Close to the heart of Europe, Hungary is a nation that is proud of its long and noble history of wine, stretching back to Celtic times.
Today’s new generation of producers is keen to build on these traditions, while taking this legacy forward into the 21st century.
The wine scene in Hungary is incredibly dynamic, full of young faces and new ideas. The current generation of growers and winemakers who are gradually taking over at estates throughout the country have usually studied abroad and travelled widely, bringing home an open-minded and fresh-thinking approach.
Hungary was once Europe’s third biggest wine producer. The modern industry is considerably smaller at close to 62,000ha under vine, yet it is still seventh in Europe and bigger than better- known countries such as Greece, Austria and even New Zealand. Vines grow in every corner
of the landscape, which is divided into 22 wine regions with 38 protected areas (33 PDOs and five PGIs), each with its own distinctive character.
Hungary is underlaid by more volcanic bedrock than any other country in Europe. Its fiery history came to an end just 2 million years ago, though hundreds of natural hot springs offer bubbling reminders of this past. The ancient Pannonian sea covered much of Hungary until 5.5 million years ago, leaving behind marine sediments, so the result is a complex tapestry of volcanic bedrock interleaved with outcrops of limestone, schist, clay and sand. Volcanic soils are increasingly being recognised for the firm, long-lived, mineral wines they produce, while ancient slate and schist, limestone and even well-drained sands can also host deep-rooted vines and offer the potential for quality. There’s endless fascination when you combine these complex terroirs with 178 different grapes, many uniquely Hungarian.
Decanter’s sepcial guide will look closely at two of Hungary’s emblematic grape varieties and recommend wines that can be found in the UK and beyond. Furmint is its great white grape – the signature variety of Tokaj, but also grown in several other wine regions, most notably volcanic areas such as Somló and the northern shore of Lake Balaton. It will also take a deep dive into Kékfrankos (better known as Blaufränkisch) – the iconic red grape variety that defines Central Europe.
Unlike much of western Europe, Hungary had a good harvest in 2021, so now is a good time to discover Hungary through the lens of its bottles. They are becoming easier to find, increasingly available through a growing number of importers and retailers. And when travel becomes easier again, a trip to explore the vineyards, and Hungary’s exciting food scene, is highly recommended.