Hungarian Fine Wine: Past, Present and Future

Hungary has a long and significant history of making wine. Its winemaking traditions date back to 500BC, and are influenced, in part, by the Romans. Perhaps the most famous of all, are the sweet wines of Tokaji – praised by King Louis XIV as “wine of kings, and king of wines”.

At the beginning of the 20th century, Hungary was one of Europe’s largest wine producers, behind France and Germany. But after centuries of successful wine production and distribution, nature and man devastated Hungary’s wine industry. Regrettably, the great phylloxera scourges of the 19th century would ruin the country’s vineyards (though it was in Hungary that Teleki carried out the research into developing rootstocks that would eventually save the European wine industry). The effects of two World Wars, and more than 40 years of Communist rule brought enforced state ownership and a focus on volume production and the loss of Hungary’s tradition of fine wine production. However, in 1989, the Communist era ended and since then Hungary’s winemaking tradition has experienced a rebirth.

Wine critics such as Michael Broadbent MW of Christies London and wine writer David Copp agree that Hungarian winemaking is currently experiencing a great renaissance. Michael Broadbent MW, for example, notes that there has been a remarkable rebirth of Hungarian fine wines: not only in Tokaj, but in other excellent wine growing regions such as Villány, Szekszárd, Eger and Lake Balaton.

Today, Hungary has re-established its own style of wines and a new pride has emerged amongst talented winemakers who are eschewing their communist legacy. The results are wines that can truly stand next to the best wines from any other region of the world.

Hungary has around 69,000 ha under vine, and is divided into 22 wine regions. There are
over 90 varieties grown including both local varieties and international grapes. Most planted
reds include, Kékfrankos, Cabernets Sauvignon and Franc, Zweigelt, Merlot and Portugieser.
Key white varieties include Olaszrizling, Furmint, Chardonnay and Hárslevelű.