Hungary has one of the oldest viticulture traditions in Europe. Although it is widely considered that most grape vines were introduced into the fertile lands that lay along both sides of the Danube by Roman conquerors, the Hungarian language testifies to an even more ancient tradition. The Hungarian word for wine is the only one in Europe that does not derive from the Latin ‘vino’, proving that ‘bor’ (the Hungarian word for wine) was made by this natioin the region, predating Roman influence.
As a volcanic-terroir hotspot, Hungary’s continental climate is ideal for wine production. Two thirds of the country lies on volcanic soil as demonstrated by Hungary’s many natural spa-springs. The country is located between the 46th and 49th parallel which is actually the same latitude range as many of France’s top wine regions from Northern Rhône to Champagne.
This small landlocked country embraces 22 wine regions, each with a different microclimate producing different tastes and styles. One hundred years ago, Hungary was one of the most important wine producers in Europe. Every royal court in Europe clinked glasses filled with precious gold Tokaji wine, while other lush Hungarian whites and reds were lauded and enjoyed throughout Europe.
Hungarian growers and consumers are keen on their indigenous varietals, making Hungarian Wines even more exciting. By the end of the 19th Century, a Phylloxera outbreak devastated the vineyards in Hungary, just as elsewhere on the continent. When renewing the vineyards, well-known world varietals were introduced in fair numbers. You will find merlot, cabernets and pinots here, although when combined with the local soil these grapes show unique characteristics. The country’s legacy of native vine varieties is distinctive, rich and diverse, encompassing light-skinned grapes such as Ezerjó, Furmint, Hárslevelű, Irsai Olivér, Juhfark, Kéknyelű and various Muscats. Olaszrizling is the Welschriesling of Austria, Szürkebarátis the Hungarian name for France’s Pinot Gris, Tramini is Traminer and the grapey Leányka is originally from Transylvania. Kadarka, Kékfrankos are just a few local reds that are fast becoming the talk of the town, raising the interest of both sommeliers and wine experts in search of something new.