Visiting Hungary’s wine regions offers a tasting trip around a new Old World.
State-of-the-art wineries right out of Napa Valley and winemakers armed with
viticultural degrees from top international universities are juxtaposed with ancient
cellars and winemaking traditions that remind us of this country’s remarkably rich
Like most countries in Europe, Hungary’s history with wine grapes dates back to
the Romans. In the 11th century Hungary was a key player in wine production.
During the Ottoman occupation of the 16th and 17th century, however, this all
changed as alcohol was forbidden due to tenants of the Muslim religion. Tokaj was
the exception as its wine production thrived thanks to it being an independent
state of Transylvania.
In the 1700’s Hungary once again became a formidable force in the wine-making world. The course of wine history changed for all of Europe in the late 1800’s when a bug called Phylloxera destroyed nearly every vineyard on the continent. (Interestingly, it was, a Hungarian who played a major role in developing a Phylloxera-
resistant root stock that got the wine industry moving again). Post World War II
Communism was the final nail in the coffin. A once flourishing wine industry was
relegated to producing bulk wine for the masses.
Today, Hungary is the 17th largest producer of wine in the world. To put its
regional size in perspective, it is larger in wine production than neighboring
Austria, but smaller than its neighbors Bulgaria and Romania. Currently that are
>150,000 acres under vine spread across the Hungary’s 22 wine regions and sub-
Hungary joined the EU in 2004. Financing from the EU has catapulted Hungary
from the downward spiral of Communism into a new world of opportunity.
Hungary has stepped up to the plate, especially the Tokaj region. One of the few
in the wine world to reinvent itself, Tokaj seized the opportunity to turn from sweet
wines to dry. Old World Tokaj is a Cinderella story. Many of Tokaj’s wines are
now stunning dry whites. They are using the same Old World grape (Furmint) but
vinifying them bone dry. Furmint is becoming the new darling varietal of many
But, Hungary is not a one trick pony. The country is making some gorgeous red
wines. In fact, one of Hungary’s reds beat out one of the most famous Old World
chateau in all of Bordeaux in a blind tasting.
If you’re looking for something new to try in the New Year, but appreciate well-
crafted Old World wines, put Hungary on your 2018 list. The country is emerging
as an exciting player on the international wine scene. Highly recommend one of
the following producers that this autumn Wine-Knows will be visiting (sorry but this tour is sold out with a waiting list).
Dry White (alpha order):
Red (alpha order):