Diaries - Travel - Photos



Hungarian Wine


Previous - Hungary Trip Index - Next

June 28-30

Written July 22

Dear Friends and Families,

OK, so it's not the South of France, but Hungary surprised me with good quality wine - or perhaps better said, "good value wine". In our years in Kiev, we had become acquainted with wines from the old Soviet farms. Few were worth drinking, even "Stalin's favorite" from Moldavan Collective Farm #47. Earlier trips to Budapest had not changed my mind either, despite the standard recommendation of "Bull's Blood" and cloying Tokay.

This trip was different. We visited a southern wine region, Szekszard, and found their reds comparable to Italian wines. One of our best meals of the whole trip was in a winery above Lake Balaton, where we learned of the vineyard reconstruction that has gone on since the early 1990's, after the collapse of the Soviet system. In Budapest, we dined and wined at a couple places specializing in good Hungarian wine, again a pleasant experience. Finally, in Sopron, the last stop in Hungary, we used the last of our forints (=money) to buy a couple boxes of their local product.

Here are some pictures from our tasty surprise, but you really need to sample wine, not just see pictures! Come and visit us at home or take your own wine tour of Hungary.

John and Marianne


ps: For more Hungarian wine info: http://www.winesofhungary.com/about.htm


Our first wine excursion was to Szekszard, a small town in south-central Hungary. We'd been told they had good red wines and, after years of trying poor German reds, we wanted to see what another European climate could offer.

Unfortunately, we showed up on a Monday, the day after the great, annual Szekszard Wine Festival, when most wineries were closed and wine merchants were hung over. We did manage to ring the bell at "Borok Haza" and the proprietor opened his cellar and made some recommendations for us. No tasting, maybe because he knew that everyone in town was tasted out.

In any event, we bought a dozen bottles of his recommendations and have not been disappointed.

A day or two later, we debated about reservations for lunch at Szent Orban's, a winery sitting above the north shore of Lake Balaton, but decided to take our chances, despite the tour guide's proclamation of the restaurant's popularity. We arrived at 12:30, finding an empty parking lot and a dining room without diners. Clearly,reservations were not necessary and we were offered our choice of any table in the dinning room.

The meal was quite special, with fresh ingredients and just the right touch in preparation. The wine, too, was good and the manager/waiter told us the story of the local wine industry. Grapes have been grown here since Roman times and, indeed, the road up to Szent Orbanis called the Roman Highway (more like a path). However, in the Soviet past, each vineyard was small and attended to by a singe farm family. The goal was quantity, not quality, and most of the distribution was local.

After the fall of Communism in Hungary, an ex-patriot Hungarian returned from his overseas life and started buying up several of the local small parcels on this hillside. He had worked in wineries in Africa and elsewhere in Europe and knew how to change the local focus from bulk, red, fermented juice to real wine. And we can attest to the good results. (Although, only one of us can truly say we tasted much wine. Hungary has instituted very strict drunk driving laws and enforcement, so the day's driver had to limit herself to a couple borrowed sips.)

After lunch, we wandered through the vineyard and up the hill, where we saw a more humble restaurant. Still, you have to admit the setting is charming.


Local Balaton winerys:


http://www. bazaltbor.hu



Toward the end of the week, we met up with our friends Peter and Rita and their friend Dave, in Budapest. Our first evening meal was at Gundel's St. Orban and Zsuzsanna Wine Celler Restaurant, a 100+ year old cellar offering fine food and wine. We opted for the meal plan that came with a variety of wines, each selected to match our food selection. Six glasses of wine later, we concluded the food was OK, but the wine was better. We also concluded that were were too old to go around drinking six glasses of wine with dinner.

On the last evening of our Budapest stay, we spent a wonderful evening sipping at a wine bar along the Danube, taking pictures as the sun went down. This time, we were more cautious about quantity, although our impression of Hungarian wine quality remained positive


Our final stop in Hungary was Sopron. Here we selected wines from the western edge of the country, bordering on the Austrian wine country. Again, we bought based on the recommendations of the wine merchant. And, again, having sampled a bottle or two of those recommendations, we continue to have faith in this not-too-scientific purchasing process.

Local Sopron winerys:


http://www. loverpince.hu







Previous - Hungary Trip Index - Next



Diaries - Travel - Photos