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The Inside Scoop on the Best Hungarian Wines

Hungarian wines are well-known in the wine world. Tokaj has been a famous sweet wine for generations. The Grand Cru vineyards were the first in Europe and designated in 1737.

But contrary to popular belief, and as show-stopping as they are, Hungarian wine does not stop at Tokaj.
 
There’s plenty of variety and quality to explore. There’s the indigenous grapes, including Hárslevel, Juhfark, Furmint, Kadarka, and 30 more. You will find modest amounts and on tiny plots practically everywhere in Hungary.
 
You will find great wines from Villány to Eger, and from Debrecen to Szekszárd and beyond. Hungarian wines can be both wonderful and tasty, as well as a reasonable bargain.

Quick Facts on Hungarian Wine

Hungarian wine region Tokaji on Google maps
Tokaj village in Tokaji wine region, northeastern Hungary / Google maps

Where is Hungary?

Hungary is a significant wine-producing country in Central Europe. It presently produces fewer than 4 million hl of wine, with one-fifth of that amount exported.

Because of its central European borders, this is a wine nation with considerable diversity. To the north and east are Austria and Slovakia, to the south and east are Serbia and Romania, and to the west is Slovenia.

Nonetheless, Hungary’s vines can fit in are the size of Italy’s Chianti. Hungary produces 1% of the world’s wine. While it is presently the 14th largest wine-producing country in the world.

What kind of wine is made in Hungary?

The best-known wines from Hungary are the white dessert wine Tokaji aszú and dry Furmint. Both share the same grape, Furmint. For red wine, it is the full bodied Bull’s Blood of Eger (Egri Bikavér).

The traditional Hungarian wine is white or gold-coloured. As a dry Furmint, it is also known to have a more pronounced flavour profile than light white wine. This makes it an excellent choice for spicy food.

Powerful wines were some of the most popular styles during the early aughts. New wine from international varieties became popular. Full bodied red wines such as Bordeaux varieties, Cabernet Franc and Cabernet Sauvignon. Some winemakers saw it as an alternative to mass-produced bikavérs.

The pendulum has swung back to indigenous varieties. Today, less intrusive techniques allow more expression to come through native grape varieties. That are also unique to Hungarian wine.

What are the main grape varieties of Hungarian wines?

White wine grapes account for over 70% of Hungary’s plantings. The great wine varieties from Hungary start with the white wines. In particular, Furmint and Harselevelu.

These two white wines are often full bodied and oaked. They are also the white blend in sweet Tokaji after they become aszú berries due to noble rot. (The process to make sweet wines).

Today, there is a renewed interest in dry Furmint wines. They can be powerful wines with a pronounced flavour profile and high acidity. This makes it great with food.

Other white wine varieties in Hungarian wine is Irsai Oliver and Sauvignon Blanc. These two grapes are often used to make crisp and light, unoaked white wine. Also planted in many regions are Welchzrizling and Szurkebarat (Pinot Gris).

Notable red wines in Hungary are full-bodied Kéfrankos aged in oak barrels and Kardarka.

Juliet Victor Dry Furmint Hungarian wines at VIDA wines
Hungarian wines: Juliet Victor Dry Furmint at VIDA / Instagram @jvwinerytokaj

What wine is Hungary known for?

Sweet Tokaj is the star of Hungarian wine.

Tokaj is also the name of Hungary’s most famous wine region. The oldest classified wine region in the world, it’s also a Unesco World Heritage Site. And home to the world’s first noble rot wine – the sweet golden Tokaji Aszú wine.

This delicious botrytized sweet wine starts life as a Furmint grape, and in some sub regions in Tokaj on volcanic soil. Tokaj wines have immense aging potential due to their high sugar levels and acidity. Sweet wines are from the top 10% of the Furmint harvested in the Tokaji region.

According to wine expert Oz Clarke, these types of sweet wine  found in Tokaj are often regarded as “immortal.”

King Louis XIV of France liked it so much that he declared Tokaji Aszú, “The king of wines and wine of kings.” Even Peter the Great was an admirer; “I was conquered by Tokaji wine,” he said.

Is Hungary an Old World wine region?

While Hungarian wines are having a renaissance right now, Hungary’s wine industry has existed in one form or another since Roman times.

To answer the question, “Is Hungarian wine Old World or New World?” there is a (very) general rule to apply:

  • Old World wines are usually named after the region they are from. Some of the most famous examples of this type include Bordeaux and Rioja from Spain. And, of course, Tokaj from Hungary.
  • New world wines often have the main grape variety on the label. Bordeaux grape varieties are spelt out on the label in new world wine countries. For example, Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot or Cabernet Franc rather than “St Estephe”.

This makes Hungarian wines  Old World in some respects, such as the sweet wines from the Tokaj wine region are also called Tokaj. Then again, Hungary has elements of the new world in many respects (putting the grape varietal on the label, such as for dry Furmint – where Furmint is the grape, not a region).

The country’s wines and many wineries will break the rules for a great wine. This only makes Hungarian wines more exciting for wine lovers.

What are the wine regions of Hungary?

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 Neszmély

12 Tolna

13 Szekszárd

14 Pécs

15 Villány

16 Hajós-Baja

17 Kunság

18 Csongrád

19 Mátra

20 Eger

21 Bükk

22 Tokaji

Hungarian wines Juliet Victor Tokaji vineyard
Hungarian wines: Juliet Victor Tokaji / VIDA wines

3 Hungarian wine producers to know:

Heimann Family winery | Transdanubian Hills | Szekszârd

The Heimann family’s goal is wines full of ripeness and refreshing fruit. Top quality estate-grown fruit and sustainable viticultural practices maintain diversity in the vineyard. The wines show elegance and purity of fruit, as well as a sense of place that will age with grace over many years.

Try this: Heimann & Fiai Szekszárd Kadarka Organic 2020

 

 

Kvaszinger | Tokaj | Hegyalja

For several generations, the Kvaszinger family has made wines in the Tokaj-Hegyalia region. Their history dates back to the 1800s when they arrived from Prussia. The estate is a tiny plot of 8.5ha. They focus on three indigenous grape varieties. Furmint, Hárslevelű and Sargamuskotaly.

Try this: Kvaszinger Tokaj Superior Dry Furmint

 

 

Juliet Victor | Tokaj | Mad

Rich, interesting and complex, Furmint is one of Hungary’s ‘noble’ grape varieties. The Varadi family has chosen to make Furmint their life. They bring us the most beautiful examples of Furmint in their Tokaj sweet wine and quality dry wines. The Mad region boasts the ideal conditions for making world-famous sweet Tokaj. Recognized by UNESCO protected volcanic soil.

Try this: Juliet Victor Szamorodni Sweet Tokaj 2016

 

 

Do you have a favorite wine from Hungary – we’d love to know? Tweet us!

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