A century ago, Hungary was celebrated throughout Europe for its wines and wine-making traditions. The volcanic, limestone-rich soils and the same latitude range as Burgundy and Champagne create the perfect growing conditions for wine grapes. Unfortunately, the winemaking economy of Hungary took a hit after a phylloxera outbreak in the 1880’s, two major wars, and several decades of agricultural collectivization. Luckily, the wines that once made Hungary famous are alive and well once again. As our own global economy shifts and the climate continues to change the output in different wine growing regions, it’s the perfect time to get to know these fantastic wines.
The brother and sister team behind Sebestyen wines are working on a truly “garage” style scale. Csaba and Csilla have been an integral part of helping to re-establish the region’s requirements and guidelines, especially regarding the region’s many indigenous grapes and traditional styles. Kadaraka is one of those ancient varietals. The palate shows mild acidity and gentle tannin with notes of raspberry, cherry, violets, and earthy spice. Any Gamay-lover would enjoy this light bodied, energetic wine. $19.99; Available at Krog & West End
KIRALYUDVAR TOKAJI FURMINT SEC
Tokaji is arguably the most famous wine region in Hungary, and is traditionally known for its sweet dessert wines. More recently, however, Tokjai’s dry white wines made from the Furmint grape have gained in popularity. Kiralyudvar's Furmint Sec incorporates a small amount of Harslevelu, another indigenous white grape variety, during the fermentation process. The resulting blend is then aged for eight months in Hungarian oak, creating a complex wine with notes of ripe apples, apricot, citrus peel, and white pepper. The body is concentrated and viscous, yet incredibly well balanced with a bright acidity. $27.99; Available at Krog
GAL TIBOR EGRI CSILLAG
Eger is another important wine making region in the north, and is home to two traditional blends. The Egri Csillag, or Star of Eger, is a white field blend style. Egri Csillag must be made of at least four different grapes, and at least 50% of the blend must be native varietals. This blend from Gal Tibor includes seven different grapes, five of them indigenous. It's fresh and lively with soft minerality - perfect for warm weather drinking. The palate is bursting with peach, apricot, white flowers, tropical fruits and a hint of lemongrass. $21.99; available at West End
BUKOLYI MARCELL KISFIAM
Eger’s other traditional blend is the red Bikaver, or Bull’s Blood. The blend must include at least three grapes with 50% being native varietals. Bikaver is typically a rich, vibrant blend showing jammy forest fruits balanced with a deep spice. The Kisfiam (“my boy”) is made up of Kekfrankos (aka blaufränkisch), Syrah, Pinot Noir, and Cabernet Franc. The palate is characteristic of the style with notes of cherry cobbler, earthy spice, herbs, and a bit of grapefruit zest. $23.99; available at West End