Discussions of wine generally make people think of France, Spain, Italy, California, even South America. However, Hungary rarely comes to mind. Ironically, Hungary has an ideal climate and soil for growing grapes and producing wine. There are 22 wine regions which is quite impressive for a small country of just over 35,000 square miles (in comparison there are 3.8 million square miles in the United States). From the Etyek-Buda and Eger regions in the northern part of the country to the Hajós-Baja and Villány regions in the south, there is a whole world of wine production to explore in Hungary, though it is generally recommended to stick with the Tokaj, Villány & Szekszárd, Eger and the wine regions around Lake Balaton because they are the most accessible from Budapest and are the most suitable for a visitor to Hungarian wine country.
Tokaj Wine Region
The Tokaj region in Northeastern Hungary produces wines that are rich in history. The Hungarian language has its own word for wine – bor – that isn’t from a Latin root. Therefore it is believed that the country has been producing its own wine completely independent (and possibly prior to) the Roman expansion.
The most notable wine from the region is the Tokaji. Tokaji wine includes the region’s main varietals of grapes which are Furmint, Hárslevelű, Sárga Muskotály, Kövérszölö, Zéta, and Kabar. From these varietals, they make Aszú, Eszencia, Szamorodni, and Fordítás and Máslás wines. They are all types of Tokaji – a sweet wine. There is more to the region than Tokaji as modern wineries have expanded their lines and their use of varietals from the area.
Villány & Szekszárd Wine Region
The warmest region of Hungary and the furthest south, you can compare Villány to France’s Bordeaux region for its full-bodied red wines. Just north of Villány is Szekszárd. The two areas are in the same region and are in constant competition for producing the best red wines. Every October, there’s a wine festival in Villány complete with concerts and much red wine.
Eger Wine Region
Another area in the north of the country, Eger Wine Region produces elegant reds that are not necessarily for the novice wine drinker. These wines are often compared to Burgundy wines from France. They aren’t as bold as those to produced in the south in the Villány & Szekszárd Wine Region because of the latitude in Eger. The Eger region also produces white wines including Debrői Hárslevelű, Egri Leányka, and Egerszóláti Olaszrizling, but they’re most famous for their red blend, Egri Bikavér.
Lake Balaton Wine Region
The largest of the regions on our list, the Lake Balaton Wine Region is one of the most picturesque. Known for its most widely grown varietal in the region, the olaszrizling, the area’s primary production is white wine. The white wines reflect the particularities of the local areas. Overall, the Lake Balaton region is comprised of six sub-regions: Badacsony Balatonboglár Balaton-felvidék Balatonfüred-Csopak Nagy-Somló Zala. This large area not only produces a sizable amount of wine for the country but also serves as one of the area’s most popular tourist destinations with several resorts and activities.
Starting out your wine tour of Hungarian Wine Country in Budapest will allow you to cover a lot of ground and a large number of wineries throughout the surrounding regions and then end your tour on Lake Balaton with some sailing. The best part of visiting Hungary for a wine experience is that there are a great number of tours available to ensure you get the most out of your experience. After you wine tour of Hungary, you may want to unwind, we’d suggest a stop in Geneva, Switzerland.