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Experience the Wines of Hungary @BlueDanubeWine

Learning about the Wines of Hungary.

Looking for a new wine experience? Want to expand your wine world vocabulary? Do you enjoy the challenge of pairing wine with food? Then I suggest you seek out wines from Hungary.

This year I've delighted in wines from many regions of the United States and from parts around the world. It has been a year of several wine "firsts" for me. I can now add Hungarian wines to my list of wines enjoyed from around the world. The three Hungarian wines I experienced were made from distinct Old World varieties; Kardarka, Furmint and Olaszrizling.

Hungary is Wine History

Viticulture in the lands that became Hungary dates back more than two thousand years. The tribes responsible for developing their regional wine culture were deeply influenced by traditions brought from Central Asia, Roman practices and advanced methods from Western Europe. Ancient cultivars from the East adapted best to the region’s diverse often volcanic soils, this has added a distinctiveness to Hungarian wines.

By the 16th century, Hungarian wines were the toast of Europe and the favorites of royal courts. Yes, that Tokaj. But the Communist period that followed World War II saw the collectivization of production and a reduction in quality. Today, only 20 years after the re-establishment of private and family wineries, Hungary is in the midst of a wine renaissance. The potential of its 22 distinct appellations and breadth of indigenous varieties and traditions of winemaking are only now being truly (re)discovered. Source, Blue Danube Wine Company.

Some useful Hungarian phrases:

  • Egészségedre (Egg-e-sheg-e-dre) – To your health.
  • Jo étvágyat (Yo-etvA-yat) – Bon appetit.
  • "Bor" –  One of the most unique ways to say "wine" in Europe.

A big thank you for the wine samples provided by Blue Danube Wine Company.

Tasting Notes the Wines of Hungary


1. Eszterbauer, Kadarka Nagyapám 2011 
Proprietor: Janos Eszterbauer
Website: Eszterbauer Winery
Country Location: Hungary

It was recommended to gently chill this wine before serving.

Eszterbauer owns 8 hectares of vineyards, but fully farms a total of 22, spanning more than 7 sites over about 4 km from north to south. Soils are mainly windblown loess mixed with 30% chalk. The north/south ridge defining Szekszárd is a buckle of sedimentary soil caused by tectonic activity long ago. Szekszárd is a protected wine region consisting of 2700 hectares spread over 30 km. Aspects vary but most planted sites are south east facing. 9 separate clones of Kadarka are planted in the Eszterbauer vineyards. The fruit from their oldest vineyards is the base for “Nagyapám” (Grandfather), argued by many to be Hungary’s finest Kadarka. Source: Blue Danube Wine Company.

Tasting Notes:
Very smooth, gentle tannin backed with friendly acid, felt texture on the throat. It was peppery with some celery on the nose and drank almost like a Pinot Noir, but different. Dry finish. Happy tongue. Lovely expression of terroir. Nice texture, fine tannin. After 70 minutes it was bright, almost sweet, BBQ ribs came to mind. Quite enjoyable.

Day two: Kadarka had medium body, more acid than tannin, red fruit, leather, tingly, cherry leather.

Thoughts: A fun change of pace and food friendly. The label is cool too and relates the history of the brand. Recommended.

Varietals: Kadarka
Closure: Natural Cork
ABV: 14%
SRP: $18
Sample provided by Blue Danube Wines


2. Bodrog Borműhely Furmint Lapis 2011
Proprietor: Hajdú János & Farkas Krisztián
Website: Bodrog Borműhely Winery

Country Location: Hungary

2011 Bodrog Bormuhely Lapis Furmint was fermented with native yeasts in local oak. It underwent full malolactic fermentation and then 9 months of aging sur lie. In North-Eastern Hungary, Tokaji-Hegyalja warranted the world’s first appellation system over 100 years before Bordeaux.

