Five years ago, higher-end, quality Hungarian dry wines were virtually non-existent on the American Wine scene.
Back then, Select Wines were already marketing cutting-edge selections.
Today, Hungarian dry wines have positioned themselves as a serious contender for top honors in "hottest new category." Since the fall of communism, with over 1000 years of winemaking tradition, Hungarian wines have quickly recaptured attention through extraordinary quality across several varietals in both red and white wines.
Select Hungarian wines will continue to be at the forefront and has become internationally recognized for its quality.
The 22 wine regions of Hungary: 1 Sopron, 2 Nagy-Somló, 3 Zala, 4 Balatonfelvidék, 5 Badacsony, 6 Balatonfüred-Csopak, 7 Balatonboglár, 8 Pannonhalma, 9 Mór, 10 Etyek-Buda, 11 ászár-Neszmély, 12 Tolna, 13 Szekszárd, 14 Pécs, 15 Villány, 16 Hajós-Baja, 17 Kunság, 18 Csongrád, 19 Mátra, 20 Eger, 21 Bükk, 22 Tokaj-Hegyalja
észak-Dunántúl (North Transdanubia)
This wine region contains the following sub-regions:
- Ászár-Neszmély: fresh and aromatic whites.
- Etyek-Buda: fresh white wines, with considerable acidity.
- Mór: volcanic soil, full-bodied whites.
Main variety: Ezerjó.
- Pannonhalma: full-bodied whites.
- Sopron: elegant reds (mainly Kékfrankos).
- Badacsony: volcanic soils, full-bodied whites with considerable acidity.
- Balatonfelvidék: volcanic soils, full-bodied whites with considerable acidity.
- Balatonfüred-Csopak: terra rossa soils, full-bodied whites with considerable acidity.
- Dél-Balaton: full-bodied whites and reds with moderate acidity.
- Nagy-Somló (or Somló): volcanic soil, full-bodied whites with high acidity.
Main varieties are: Olaszrizling, Hárslevelũ and Furmint.
- Zala: mainly white wines.
- The main variety of the region is Olaszrizling.
Dél-Pannónia (South Pannonia)
- Pécs: mainly whites.
Traditional variety: Cirfandli
- Villány: robust, full-bodied, spicy reds.
Main varieties: Blauer Portugieser, Cabernet Sauvignon, Cabernet Franc, Merlot and occasionally Pinot Noir.
- Szekszárd: full-bodied reds, with a bit of spice.
Famous wine: Szekszárdi Bikavér.
Main varieties: Kadarka, Kékfrankos, Cabernet franc, Merlot
- Mainly fresh and light wines from lots of varieties.
Felsõ-Magyarország (Upper Hungary)
- Eger: fresh whites from Leányka and Királyleányka, full-bodied whites mainly from Olaszrizling or Chardonnay. Home of the Egri Bikavér (bulls blood of Eger), an elegant red blend, mainly based on Kékfrankos. Good Pinot noirs.
- Mátra: elegant and full-bodied whites, grown on volcanic soil. Main varieties are Müller-Thurgau, Olaszrizling and Chardonnay.
- Bükkalja: mainly white wines.
- Main articles: Tokaj-Hegyalja and Tokaji (wine)
Hungary's most famous wine region lies in the foothills of the Zemplén Mountains of the far north of the country - in fact the traditional area crosses into the southeast corner of modern Slovakia.
The area is notable for its long warm autumns and mists that come in from the River Bodrog, creating perfect conditions for noble rot.
This can contribute towards creating the botrytised ('aszú') grapes for which the region is famous.
These are individually picked as late as mid-November into buckets ('puttonyos') and crushed to a paste.
Varying amounts of this aszú paste are then added to non-aszú must or wine made from a mix of Furmint, Hárslevelũ, Muscat Blanc à Petits Grains, Kövérszõlõ or Zéta grapes, and left to ferment.
The resulting wine is then aged in relatively small barrels in a labyrinth of cellars in the soft volcanic tuff, on whose walls thick blankets of fungus regulate the humidity.
Given that aszú conditions only happen in perhaps three vintages per decade, a lot of dry Furmint is also produced.
Other grapes grown in the area include Hárslevelũ, Muscat Blanc, Kövérszõlõ and Zéta.
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Like in the wine regions on the Alföld the production of table wines is dominant here as well.
Growing the vine "Kövidinka" a characteristic method was used, the so called pruning to the basal bud, which does not even need stakes.
The wine production of this region can be traced back to the Middle Ages.
- Area: 2330 hectares.
- Climate: dry, extreme, a lot of sunshine.
