July 22, 2015
Region of the Week: Hungary
For today’s post of the Region of the Week blog series, let’s travel to Eastern Europe for a taste of the undiscovered but delicious Hungarian wines.
Hungary is considered a new wine-making region – but only for the American market. The tradition of viticulture actually dates back a thousand years in Hungary, and only recently started expanding on an international level, after the communism period. Before 1990, the wine industry was a state monopoly, and quantity was given priority over quality. It isn’t the case anymore today, with smaller producers taking over the winemaking process. With its 22 official wine regions, Hungary is definitely a country to keep an eye out for!
Hungary and its grapes
Hungary is famous for its white wines, which represent 60% of the country’s output. Some of its main grapes include Furmint, Hárslevelű and Muscat, used to produce the Tokaji, sweet white wine from the Tokaj region, located in the north-east of the country. This dessert wine is made from noble rot, known as aszú – the same process as the famous botrytized wines from Sauternes. Although Hungary is praised for its sweet whites, dry white wines are slowly emerging from the region, thanks to increasing quantities of dry Furmint produced.
The reputation of Hungarian whites does not, however, overshadow its red counterparts. Kadarka, Kékfrankos and Portugieser are the three main red grape varieties that can be found in Hungary. For the best Hungarian reds, head south to the region of Villány, often described as the “Bordeaux of Hungary”. The southern hot region produces the most complex and full-bodied wines. Northern Hungary has just as much to offer – besides its (un)famous Bull’s Blood, the region of Eger is home for some elegant reds, mostly from Pinot Noir, produced in big quantities there.
To begin exploring the universe of Hungarian wines, check out the country’s critically acclaimed producers: István Szepsy, Királyudvar and Zoltán Demeter.
Where to taste?
Vylyan Winery – 125 hectares of land over Villány Mountain’s most fertile south facing slopes. The winery has an excellent reputation, and is especially known for their Pinot Noir, Cabernet Franc and Kadarka. Once there, try their Pinot Noir 2004 and Montenuovo Cuvée 2006.
Takler Winery – the winery has been praised for its dark and heavy-bodied wines since 1987, and offers cellar visits, wine routes and tastings in its 63-hectare location in the Szekszárd region. Don’t miss the family’s signature wine, Trio 2006, and their Regnum Cuvée 2003.
Where to stay?
For a complete immersion in the winemaking tradition of the country, stay at the Grof Degenfeld Castle Hotel, conveniently located in Tarcal, a small village close to the capital of Hungary’s sweet whites, Tokaj. This chateau-like four-star hotel is at the very center of a winery, and offers incredible views over vineyards as well as a private wine cellar. Best time to go? Although the off-season – between October and May – is less busy, the weather, that can get foggy, is not the best one. Plan a trip there in the summer, and don’t miss out on the numerous little festivals organized all over the region!