While Italy and France continue to dominate the European market, Hungary’s emerging wine industry is starting to get noticed. After all, there’s long been an association between Hungary and its love of wine. However, in recent years this has largely resulted in it being a much-kept secret.
History of Wine in Hungary
The often-overlooked history of wine in Hungary is as fascinating as the country itself. With ancient tribes, the rule of the Ottoman Empire and of course Roman influences all playing an integral part in the development of Hungarian wine.
While it’s widely reported the Roman’s first introduced vines to Hungary as they took over North Eastern Europe, this is often a hot topic of debate. Local historians often trace wine production back even earlier. With references to Hungarian and Germanic tribes being responsible for Hungary’s passion for wine, which has continued to blossom ever since.
After which, the Ottoman era started producing Bikavér (“Bull’s Blood”) a red-wine that became part of Hungarian folklore. With that, came influences from across the border, culminating in Tokaj-Hegyalja becoming officially recognised as the world’s first classification system in 1730.
However, despite a vast number of vineyards and a wide variety of grapes available, the ever-growing wine industry in Hungary took a turn for the worse. During the 1800’s an untimely bout of Phylloxera destroyed almost the entire world’s grape harvest. The infest of the louse resulted in vineyards being destroyed and wine started to become a highly profitable commodity due to its diminishing availability.
As such, what was once a thriving business opportunity was literally taken back to its roots. However, this has resulted in a long-overdue resurgence in manufacturers and Hungary’s emerging wine industry.
5 of the Main Wine Regions of Hungary
Of course, it isn’t just the influx of Germanic settlers or the invasion of the Roman Empire that creates great wine. The appellation of the land and its surrounding areas plays a vital role too. In fact, the country can be identified by 22 wine regions, with 5 of the main areas to focus on being the following:
Here we take a look at these particular regions and why they play such a crucial role in Hungary’s emerging wine industry.
While we may have already discussed outside influences to Hungary’s wine industry, some things are (quite literally) homegrown. The grapes native to Eger have been growing naturally for millions of years, largely down to its perfect terrain. The soil includes a combination of limestone and volcanic rock. Which, along with the dry conditions of the region, helps to grow grapes that provide an ideal acidity with a distinct aroma.
Although one of Hungary’s smaller wine regions, it’s not one to be overlooked with a wine tour from Budapest. At just 300 hectares you’d be mistaken for thinking you wouldn’t be missing much. While, in fact, Somló plays an important role in Hungary’s emerging wine industry. With a natural gradient of the volcanic rock, rich with minerals, Somlo is perfect for growing the more unusual Juhfark white grape.
In contrast, Sopron is widely known for bold red wines, produced largely from Kékfrankos or Blaufränkisch. The wine region is in close proximity of the Austrian border, giving a lease of life to exporting Hungarian wine by the barrel load.
Then there is Tokaj, a wine region that has certainly put Hungary’s emerging wine industry on the global map. The clay soil is combined with a subsoil high in iron and limestone. The grapes often used being the two varieties of Furmint and Hárslevelű. Tokaj is where it all began, a UNESCO World Heritage Site recognised as the oldest classified wine region in the world. Expect to discover sweet white wines along with their drier companions.
Head further south and your wine tour in Hungary will soon come across a more Mediterranean influence. While Villány may not be an obvious tourist destination, it is known for its long hot summers. However, along with its milder winters and volcanic terrain, Villány offers an ideal location for growing Portugesier and Kékfrankos. As well as producing some of the best Cabernet Franc, Cabernet Sauvignon, and Merlot in the world.
Hungary’s Emerging Wine Industry
As a result of the 22 wine regions, Hungary’s emerging wine industry is varied and intriguing. It covers everything from the traditional sweet dessert wines to the more modern, French-inspired Cabernet Francs and beautiful Merlots.
If you’re unsure where to take your holiday, then wine tours from Budapest are a great starting point. You will be able to experience Hungary’s capital city, while also staying among some of the leading tour operators.
Alternatively, take a look at hotels in one of the aforementioned regions. Otherwise, just head towards Lake Balaton where the wine industry continues to thrive. It is here where you are likely to discover a new breed of wine-maker. As, where old-fashioned wineries once stood, a younger generation is starting to emerge.
Their focus is on native grapes, yet moving away from table wines and the traditional sweet dessert wines that Hungary is often associated with. Instead, Hungary’s younger sommeliers are producing more dry wines than ever before. There’s still some way to go until Hungary are competing with the likes of Italy and France globally. However, when it comes to within mainland Europe you’ll be amazed at why more people aren’t talking about Hungary. In particular, it’s newly found resurgence in wine production.
Book a Wine Tour in Hungary with Tabl.
With wine tasting and wine tours in Hungary available to book online, many of our food and drink experiences take place from Budapest. However, with 22 wine regions to choose from, wherever you are visiting in Hungary there’s a wine tour for you!