Open any travel website, blog, or magazine and when it comes to wine, you have the same tired story – Tuscany pearls, Italian hidden gems, the best rose from California, France musts, Spanish ultimate reds, Californian Chardonnays, and Argentinian Malbecs. Slowly, but finally Austria has started to appear on the chart too, (as well as Portugal), but still, we worship the same old wine countries and regions, ignoring that there is more than that.
The first discovery of not so popular wines was seven years ago when we traveled to Portugal. Today it was Hungary that made our heads spin. Don't get me wrong – I love the old world wines from Burgundy, Sicily, Rioja and other regions we know by heart – even if someone wakes us up during the night. I cannot imagine life without champagne. I love old world classics, even if sometimes or many times they cost more than they should and are crowd pleasers rather than topics to discuss. I have begun to hear that somewhere behind closed doors, sommeliers are talking about these undiscovered wines, yet when it comes to fancy wine for dinner with friends or suggestions to guests at a restaurant, they will lean towards the reliable choice –classics that are understandable by all. But, there's always a bit more and that more is in Hungary.
Hungary, with its six large regions divided into 22 smaller regions is a wine experience full of surprises yet to be revealed. In an eight-hour drive from one border to the other, the wine scenery changes as if you have travelled between two different countries. The same goes for the diversity of the wines. Be it the most famous and controversial Aszu or fresh and mineral Furmint from Tokaj, creamy Hárslevelű from Villany, amazing Rajnai Riesling, or fruity and very special Kekfrankos from Eger, Hungary has astonishing wines to offer. Not one out of 20, but 15 out of 20 – no matter which of the six regions they come from.
Their grape diversity is unpronounceable (the same as region names), but that's not a problem as wine speaks for itself and no words are required. Although there are many fantastic wineries to visit all over the country, these four are not to be missed no matter what your plans are in Hungary.
Patricius, as a Tokaj wine, is known all over the world for its amazing aszu wines, the sweet beauties that we know and that some people think are the only available wine in Hungary, but that's not all they have (although tasting their aszu is a must while there).
A walk through the vineyards with Péter Molnár, general manager and winemaker, is like reading a regional history book. Their approach is not just to make superb wines (they are succeeding better than well) but also to bring back long lost heritage grapes, vital but forgotten in the region.
Planning a trip to Hungary without visiting the Etyeki Kuria winery is a crime. Located in the heart of Etyek-Budai, just a 30-minute drive from Budapest, it is one of the most popular destinations when you have no time to drive around the country but are still looking for exceptional wines, great architecture, and local food.
When you think about Hungarian wine legends, you think about Gal Tibor winery. Located in the center of Eger, this is a winery that every wine enthusiast wants to visit. Their story, with the father and wine world legend Tibor Gal passing away in 2005, is sad and beautiful at the same time, as this has given a new start to the winery.
When one thinks about the most modern (or one of the most modern) wineries in Hungary, one word pops up – Kreinbacher winery. When one thinks about outstanding sparkling wine made in the methode traditionelle (like champagne) – there's Kreinbacher again. And again, when one thinks of a beautiful place to stay close to Balaton – it is Kreinbacher. And on top of that three-tier cake, there is one more thing about Kreinbacher Estate – beautiful and fantastic food. Read the story here
Pannon – Tolna, Pécs, Szekszárd, Villány
Balaton - Badacsony, Balatonboglár, Balaton-felvidék, Balatonfüred-Csopak, Nagy-Somló and Zala
Pannon - Pécs, Szekszárd, Tolna and Villány
Duna - Csongrád, Hajós-Baja and Kunság
Eger – Bükk, Eger, Mátra
Interesting sites: www.hungarianwine.com
Text & photos: Signe Meirāne