- Vine Varieties and Wines: Kövidinka, Zweigelt, Italian Riesling, Kadarka, Kékfrankos.
Several harrow-cellars prove that the tradition of viticulture at the hills of Zala goes back to the past more than 100 years.
The characteristic representatives of folk architecture can only be met in this area by now.
The harrow-cellars were carpentered from timbers and were plastered with clay from in - and outside.
There have only been left a few samples of them by now - breathing the strange atmosphere of death.
By becoming a wine region in 1998 again, there is once more hope that the values here - coming into adequate hands - will be preserved.
- Area: 1623 hectares
- Climate: mild, consolidated, wet.
- Vine Varieties and Wines: Olasz rizling, Rizlingszilváni, Zöld veltelini, Red Tramini, Chardonnay, Kékfrankos, Zweigelt, Oportó.
Though the ecological conditions on the Alföld are not so good as in the mountain regions, the quality of wine, if treated in the right way, can be compared with that of the wine of the mountains.
The representatives of German architecture in Hungary, the characteristic press-houses making up the cellar-village of Hajós, together with Hungarian hospitality make this wine region very attractive for wine-lovers.
- Area: 1710 hectares.
- Climate: extreme, dry, rather hot summer.
- Vine Varieties and Wines: Italian Riesling, Rhine Riesling, Chardonnay, giving milder wines poor in acids.
Kadarka wines are fine, fiery, velvety. Kékfrankos, Merlot, Cabernet Franc, and Sauvignon.
Wines with the highest alcohol-, sugar-, and acid-contents of the country are born in Tokaj-Hegyalja.
It can only be spoken in the superlative about this wine, as it is a medicine, a real nectar.
The secret of this wine is not to be sought extra in the nature of climate, position or soil, but in the common effect of all of these.
The long, hazy, sunny autumn is favorable for the shrivelling of the ripe grape berries and for the development of noble rot.
The world famous Szamorodni and Aszú wines are made by adding these berries with noble rot, and the more aszú-grapes the wine contains the more precious it is.
- Area: 5428 hectares (87 km long and 3-4 km wide).
- Climate: hot summer, cold winter, long, hazy autumn.
- Vine Varieties and Wines: Furmint - developing noble rot best, acidic, fine fragrance.
Hárslevelu - more robust, full-bodied.
Yellow Muscat - developing noble rot under favorable conditions, hard acid, extraordinarily fine, elegant fragrance.
The largest wine region of the country is to be found on the Alföld (Great Hungarian Plain) with its sandy soil.
A part of the vine was planted here in order to bind the wind-blown sand.
The wine grown on sandy soil of this region is the wine of the weekdays.
It is not for particular events, nor for the festive board, but the "tavern wine" is an important part of everyday life.
The acids of the wines of the plain are milder than of those grown on highlands, and that fits the taste of our days better.
The big quantity of the wines produced on the Alföld does not mean plainness at all.
- Area: 28930 hectares.
- Climate: little precipitation.
Hot, sunny summer and dry winter.
- Vine Varieties and Wines: Italian Riesling - reseda fragrance, pleasant tart.
Ezerjó, Kövidinka - mild wines with high sugar- and alcohol-contents.
Kadarka - ruby red, spicy fragrance, aromaful.
Kékfrankos - fine, spicy, light.
In our largest hill- and mountain wine region good quality white wine is produced.
The hill-sides are sheltered from the north wind by the mountain chain of the Mátra and most of the vine-territories can be found amidst forests.
Past and present get on well together: modern wine production and the old, merry, Hungarian vintage tradition do not exclude each other.
Several medieval wine cellars can be found in the area, some of them have been reconstructed and offer wine even today.
- Area: 7450 hectares.
- Climate: sheltered from wind.
- Vine Varieties and Wines: Italian Riesling - dry, fresh acidic.
Rieslingszilváni – fragrant, light, soft.
Leányka - fine, full.
Hárslevelu - spicy, harmonious, elegant.
Tramini - fine fragrance, full, aroma-rich.
Muscat-Ottonel - high alcohol contents, fragrant, high sugar degree.
Though red wine production has gone back, Kékfrankos and Zweigelt wines are still produced.
Wines made with reductive method, fitting the western taste better, can be found here too, which are fresher and contain less alcohol.
Kosher wine is made here too.
This wine region recently attained or rather got back the rank as a wine region.
About the wine growing on the vineyards of Neszmély looking upon the Danube István Széchenyi wrote praising words too and many people liked the pleasant, tart taste of the wine produced here.
