What Hungary lacks in size, it makes up for in wine
The small country embraces 22 wine regions, which produce reds, whites, roses and sparkling wines. Hungary's warm and sunny summers, followed by periods of extended Indian summer and autumnal rain, provide consistently good growing conditions, which allow slow ripening that maximizes flavor and aromas. Hungary’s unique micro-climates suit different varieties, which produce wines with different tastes and styles. Some wine regions are so small that wines are only produced for local consumption and are hard to find even in Budapest. So, be sure to include a wine-tour or two as part of your trip to Hungary.
Here are some of the most famous wine regions:
Tokaj-Hegyalja is Hungary’s most famous wine region, renowned for its whites and sweet dessert wines. Wine making has long traditions here and the use of botrytis mold to produce dessert wine was invented in the Tokaj region a century before France. The best-known Tokaji wines are the Tokaji Aszú, the Tokaji Furmint, the Tokaji Hárslevelű and the Eszencia, one of the most exclusive wines in the world. The Tokaji Aszú is the world-famous wine of the Tokaji region, which was labeled by Louis XIV as the "Wine of Kings, King of Wines".
Top wineries: Degenfeld, Demeter, Disznókő, Majoros Pince, Royal Tokaji and Szepsy
Villány is one of Hungary’s top wine regions. Thanks to vintage wines produced by smaller wineries, this region in the south is getting more and more recognition. Well known for its full-bodied and spicy reds, Villány’s signature grape is Portugieser, grown in large quantities. Wines made with cabernet sauvignon, cabernet franc, pinot noir and merlot grapes are also must-tries. The Villány region is popular with wine tourism as most wine cellars are open for tasting and are located along a main wine route in close proximity to each other.
Top wineries: Bock, Csányi, Gere, Tiffán, Vylyan and Wunderlich
Eger is home to the famous 'Bull's Blood of Eger' (Egri Bikavér), perhaps the best-known Hungarian wine abroad. Bull’s Blood is a blend of three or more grapes, based on Kékfrankos, the main component. The grapes must meet a certain criteria and are matured in oak for at least a year. Unfortunately when Bull’s Blood was first introduced abroad it suffered from Communist mass production and it was often made from grapes that didn’t meet the necessary requirements. Although Bull’s Blood is a top quality wine and an excellent cuvee, it will still take a while to change its tarnished image. Eger is also recognized for its fresh whites (Egri Leányka) and full-bodied whites, mainly chardonnays.
Top wineries: Demeter, Gál, Monarchia and St. Andrea
Szekszárd is famous for its spicy reds and the best-known variety is Kadarka. Hungary's most prominent red was nearly destroyed during Communism, but it's now making a comeback, most notably in the 'Bull's Blood of Szekszárd' (Szekszárdi Bikavér). This is the southern version of the famous Bull’s Blood of Eger, but the blend made in Szekszárd is spicier, thanks to the Kadarka grapes. Cabernet franc and merlot from Szekszárd are also high quality wines, making this one of the most exciting wine regions in Hungary. Szekszárd lies close to Villány, in the sunny south. Unlike in Villány, the wine cellars in Szekszárd are more spread out, however they also welcome visitors for wine tasting.
Top wineries: Heimann, Takler, Vesztergombi and Vida
The area around Lake Balaton (from Balatonboglár on the south shore to Badacsony on the north shore) is one of the oldest wine regions in Hungary. Often mentioned along with Tokaj in historical records, the region produces both whites and reds. The most famous sub-region is Badacsony, where Cistercian monks planted the first vines on the slopes in 1375. The wine produced here is a full-bodied white with high acidity made from pinot gris grapes, however it is still called Szürkebarát by the Hungarians, which means 'Grey monk'. Badacsony is probably the most scenic wine region in Hungary with panoramic views of Lake Balaton.
Top wineries: Figula, Garamvári, Légli, Nyári and Szeremley
The Etyek-Buda region lies just outside of Budapest. In the 18th century, the slopes of Gellért Hill and Tabán, the area between Gellért Hill and Castle Hill, were covered with vineyards, and Buda was an important center of wine making. Due to the effects of city planning the wine-growing region now stretches south of Buda, with Etyek being one of the main wine producing areas. This small village, located approximately 30 kms west of Budapest is well known for its chardonnays and sauvignon blancs and is also a favorite spot for wine tourism due to its proximity to the city.
Top wineries: Nyakas Pince
The wine region of Mór is known for one indigenous variety, called Ezerjó, a dry white with high acidity. Due to the low quantities of wine produced from this small region you will rarely find it in stores or restaurants. If you are planning a side trip to Vienna it might be worthwhile to make a detour and stop by one of the wineries, as the Mór region is located between Budapest and Vienna.
Top wineries: Bognár and Bozóky
Neszmély is known for one of Hungary’s largest winery, Hilltop. This region produces excellent white wines. Their sauvignon blanc, pinot gris and Italian riesling are widely available in stores and restaurants. These wines are also gaining recognition in Western Europe due to growing export sales.
Top wineries: Hilltop and Szöllősi