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Expert’s choice: Hungary’s rosés

In partnership with Wines of Hungary

As we move towards the warmer months, this is the perfect time to start seeking out delicious new rosé wines. Elizabeth Gabay MW chooses 12 of her favourites from around the regions.

Drunk chilled on its own or as fröccs (spritzer) with sparkling water, rosé is generally regarded in Hungary as easy-drinking wine for the summer – crisp, with fresh acidity and red fruit. Regional, varietal and stylistic variations are increasingly present, showing the great potential of Hungarian rosés in terms of quality and diversity. Colour is becoming paler, influenced by the Provençal style of southeast France, but the fruit and structure remain distinctively Hungarian.

Most Hungarian wine is white, 30% red, and rosé, fast growing in volume, accounts for just under 10% of total production. Rosé is made in all of Hungary’s 22 wine regions except Tokaj. At almost 67,000hl, the largest rosé-producing region is the vast Great Plain (especially Kunság), while 20% of the total production of the four major red wine areas – Eger, Villány, and neighbouring Szekszárd and Tolna – is rosé. In the northern regions of Eger (second-largest for rosé at about 32,000hl), Mátra, Somló and Pannonhalma – the first three with volcanic soils – the acidity is crisp and fresh. Rosés from the warmer areas around Balaton, Villány and Szekszárd tend to have fuller, riper fruit and creamier, but still crisp acidity.

Kékfrankos (Blaufränkisch in Austria), is a major variety for both red and rosé wines. While Austrian Blaufränkisch clones give full-bodied fruit, Hungarian Kékfrankos favours restraint, with wild-berry fruit. The Rosé Research Centre in Provence has earmarked Kékfrankos as having good rosé potential. Other grapes used for rosé include local varieties Kadarka, Portugieser and Blauburger (a crossing of Portugieser and Kékfrankos), as well as rarer Hungarian hybrid crosses such as Nero and Medina, along with Zweigelt. International varieties such as Merlot, Syrah, Cabernet Sauvignon and Pinot Noir are also used.

A growing number of producers are making more serious, complex rosés. The Dúzsi family in Szekszárd, the first big rosé producer in Hungary, is regarded as the rosé king, making a range of classic rosés but also experimenting with varieties, harvest dates and oak ageing. Among others are Vincellér in northwest Sopron, with an oak-aged rosé (the 2014 is fabulous); Attila Tálos and David Bökö on the Tihany peninsula of Lake Balaton (the latter making a textural wild-ferment rosé from the region’s volcanic soils); and Hoop Wines in Mátra, whose range includes two fruity rosé pét-nats. Meanwhile Siller, a traditional-style rosé, can be found throughout Hungary. Made with longer skin-contact, it is generally darker and more full-bodied. The diversity and quality of these wines make them an interesting addition to the rosé scene.

(Sources: HEGYIR – Hegyközségek Nemzeti Tanácsa – National Council of Wine Communities)


Elizabeth Gabay’s favourite 12 wines from around the regions

St Donat, Magma Rosé Brut, Balatonfüred-Csopak 2019 94

£21.99 Novel Wines

Lovely brioche and doughnuts. The palate is ‘wow’ – exactly what I want from a crisp, dry sparkling. Incredibly creamy, round, gentle and supple body. Amazing piercing acidity with crisp and crunchy apple zest, and just the right amount of residual sugar to keep the body round and emphasise the red fruit. Delicate but forceful. Organic. Drink 2021-2023 Alcohol 12.5%


Centurio, Első Fejtés, Mátra 2019 93

N/A UK, balazs.ludanyi@gmail.com

Ludányi Balázs makes this creamy-white rosé that has a whisper of pink – ripe red berry fruit making it distinctly rosé in style. Bone-dry, with a briny, saline finish, a slightly chalky texture and long, vibrant acidity reflecting the cool climate, altitude, and limestone and volcanic soils. Beautifully elegant. Drink 2021-2023 Alc 13%


Sauska, Villány 2019 92

N/A UK, Sauska

Pale salmon-pink. A beautifully crafted rosé from vines grown on the limestone slopes of Siklós in Villány, the most southerly region of Hungary. The blend of varieties combines to give attractive floral aromas which follow on to the palate with cherry blossom notes and concentrated red fruit, including floral red cherry. Intense and ripe with concentrated, creamy silkiness. Organic. Drink 2021-2023 Alc 12%


