Local Wines You Must Try When in Hungary
Did you know that Hungary is Europe's seventh-biggest wine-producing country and stands at place 14 in the world? We produce annually around 300 million litres of wine, which is equal to approximately 1% of the world's production. 70% of Hungary's vineyards are planted with white grapes.
Vineyards had long existed before the Magyar tribes conquered the area in the ninth century. It goes back to the Romans, who planted grapevines around Lake Balaton. Medieval Hungarian kings entrusted the Benedictine order with viticulture, relying on the monasteries' long tradition of winemaking.
Some pages of an old Kempinski wine list from the 1930s provides evidence that the Kempinski family was selling Hungarian Tokaj wine at that time in Berlin, so Kempinski and Hungary had a connection long before a Kempinski hotel opened in Budapest. The original pages of this wine list are kept in the Hungarian Museum of Trade and Tourism.
Jumping to the present, after the change of political regime from the 1990s, locals turned to Hungarian wines with renewed interest. Small family wineries sprang up at a head-spinning pace. Hungary's wine consumption per person is one of the highest in the world, and locals happily drink away most of what's produced.
There are 22 official wine regions in Hungary, and of these, the four major ones are:
Tokaj: The most famous Hungarian wines come from Tokaj, home to the world's oldest classified wine region. By the late 17th century, popes, emperors and Russian czars were among the admirers. Two native grapes, the volcanic soil and a unique microclimate influenced by humidity-producing rivers and a long and dry autumn make the wines here special.
Balaton & Somló: The vineyards are planted with white grapes, scattered across softly rolling valleys and volcanic hills.
Villány & Szekszárd: Many red wines come from the warmer regions in southern Hungary. The best known is Villány, just a stone's throw away from the Croatian border, and not far from there is Szekszárd, home to the kadarka grape. Franz Liszt was so fond of the delicate and spicy kadarka wines that he visited Szekszárd several times.
Eger & Mátra: Volcanic mountain ranges in northern Hungary produce wonderfully rich wines, both red and white. Eger is home to the Bull's Blood (Bikavér) blend. Mátra spawns many young and talented winemakers.
The old tradition of mixing wine and water has disappeared in most parts of the world, but not in Hungary, where fröccs is the name of the local water-and-wine combo. A fröccs consists of a fresh rosé or white wine and sparkling water. Thanks to its hydrating effect, fröccs is a popular summer drink, consumed in homes, cafés and bars.
Buda Castle hosts one of the most spectacular wine festivals each September. The Budapest International Wine Festival is a great opportunity to get an overall impression of Hungarian wines, taste some local grape varieties and get to know some winemakers within a short period of time.
Based on the article published on Off Beat Budapest.
ÉS Bisztró's wine card reflects Hungary's diverse and colourful wine regions. Whether it be a fresh and fruity sauvignon blanc or a full-bodied red wine, you have the opportunity to taste it. When you dine in ÉS Bisztró, please do not miss a crispy and fresh white wine from the Balaton region, a complex, full-bodied red wine from the Villány region and, to crown the dinner experience, a world-famous, sweet dessert wine from Tokaj. Should you be interested in an orientation of the wine regions in Hungary, please contact our colleagues, who would be more than happy to assist you.