The famous model vineyards and the wine cellars in ászár of the estate in Csákvár of the Esterházy family contributed to the international repute of the region in the second half of the XIXth century as well.
- Area: 1560 hectares.
- Climate: cooler than the average, less sunshine, medium precipitation quantity.
- Vine Varieties and Wines: Italian Riesling - fine, nice acid, fits most meals.
Leányka - harmonious, round, suave fragrance and bouquet.
Ezerjó - vivid acid, fits heavy, fat meals.
Rieslingszilváni - light, fine, primary fragrance
This old, baroque town is known abroad first of all for its wine.
Though the ecological conditions are favorable for white wine production, the name "Egri Bikavér" /Bull`s Blood of Eger/ sounds familiar all over the world and this wine made the town of Eger and its surroundings famous.
There is a large cellar- and cave-system beneath Eger, through the corridors of the cellars the town can be walked through under the surface in its whole width.
Parts of the caves are of natural origin, but most of them are artificial, decorated with carvings.
- Area: 3910 hectares.
- Climate: little precipitation, long winter.
- Vine Varieties and Wines: Kékfrankos, Cabernet, Merlot, Kékoportó are the base of Egri Bikavér.
Characteristics of the wine: harmonious, full-bodied, velvety, harsh, warming, - it gets its characteristic bouquet after years of ageing in wooden casks.
From grapes named Leányka is made the slightly sweet, fruity wine with complex taste-harmony.
Italian Riesling - harmonious, fine, characteristic fragrance, elegant acidic.
Tramini - characteristic fragrance and bouquet.
The wines produced around Lake Balaton own a special character.
Sitting about in front of a wine-cellar we can delight all our senses, as the quality of the wines is accompanied by the beauty of the scenery, the view of the lake, the vineyards, the press-houses with white walls, and the small villages at the bottom of the hills.
Many artists and scientists devoted their works to the spell of the scenery and it may not be by chance that the wine of Badacsony was called the "nectar of gods".
- Area: 1790 hectares.
- Climate: consolidated, with sub-mediterranean character, lot of sunshine, sheltered from northern wind.
- Vine Varieties and Wines: Italian Riesling: most wide-spread – mild, soft acid, resembling bitter almonds in bouquet.
In good vintages "Aszú" is made of it as well.
Szürkebarát - the most famous: aroma-full, warming, harmonious, round wine with high alcohol contents in this region.
Kéknyelu - "upper-class vine" - good quality, but poor vintage because gets fertile hard.
Discreet with spicy bouquet and noble elegance.
Ottonel Muscat - fine Muscat aroma, warming, sometimes mild, poorly acidic.
The wine region of Tolna belongs to the wine regions since 1998.
However, vine growing has had an old tradition here it can be traced back to the Roman times.
The settlers of German nationality, whose role was very important in strengthening the viticulture deceased by the XVIth century, have played a significant role in vine growing.
The main pride of the wine region is the cellar-village of Györköny.
The village having slept its Sleeping Beauty dream has been discovered by now again and the tradition-preserving and value-saving renewal of the ancient press-houses is still being performed.
- Area: 2180 hectares
- Climate: mild winter, dry and sunny summer.
- Vine Varieties and Wines: Chardonnay, Italian Riesling, Pinot Blanc, Rhine Riesling, Rizlingszilváni, Kadarka, Kékfrankos, Zweigelt, Merlot.
This wine region, as its name tells us, is divided into two wine producing regions.
The wines of Balatonfüred are more full-bodied, more warming, their alcohol contents is higher - while the wines of Csopak are more modest, lighter, slimmer, and they are richer in fragrance and bouquet.
Balatonfüred and its surroundings are made attractive by the mineral water and the wine together.
People from all over the world travel here to pet themselves from both outside and inside.
The sparkling carbonic medical water, the unique climate - beneficial for those suffering from heart diseases and the strength of fine white wine do their best.
- Area: 2100 hectares.
- Climate: a lot of sunshine, weather serving vine production.
- Vine Varieties: Italian Riesling - nice to look at; greenish-white, fragrance resembling reseda, with spicy taste, full-bodied, round.
After several years enriched with a secondary bouquet of plum smell.
Furmint - fine fragrance, rich in acids, high sugar content.
Rieslingszilváni - pleasant, intensive fragrance, mild, rich bouquet.
Similarly to the wine regions Eger and Tokaj wine is stored here in - sometimes huge - cellars hollowed in rhyolite-tuff.
Some of the walls and columns are decorated by the precious works of peasant stonecutters.
The famous wine of Miskolc was aged in cellars covered with thick mold.
