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Hungarian Wine

Barrels of WineIn the mid 19th century Hungary was the third largest wine producer in the world with an enviable reputation for quality wines. War and politics changed all that. However, since the end of communism and the eastern bloc in the early 1990’s both vineyard management and oenology have been overhauled and benefitted from increased capital investment resulting in technically sound and extremely good value wines.

Producers have been faced with the dilemma of either growing successful big volume brands such as Sauvignon Blanc and Pinot Grigio styles or sticking with indigenous grapes and terroir. The specialist home produced wines attracting a price premium due to the lower volume produced and the higher marketing costs needed to promote it on the world stage.

Vine Grapes in HungaryWith limited production capacity restricting export sales until a few years ago the marketing executives of the wine producers now feel confident of spreading the word that Hungarian wine has something to offer and worthy of buying. The major growth will continue to be dry white wine – elegance and acidity rather than tannins. In fact there is a noticeable trend for Hungarian producers to move away from high sugar, over ripe wines which the home market demanded. The most popular being Bordeaux style blends of Villany and the popular Bulls Blood from Eger and Szekszard still attract a price premium when sold overseas.

TokajTokaj a beautiful sweet wine, is currently the best known of all Hungarian wines but it is dangerous for the whole country to be associated with a single brand otherwise all non Tokaj producers will feel alienated and these producers revert back to satisfying domestic demand - which may have worked in pre EU membership upto 2004, but with 87 Tesco stores now in Hungary stocking a wide selection of low cost French and Italian wines and shortages no longer an issue this would be a risky strategy.

For this reason Hungarian wine producers are forming marketing associations which aim to improve the reputation of Hungarian wine abroad. An event called “Wines of Hungary” was held in London at the end of April 2009 which showcased nearly 200 wines – this event was the largest ever Hungarian tasting in the UK.

At the event we saw wines from grapes that had been neglected since phylloxera swept through the region in the 19th century. These producers have revived the wine and are achieving very good quality wine from very young vines. Once these vineyards mature the results could be exceptional.

Hungary is now capable of producing fresh, everyday drinking wines at a very competitive price. Those who may have sampled Hungarian wine in the past should look again – now is the time to discover wines that are truly refreshing.

Glass of Hungarian WineIsabelle Legeron who now presents her own series 'Journey into Wine' for The Travel Channel, a fascinating series of observational documentaries charting Isabelle's journey around different countries exploring the history and culture of wine. She also regularly makes appearances on UKTV's Great Food Live, Sky One's Taste and Destination Lunch as well as appearing on BBC News and Newsnight. Isabella visited Hungary’s wine regions in October 2008 and this was her view of Hungary and its’ wines when interviewed by The Drinks Business.

Basically Isabella was amazed at the array of different flavours and styles of wines available. Hungary’s strength is its’ traditional red wines but with new dynamic young producers has the capability to produce some world class dry wines. The whites are very mineral without being overpowering and the reds have a very vibrant, fresh flavour – “they are great food wines” she commented which should perform well in restaurants.

Hungarian Wine - Did You Know?
1. Hungary is the only country in the world where every inch of the land could be used for vine growing.
2. Hungary ranks among the top 15 of the 71 wine producing countries in the world according to the size of grape plantations, wine produced, export, and consumption per person. Yet their vineyards are equal in size to only 2 percent of the world's vineyards.
3. Chile, with cultivatable territory similar in size to that of Hungary, spends eight or nine times more money on marketing than Hungary does.
4. A book written by a Hungarian serving in the court of the Dutch regent, Maria Habsburg, in 1536 said that "wine is running everywhere in the country." The rich burghers of the day measured each other's wealth by how large their vineyards in the Tokaj region were.
5. The popular Hungarian wine, Egri Bikavér, or Bull's Blood, got its name when Turkish troops surrounded Eger castle in 1552, outnumbering by a hundred times the population inside the castle. During the savage attack, red wine was distributed to those fighting on the ramparts, reviving their strength. The Turks, seeing the Hungarians' red stained shirts, ran away in fear, believing the Hungarians had been drinking bulls' blood to make them strong.

Tokaj is Hungary’s most famous wine region. Located in the northeast of the country

Around the Lake Balaton area arguably the most scenic part of Hungary and the main tourist area there are several wine growing areas - Badacsony / Balatonboglar / Balatonfelvidek :-

Badacsony (BUH-duh-chun-ye)
Viticulture began here more than 2,000 years ago.

Climate: Balaton Lake moderates temperatures and adds humidity, and sunshine predominates on the sunny southern and south-western slopes.

Soil: Slopes of volcanic hills covered with Pannonian clay, Pannonian sand, and loess, often missed with basalt and basaltic tuff detritus toward the summit.

Best grape varietals: Budai zöld (Buda green), Chardonnay, Furmint, Hárslevelu, Kéknyelu, Nektár, Olaszrizling Muscat Ottonel, Pinot blanc, Rhine Riesling, Riesling Sylvaner, Sauvignon blanc, Szürkebarát (Pinot gris).

Balatonboglár (BUH-luh-tun-bo-glahr)
A flourishing vini- and viticulture was created after the phylloxera disaster when new vines grew well in the Soil and produced excellent wines thanks to expert choice of suitable grape varietals.

Climate: balanced with good sunshine

Soil: hillside, brown forest Soils formed on Pleistocene loess, brown earth and occasionally sand.

Best grape varietals: Chardonnay, Királyleányka, Olaszrizling, Muscat Ottonel, Rhine Riesling, Rizlingszilváni (Riesling Sylvaner), Yellow Muscat, Sauvignon blanc, Szürkebarát (Pinot gris), Tramini, Cabernet franc,

Balatonfelvidék (BUH-luh-tun-fel-vee-dayk)
It is presumed that the Celts grew wine here, and for centuries this region had a reputation for fine wines. The Eszterházy family owned the vineyards here in the 18th century, and made natural dessert wines on their estates.

Climate: Upland, near Balaton Lake, similar to Badacsony but not always as favorable

Soil: Similar to Badacsony, with more variety, including: rendzina, lessivated brown forest Soil, brown earth, chernozem brown forest Soil, and stony earthy skeletal Soil formed on dolomite on top of Pannonian clay, sandstone detritus, loess and Pleistocene sand cover. Triassic limestone, marl, Pannonian sand, and basaltic tuff mixture.

Best grape varietals: Budai zöld, Chardonnay, Cserszegi fuszeres, Furmint, Juhfark, Kéknyelu, Nektár, Pinot blanc, Olaszrizling, Riesling Sylvaner, Sauvignon blanc, Yellow Muscat, Szürkebarát (Pinot gris), Tramini, Zenit, Green Veltliner, Cabernet franc, Cabernet sauvignon, Kékfrankos, Kékoportó, Pinot noir, Zwiegelt.

Why not go and check out the wines for yourselves ?
A wine tasting holiday might be just what the doctor ordered.
We offer a range of accommodation options across the western part of Hungary which are close to wine growing areas. Most of the accommodation will also have or be near to a Wellness Centre so you can have all the good things in life in one trip, some of the best wines in the world and some of the best pampering in the world.

You can enjoy the wonderful wines of Hungary for extended periods if you decide to own a property in Hungary. We would be more than happy to help you find a property close to the wine growing areas of Lake Balaton – this way you can sample the many different wines to your heart’s content and at the same time watch your investment grow in value.


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