Hungary is a wine growing country with tradition and great wines, but friends from abroad usually have a mixed experience (at best). This is because the styles and names are so many, and the quality is unfortunately not always acceptable – especially in the most important price range of 5-10 EUR. So I decided to put together a few posts trying to help. In the first part I just try to collect some good starting points and advice to avoid the biggest disappointments.
The most important piece of advice: buy wine in supermarkets and convenience stores only if you know what you are doing. Because if you just pick some random one you can get a very good wine and a total disaster with equal chance, and price is generally not an indicator of quality and good taste. Furthermore, stores which do not specialize in wine often have some bad practices, like keeping the bottles on the shelf for too long, or putting the best ones into the sunlit and hot window to show off. Also most of the time they don’t have an employee who can give you advice or at least information about the wines. Luckily, we have some decent shops specializing in wine, where you can talk to semi-expert staff, and choose from good quality drinks.
Learning what to drink is of course best done with tasting. There are a variety of great tasting opportunities throughout the year:
- Great walking tastings with 50-100 winemakers offering their wines. These are often organized around a grape variety or a region, and the entrance fee usually includes unlimited tasting. My favourites are Olaszrizling October and Kékfrankos Now, but Furmint February is also worth a visit (olaszrizling, kékfrankos and furmint are all important varieties in Hungary).
- Smaller tastings typically organized by wine dealers. These usually feature one or two wineries, or a specific theme like “2013 dry furmints from Tokaj”.
- There are also some “wine dinners” in restaurants which can be good, or you can go to a good restaurant and drink what the sommelier recommends (this works in top places but not elsewhere).
- The best option is visiting the wineries of course, but this takes the most time. I will give some tips in later posts.
All of the wine events can be found at Bornaptár (Wine calendar) – no English version so far unfortunately… My favourite dealers (all of them do have webshops, although some lack the English version too):
- Bortársaság: they are maybe the biggest wine trader, having several shops around Budapest and in the country. They have a good selection of domestic and foreign wines, although mostly focusing on well-established wineries
- Decanter: very wide selection, store in Buda
- selection.hu: a nice shop in Óbuda, which also functions as a café.
- Radovin and Borfalu (Wine Village): you can find some interesting pieces here from smaller wineries too
- And there are a few stores specializing in handcrafted wines: Kézműves Borok Háza (House of Craft Wine), Pinceáron (Cellar Price), Terroir Club
Happy tasting, next time we’ll cover the history and geography of Hungary as it relates to wine.