.
József Törley was born in Csantavér, Hungary, in the municipality of Szabadka which is now in modern-day Serbia, since peace treaty of Trianon 1920. While studying at the Academy of Trade in Graz, Austria, Törley met Theophilus Roederer (1843–1888), a distant cousin (5th grade) of the famous Louis Roederer. Theophilus invited Törley to Reims, France to learn the production of champagne. In the 1870s Törley apprenticed in Reims; at first for the Roederer plant and later for Delbeck and as a result, he became very knowledgeable about champagne production. In Reims, Törley set up his own champagne factory and began to bottle. He would buy base wine from local French producers and then proceed to turn the base wine into champagne.
Upon one of his base wine acquisition trips to Budafok, Hungary, Törley realized that the conditions there were perfect for the production of sparkling wine. Törley determined that the soils of Budafok, more closely than anywhere else in Europe, resembled the chalky limestone soil extant in the Champagne region of France which was necessary for producing the characteristics in the base wine of champagne. In 1882, Törley moved his factory from Reims to Budafok and proceeded to replicate every aspect of the champagne production he had learned in France, including the methods used to grow grapes at his vineyards in Etyek, Hungary. Törley also had 45 miles worth of cellars carved out of Budafok’s limestone hills to ensure the uniform temperature required for maintaining the quality of the wine throughout production. Törley’s quarried limestone went into the construction of Hungary’s Parliament which, upon completion in 1904, was the largest building on earth.
Törley was apparently successful from the start. In 1882, after the first production of champagne in Hungary, he wrote, "With great diligence and persistence I succeeded in producing something far superior to the Champagne sparkling wines known so far." Törley continuously developed his winery and the production technology, and introduced refrigerative disgorging in Hungary.
In producing champagne, Törley did not work alone; rather he employed French experts who installed the winery as well as worked it throughout production, taking instructions from Törley himself as to the details of production. Louis François, who had come from Reims to Hungary at Törley’s invitation, worked as Törley’s cellar master until he set up his own winery in Hungary with his brother César François in 1886, after Louis had a falling out with Törley.
In addition to having produced a high quality crémant (called pezsgő in Hungarian) and remaining innovative, Törley also had keen insight into the marketing of the beverage. With his great emphasis on marketing and advertising, by around the start of the 20th century, Törley’s plant was one of the most modern wine producing facilities in the world. By the time of the World Expo held in Budapest in 1896, the Törley cellars had been granted the title of "suppliers to the imperial and royal court" since Törley was supplying the Habsburgs with his sparkling wine. Törley himself was granted the title of nobility by Franz Joseph, Emperor of the Austro-Hungarian Monarchy. On New Year’s Eve 1899 Törley commented, “They will also be welcoming in the next turn of the century with my champagne.”
By the beginning of the 20th century, Törley had expanded distribution throughout the world, and ironically, his sparkling wine had become quite popular in Paris, France. By 1905, production reached 1 million bottles. As the business grew, Törley built a huge mansion above the factory. The two buildings were linked by a secret tunnel allowing Törley, much like Henry Ford had done, to make a sudden, unannounced appearance at any time in the factory. The progressive industrialist Törley was also the first to buy trucks in Hungary for the transportation of goods, and was the founding member of the Royal Hungarian Automobile Club.