Dobosi, Kékfrankos, Balatonfüred-Csopak 2020 91

£11.79 (2019) Best of Hungary

Dry herbal aromas, almost southern French garrigue in style. Luscious ripeness, typical of the Balaton region, balanced by delicate, crisp red fruit gained from cooler clay soils. A lovely juxtaposition of zingy redcurrants, cranberries and ripe creaminess, with silky texture giving a summer fruit compote finish. Organic. Drink 2021-2023 Alc 12.5%


Figula, Bella Róza, Balatonfüred-Csopak 2019 90

N/A UK, Figula Winery

Pale creamy pink. Pretty and delicate with attractive floral notes and red berry fruit. Ripe honeyed fruit with creamy, slightly waxy acidity showing its ripe north Balaton origins. Overall, it’s elegant and rather beautiful. A classy alternative to some well-known Provence rosés. Organic. Drink 2021-2022 Alc 13%


Pannonhalmi Főapátság, Tricollis, Pannonhalma 2019 90

£14.99 (2018) Malux Hungarian Wine

A careful blend of fruit harvested early, for freshness, with a small percentage of fully ripe fruit bled off Pannonhalmi’s red wine, for weight and structure. Fresh hedgerow berries, sour cherries and ripe redcurrants, with a twist of rosehip syrup. A murmur of tannin adds to the complex structure. Long, fresh acidity. Drink 2021-2022 Alc 12.5%


Hungary wines 1

Sabar, Kékfrankos, Badacsony 2020 90

£9.99 Novel Wines

Medium pale pink. Ripe red fruit with creamy, exotic fruit notes on the nose followed on the palate by floral delicacy, red fruit zestiness and herbaceous acidity. This blend of ripe fruit from the Balaton region countered by the freshness of vineyards at 200m on volcanic soils is typical of the region. The long finish of crisp acidity gives the wine a lively vibrancy. Organic. Drink 2021-2022 Alc 13%


Sabar, Kékfrankos, Badacsony 2020 90

£9.99 Novel Wines

Medium pale pink. Ripe red fruit with creamy, exotic fruit notes on the nose followed on the palate by floral delicacy, red fruit zestiness and herbaceous acidity. This blend of ripe fruit from the Balaton region countered by the freshness of vineyards at 200m on volcanic soils is typical of the region. The long finish of crisp acidity gives the wine a lively vibrancy. Organic. Drink 2021-2022 Alc 13%


Tüske, Szekszárd 2020 90

£18.50 (2019) Malux Hungarian Wine

Pale salmon-pink. Appearances can be deceptive: the pale colour suggests delicate fruit, but this rosé is overflowing with ripe raspberries, strawberries and cherries. Holding the fruit together is a fine blue-black minerality and long, vibrant acidity. Not weighty or complex, but with a lovely balance of fruit and mouthwatering freshness. Drink 2021-2022 Alc 12.5%


Frittmann, Cuvée, Kunság-Great Plain 2020 89

£9.95 (2019) Best of Hungary

Hungarian winemaker of the year in 2015, Frittmann is one of the top producers in the Great Plain. This is full of the vibrant acidity of Zweigelt, with the Hungarian Medina added to give fruity character. Bucket-loads of strawberry and raspberry jam, with a tutti-frutti charm and fresh acidity. A real crowd-pleaser. Drink 2021 Alc 12%


János Bolyki, Eger 2020 89

£12.29 (2019) Best of Hungary

Light pink-red. Nose of red fruit and blue floral aromas. On the palate, the cooler northern climate of Eger is reflected in the fresh red berry fruit character, along with a fine mineral structure and vibrant, fresh acidity. The whole melds together to create an easy, supple, nice summer rosé. Organic. Drink 2021-2022 Alc 12%


Vesztergombi, Shiraz, Szekszárd 2019 89

£12.59 Best of Hungary

Dark red-pink. Full-bodied red fruit combined with firm, structured tannins makes this a rosé for red wine drinkers. Crisp red fruit, slightly toasty leesy notes, with long, fresh acidity and fine tannins. Drink 2021-2024 Alc 12.5%


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