On the hill Avas, which is altogether 100 meters high, once there used to be rich vineyards.
On its slopes more than a thousand cellars were hollowed.
From the XIXth century champagne-basis-wines have been produced here as well.
- Area: 1130 hectares.
- Climate: lot of sunshine, cool, favorable for producing white wine.
- Vine Varieties: Italian Riesling - light, elegant.
Leányka - fragrant, lighter and thinner than that of Eger.
A lot of other sorts - grown on smaller territories - can be found here as well.
This wine region with rich medieval tradition is not positioned right at Lake Balaton, but its climate is still influenced by the nearness of the lake.
This region was already discovered by urban people years ago because of its beauty and the decreasing number of its original inhabitants.
A great number of artists moved here, who had the preservation of the scenery at heart and have done a lot for that purpose.
Mainly the surroundings of the Káli-basin is characterized by old houses, churches, inns, and wine-cellars awaiting guests, renovated with demanding care and new ones, fitting into the landscape with their style.
- Area: 1508 hectares.
- Climate: varied, with mediterranean character, lot of sunshine.
- Vine Varieties: Szürkebarát, Italian Riesling, Chardonnay - full-bodied, rich in bouquet, lively acidic wines with fine fragrance.
"Wine worth gold" is produced in the most southern wine region of the country.
According to the tradition Hungarian wine-making was born here, in this region.
"The elegant wine that of Villány is the wine of the cavaliers and the ladies.
As for me, I would only give Villány wine for balls? All its advantages come to light when you have had a bath, shaved and changed from head to toe.
The best in tails or a dinner jacket, ladies in neckline.
It is moderate, fine, well educated." - writes Béla Hamvas
- Area: 1770 hectares.
- Climate: sub-mediterranean character.
Hot summer, mild winter with a lot of sunshine.
- Vine Varieties: Kékoportó - has already lost its importance.
Kékfrankos and Cabernet Sauvignon - dark ruby color, robust, full-bodied, spicy bouquet.
Hárslevelu - white wine with flower fragrance.
Italian Riesling - long, warming white wine.
Leányka - fine, elegant, robust.
Though this territory got the rank of a wine region only in 1990, vine growing here has had a tradition of several centuries.
In recent years quality wine has been produced here too, but mainly the champagne-base-wine production is characteristic of the region.
Since the end of the XIXth century the famous Törley champagnes have also been produced of base-wine from Etyek.
It is worth visiting the round cellars and the nice German houses of the previous century, several old, precious winery tools can be found in them.
- Area: 1480 hectares.
- Climate: windy, a lot of sunshine, little precipitation.
- Vine Varieties: Chardonnay, Italian Riesling, Rhine Riesling, Pinot Blanc, Sauvignon Blanc - elegant, dry, definitely acidic, light wines with fine fragrance.
Who will not know the Trout-quintet of Schubert? But do you know that the composer was inspired to write this piece by the red wine of Szekszárd? Franz Liszt tasted the wine visiting Szekszárd several times, he presented even Pope Pius IX.
with it in 1865 who wrote the following appreciative words about it: "?this wine of Szekszárd preserves my health and unbroken spirit." Zoltán Kodály wrote his musical comedy, János Háry from the sources of the tradition from here.
There can be no doubt about the inspiring force of the wine of Szekszárd.
- Area: 2210 hectares.
- Climate: Mild, long winter, extreme, but dry summer, a lot of sunshine.
- Vine Varieties: Kadarka - old, famous variety.
By today it has become a rarity but its resettlement has already started.
Kékfrankos - rich fragrance, harmonious, full-bodied, high tannin contents.
Cabernet Sauvignon, Cabernet Franc - fine, characteristic fragrance and bouquet, fiery, velvety.
White wine is made of the varieties Chardonnay and Italian Riesling, they are full and rich in aroma.
The Bikavér (Bull`s Blood) of Szekszárd is of ancient origin, it is made of 2-3 red wines.
Alongside Eger only Szekszárd was entitled to use the name Bull`s Blood.
The picturesque Valley of Mór runs between two mountains, the Vértes and the Bakony; this is the home of the Ezerjó.
Though the Ezerjó is an old Hungarian variety, it has found its real home here, in the wine region of Mór.
The new territory has made wonder to this vine variety, elsewhere rather average and hardly known, and has revealed its unknown characteristics.
Recently other vine varieties giving wines of excellent quality have been introduced here.
- Area: 1680 hectares.
- Climate: favorable, though cooler than the average.
Mild winter, a lot of air motion, which is unfavorable for diseases.
The rays of the sun reach a big part of the vineyards all day long in summer.
