When considering the countries that contributed to the history of wine in the world, Hungary is certainly one of them. Its fame remains unchanged to this day, and the charm and elegance of Tokaji Aszú, its most celebrated wine, has been, and still is, an example of absolute greatness. Despite this renown, Hungarian wine production represents only 4% of the total, and the country produces also white wines, mainly white.
The first historical records of grape growing and wine production in Hungary date back to the Roman Empire. Later, when the Magyar tribes came to this land at the end of the 9th century, the locals already had a good knowledge of winemaking techniques. Therefore, vine cultivation in Hungary continued to develop. And even after the invasion of the Mongols, King Bela IV began the reconstruction of Hungary paying particular attention to its land and vineyards.
It wasn’t until the late 15th Century that Hungary’s most prestigious wine, Tokaji Aszú, made its appearance, and in its infancy, it was produced as a dry wine. It wasn’t until the 17th Century that this vintage really reached its fame and became widely appreciated throughout European courts. In the same period, the first laws regulating its production were enacted, but like many other countries in Europe, production was abruptly halted in the 1870s due to phylloxera.
In 1947, with the advent of the communist state, all wine production passed under the control of the State, and most of it was exported to the Soviet Union. Hungarian enology experienced a long period of recession characterized by poor technology and quality.
With the end of the communist era, the wine industry resumed its development thanks to the arrival of foreign investors, who took over the businesses and introduced new and modern technologies.
Today, Hungary counts more than 20 wine regions, but only 8 of them are really relevant to international trade. Wine production is primarily focused on white wines from both local and international varieties and, although most of the wine comes from the south, the most interesting examples actually are from a few regions located north of the country.
Without a doubt, the most prestigious and famous region is Tokaj, located in the north-east, on the border with Slovakia. Besides the famous sweet wine, the region also produces dry white wine with Furmint grapes, Hárslevelü and Muscat Lunel, the same used for the Aszú.
Szekszárd and Villány-Siklós are considered the most advanced regions in terms of technology, and they both focus on red wine production from local and international grapes.
The Eger region is famous for the production of Egri Bikavér (literally ” Eger bull’s blood”), a dry red wine whose name is based on a XV century legend; the
Matra Hills produces mainly white wines;
Somló, one of the smallest wine areas of the country, produces white wines using traditional techniques with long cask ageing and oxidation;
Badacsony, on the north shore of Lake Balaton, produces white wines from Chardonnay, Sauvignon Blanc, and Szürkebarát Olaszrizling; and
The Great Plain, the largest region in the country, focuses its wine making on vast amounts of rather ordinary wines mainly created using Chardonnay and Merlot grapes.