Good wine needs no label.?
This proverb is probably as old as wine making itself. If wine gets better with age, then Hungary's lengthy wine history alone is evidence of the country's quality product. So, why the question mark? Today, Hungarian wine is mostly unknown beyond Hungary’s borders. Part of the reason is that relatively small quantities are produced each year and only a small selection of wine is exported. The good news is that Hungarian wines are winning more and more prestigious awards, still I believe that they could be better marketed. Hungary as a destination should be more closely associated with quality wine and its many wine regions.
The Romans planted vines extensively over two thousand years ago, and Hungary's Tokaj region invented the use of botrytis mold to produce dessert wine a century before France. The earliest known vineyard classification system was implemented in Hungary and Hungarians even influenced California's wine industry when in 1861 Hungarian immigrant, Ágoston Haraszthy, shipped 300 different vine-stocks to the West Coast. Wine is of such importance to Hungarians that it is mentioned in Hungary’s national anthem.
This great evolution came to a halt during the Communist era due to collectivization, which caused considerable damage to Hungary's wine making. Entire plantings were destroyed if a variety proved hard to grow or if the slopes were too steep for tractors to access. Since the fall of Communism, wine making has experienced enormous improvements and winemakers have rediscovered and replanted the most attractive micro-climates with suitable grapes, in order to reestablish quality Hungarian wines. These efforts led to prestigious awards from the likes of Vin Italy, Vin Expo Bordeaux and London's IWSC for its Cabernets, Merlots and Sauvignon Blancs.
Thanks to increased focus on local varieties and to vintage wines produced by smaller, family-owned wineries, the spectrum of quality Hungarian wines got wider in recent years. A key ingredient to quality Hungarian wine is the fact that winemakers are so passionate about their job that they are personally involved in every stage of the wine making process. Be sure to try some wines produced in the sunny south corner of Hungary (Szekszárd and Villány), as these usually win or make the top five in prestigious wine competitions.
Over 22 wine regions in the country produce full-bodied reds and fresh whites that make wine-tasting a must. Quality vintages are still cheap by Western standards, so be sure to pair a bottle of one of Hungary's most famous wines with your dinner. Only a limited number of vintages are exported, so Hungary is definitely the place to experience the full spectrum of wine that the country produces.
Several festivals are held year-round in Budapest that celebrate Hungarian wine and are perfect occasions for wine tasting. The biggest such event is the Budapest Wine Festival, held every September on Buda Castle Hill. The best wine makers from all over Hungary are present. Wine connoisseurs won't want to miss visiting the House of Hungarian Wines (Magyar Borok Háza), also located on Castle Hill. There are over 500 wines on display for sale from every wine region in Hungary.
Here are some recommendations for wines to try:
Cabernet Franc, Cabernet Sauvignon and Merlot from Szekszárd or Villány, Pinot Noir from Villány or Eger, Blue Frankish (Kékfrankos) from Sopron, Chardonnay from Eger, Etyek or Somló, Pinot Gris from Badacsony, Sauvignon Blanc from Etyek, Furmint, Hárslevelű and the famous Aszú from Tokaj. Not sure where to start? Join a wine tour or a wine tasting tour and let the experts at Taste Hungary be your guide to Hungarian wine.
Recommended places to sample Hungarian wines are:
Andante Borpatika, a stylish wine bar serving Hungarian wine. Bock Bistro, a wine shop and French-bistro style restaurant. Borbíróság, a casual restaurant offering wines from every wine region in Hungary. Klassz, a cozy restaurant and wine shop with an excellent selection of Hungarian wine. DiVino, a wine bar, focusing on up and coming winemakesr. Maligán, a restaurant and wine shop, which carries a large selection of Hungarian wines. There are also several other wine bars and restaurants that offer an extensive wine list.