Bodrog Borműhely, or “Bodrog wine (bor) workshop” started by János Hajduz and Krisztián Farkas is emblematic of this new era. By maintaining tiny parcels of vineyards in historically great sites, they are making pure, modern, yet classically inspired dry wines. Knowing when to pick and where and then fermenting with native yeasts in local oak barrel are the means to this end. The Lapis Vineyard is near the town of Bodrogkeresztúr and looks down onto the Bodrog River and its floodplains. The 0.7 ha that they farm is at an elevation of 155m and in a breezy spot making dry wines possible. The soil is a mixture of rhyolite with strong brown clay soil and tufa. Source: Blue Danube Wine Company.

Tasting Notes:
Color: Pale straw.
Nose: Resin, mineral, perfume.
Palate: Resin, mineral, full in the mouth, creamy, vanilla custard, light finish. Needed some air for me to enjoy. Others loved it immediately. Nice white peach at 35 minutes and more my speed at this point + nice gentle acid tingle on gums. Similar to an unoaked Chardonnay or at least gently oaked.

Day two: Furmint showed Asian pear, cinnamon, crisp, mineral, floral, perfume, vanilla, clove, peppermint, dry, slightly tannic. Refreshing. How will it drink in 5 or 10 years? Curious. Exotic white wine. Very fine with food. Cheese curds. Bread. Now a fan of Furmint.

Thoughts: An interesting white wine and a good change of predictable pace. Well worth looking for to experience a dry Hungarian wine. Pair with Parmegano Regiano, cheese, pasta dishes. Strongly Recommended.

Varietals: Furmint
Closure: Natural Cork
ABV: 12.5%
SRP: $21.95
Sample provided by Blue Danube Wine Company


3. Fekete Olaszrizling 2011
Proprietor: Fekete Béla
Website: Fekete Winery
Country Location: Hungary

  • Olaszrizling: Named Graševina in Croatia, Welchsriesling in Austria, Riesling Italico in Italy, Laški Rizling in Slovenia. AKA Olaszrizling. It is not the Riesling many of us are familiar with.
  • Somlói is Hungary’s smallest appellation. Like approaching an island from the sea. 
  • The winery uses 1200 liter oak barrels at Fekete Béla. Nothing high tech here photo

Today, “The Grand Old Man” of Somló is Fekete Béla. 32 years ago, while on a trip to buy grapes for his garage production, a farmer offered to sell his vineyards on the southern slopes. Fekete BélaFekete accepted and approaching 90 years old, still tends his 4 hectares of beloved Fehérvári-cru. Everything is done by hand, and much like the man, his wines are honest, engaging and highly expressive of the region. Focusing on Hárslevelű, Furmint, Olaszrizling, and Juhfark, Uncle Béla, and his wife, Aunt Bori decided that 2013 would be their final vintage. Source, Blue Danube Wine Company.

Tasting Notes:
Different. Sweet, acid, mineral, not accustomed to this style of wine. Needed air. Unpleasant to me qualities faded, more approachable after 50 minutes. This wine requires careful pairing.

Day two: Olaszrizling is a rustic wine, creamy, musky, starchy, not a mainstream wine. Interesting change of pace. Good with cheese curds. Think potatoes, cheese, mac and cheese. Recommended for the experience and palate expansion. Hmm...

Varietals: Olaszrizling
Closure: Natural Cork
ABV: 14%
SRP: $25
Sample provided by Blue Danube Wine Company

I had never considered visiting Hungary for wine. This introduction to Hungarian wines has definitely caught my attention. A friend of mine who lives in Portugal has told me Hungary is a fascinating place to visit. It is a country with a rich history of wine that is now re-emerging. Hungary is now on my "must visit" wine country list.

Blue Danube Wine Company distributes wines as a wholesaler to wine retailers, supermarkets, and better restaurants within California. Simultaneously, they continue to build a nation-wide network of distributors. Please contact them if you would like to distribute their wines in your state.

Samples provided by Blue Danube Wine Company


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