The history of József Törley’s family goes back to the 17th century, when the united Christian troops, led by duke Charles of Lorraine, were fighting the Turks to recapture Buda. A German knight called Schmierl fought very bravely against the unchristian army. His descendant, Charles Augustus Schmierl lived in Újvidék (now Novi Sad) and became a quartermaster and commissariat officer.
The son of Charles Augustus, John (1768-1825) served General Laudon as a courier. When John was injured in a battle, the General sent a letter to the town council of Szabadka (now Subotica), asking them to occupy John Schmierl, who lost the use of his legs, in recognition of his heroic and exemplary behaviour. The injured gallant soldier was assigned to the post of city clerk of Küllőd (now Kolut) in Bács county. A few years later, his house was destroyed by fire and he died of fire injuries.
His son, Valentin (1823-1900) – just like his father – became a soldier and fought during the Hungarian War of Independence in 1848-49. As a proof of his strong self-awareness of being Hungarian, he magyarised his name to Bálint Törlei. After the War of Independence was suppressed, Lieutenant Törlei followed Lajos Kossuth and emigrated to Shumla in the Ottoman Empire, where he received a panegyric inscription from Kossuth which he enshrined till the end of his life.
He chose the name Törlei because his original German name, Schmierl, was derived from the words schmieren and streichen, which can be translated to English as “to delete”, and “to delete” in Hungarian is: törölni.
Bálint Törlei and his wife, Mária Vojnits had three sons and a daughter: Antal (1853-1899), Gyula (1855-1935), József (1858-1907) and Ilona (1858-1890). The boys broke the family tradition and took up civil occupations.
When studying at the Academy of Trade in Graz, József Törley met Theophilus de Roederer, champagne producer from Reims who employed him as French-German correspondence clerk. Shortly afterwards, Törley got a job at the company Delbeck & Cie. After becoming very knowledgeable about champagne production, Törley set up his own champagne factory in Reims, the capital of the province of Champagne in France.
In Hungary, József Törley began his activity in Promontor (now Budafok). His company was registered by the Registry Court of Budapest on 1 August 1882 under the name „Törley József és Társa” (József Törley and Co.).