- Vine Varieties: Ezerjó - neutral fragrance, full body compensating the strong acidity, manful, hard, elegant, in good years containing not fermented sugar, but of dry character.
Rizlingszilváni - fine fragrance, good acids.
Tramini - intensive fragrance and flavor - occasionally soft.
Leányka - fragrant, light, elegant.
Chardonnay - fine fragrance, fiery, full-bodied
Mecsekalja "was created even by God to be a wine growing region", and the people observed this in time, as vine has been grown here for 2000 years.
Vine feels well on the soil and climate created for it and it is very thankful for the invested work.
Pécs (Sopianae) were the trade center of this wine region already in the antiquity.
The base wines of the long tradition champagne production in Pécs have been produced in this region since the XIXth century.
- Area: 633 hectares.
- Climate: sub-mediterranean, sheltered from the north-wind.
Hot summer with a lot of sunshine, mild winter.
- Vine Varieties: Cirfandli - characteristic wine of the region.
Flower fragrance, spicy, high alcohol contents, in good years containing not fermented sugar.
Italian Riesling - pleasant dry, but not acidic, mild, warming, reseda fragrance.
Chardonnay - fragrant, elegant, velvety acidic.
Furmint - marked, tart, dry wine.
The wines of Mecsekalja are full-bodied, mildly acidic wines with high sugar-contents due to the big number of hours with sunshine.
The first Benedictine monks came to Hungary in the year 996 and settled on the hill - named Saint Martin Mountain - near the small village Pannónia and built a monastery.
The monastery of Pannonhalma was the first and has been the most famous monastery of the Benedictines until today.
The monks of the order preached the importance and know-how of vine production from the pulpit, too.
The first written record about vine growing is to be found in the deed of foundation of the Monastery of Pannonhalma.
- Area: 620 hectares.
- Climate: moderately dry, moderately warm, mild winter.
- Vine Varieties: Italian Riesling, Rhine Riesling, Tramini, Chardonnay, "Irsai Olivér".
The white wines are of excellent quality, they are rich in fragrance and bouquet and have a strong region character.
On the south shore of Lake Balaton mainly white wine is produced, but there is some red wine production as well.
Lately the champagne produced here is considered to be the best in Hungary.
The nearness of the lake, which is shallower here than on the northern shore, so it gets warm relatively fast, and creates a favorable microclimate, has a favorable influence on the vineyards of the hill slopes.
Because of the nearness of Lake Balaton, the beauty of the land, the old country-seats and cellars this region is visited by a lot of people these days as well.
- Area: 2820 hectares.
- Climate: consolidated.
- Vine Varieties: Italian Riesling, Yellow Muscat – fruit fragrance, rich in aroma, slightly acidic, elegant white wines.
Chardonnay - fine, lively acidic, elegant.
Cabernet, Merlot, Kékfrankos: - fine, velvety red wines
The smallest, but one of the most famous of our wine regions is located around an extinct volcano.
There were times when its fame preceded even that of Tokaj.
"Though every wine bears a social character and reveals its real nature when drunk in company, the wine of Somló is the drink of the lonely.
It is so full of the oil of the ecstasy of creation that it is only to be drunk in devoted, definitely quiet, balanced loneliness.
It is the wine of the wise, of those people who at last have learnt the greatest knowledge, serenity." (Béla Hamvas)
- Area: 830 hectares.
- Climate: very windy region, so moderately warm, though rich in sunshine.
Due to the slopes the sunshine is very advantageous.
- Vine Varieties: In this region only white vine varieties are to be found: Furmint, Italian Riesling, Hárslevelu, Rhine Riesling, Juhfark (Sheep`s tail).
High alcohol contents, strong acids, and hardness characterize the wine of Somló.
As it is a typical aged wine, it achieves its character after several years of ageing in wooden casks.
It would not permit blending.
The wine region Sopron is one of the most ancient wine growing regions of the country.
Grape seed finds prove that already the Celts dealt here with vine growing.
Vine growing has been performed in this region since then.
Almost everyone had a vineyard and a cellar, and nearly every farmer here had the wine licence.
A fresh pine-bough hanging from a bar indicated that new wine and a bundle of straw that aged wine were sold.
A red or white ribbon showed that the farmer was selling red or white wine.
This nice custom is reviving in the streets of Sopron.
- Area: 1670 hectares.
- Climate: sub-alpine character.
Frost-free spring, cool and rainy summer, sunny autumn, advantageous for over riping, mild winter with a lot of precipitation.
- Vine Varieties: Kékfrankos - pleasant tart, velvety.