Hungarian wine guide


Only two European languages have words for wine that are not derived from Latin: Greek and Hungarian. The Hungarian climate is favourable for the growing of vine. The growth season relatively long due to the climate lends extremely rich taste to our wines.

hungarian wine

Local varieties include Furmint, Hárslevelű, Kéknyelű, Juhfark, Irsai Olivér, Cserszegi Fűszeres, Királyleányka and Leányka. Widespread international varieties grown in Hungary are Cabernet Sauvignon, Cabernet Franc, Merlot, Pinot Noir, Chardonnay, Sauvignon Blanc, Pinot Gris, Tramini and mention should be made of Central European varieties such as Kékfrankos, Zweigelt, Kékoportó, Kadarka and Olaszrizling.

hungarian wineyard

The "Fröccs":

Hungarians often enjoy their wine with a mix of soda-water. Depending on the quantity of soda added, there are numerous variations of this drink called "fröccs".
Nagyfröccs - 2 dl wine, 1 dl soda,
Hosszú lépés (long step) - 1 dl wine, 2 dl soda,
Kisfröccs - 1-1 dl wine and soda,
Házmester (landlord) - 3 dl wine, 2 dl soda,
Viceházmester (vice landlord) - 2 dl wine, 3 dl soda
Lakófröccs (tenant) - 1 dl wine and 4 dl soda,
Polgármester (mayor) -6 dl wine, 4 dl soda,
Maflás (slap) - 5 dl wine, 5dl soda


Hungarian Oak Barrels

History of Use

In the early history of wine making, ceramic vessels were solely used for the storage and transportation of wine. In ancient Mesopotamia barrels made from palm wood were used to transport wine along the Euphrates River.  Specific properties of palm wood caused it to be a difficult material to bend and fashion into barrels.  As a result wine merchants from different regions began experimenting with different wood styles.

Historians have been able to detect that oak has been present in wine making for at least 2 millennia.  Ancient records show that oak first came into use, on a widespread basis, during the Roman Empire.  Over time, wine makers found, that along with being great for storage and transportation, the oak barrels also imparted beneficial properties that helped to improve the wine.  In some cases the barrels made the wine lighter and better tasting.  In southeastern Europe, the indigenous oak of that region was, and continues to be, used in making barrels.

For centuries French winemakers prized and used mostly Hungarian oak barrels.  In the middle of the 20th Century, the supply lines got cut as a result of the Iron Curtain.  At that point French wine makers had to find their own source of oak.   Towards the end of the 20th Century, when the Iron Curtain dropped, the supply line was restored.

Source of Oak

Hungarian Oak (aka Italian Oak) is the indigenous oak species in the area of Southeastern Europe.  Italy, the Balkans, Romania, Turkey and Hungary are where Hungarian oak can be found growing in varying degrees.  The epicenter of the growing area is found in the Balkans and, despite the English translation, is not widely found in Hungary.  As a result, some of the most prized oak barrels for wine making are those made from wood found in the Tokaj-Zemplén Forest in Hungary.  (They are also prized because of the success of Hungarian wines in International competitions.)

Properties of Oak

Hungarian Oak grows slowly and best in soils that are heavily acidic.  The hemi-cellulose in Eastern European oak tends to break down more easily which helps to impart exceptional characteristics on wine.  In the Zemplén Mountains the volcanic soil causes the oak trees to grow smaller as well.  This creates a finer grain which leads to a very delicate harvesting process.

Effects on Wine & Advantages of Use

As stated above, Hungarian Oak, from the Tokaj-Zemplén Forest, is the most prized of the Hungarian Oak species because of the properties it imparts on the wine.  Winemakers have found and prefer the softer, smoother and creamier textures that are produced in the wine after storage.  Along with those textures, the oak, as a result of it finer grain, imparts great flavors as well.  The flavors are also more slowly developed in Hungarian Oak than in the French and American oak barrels.  After storage connoisseurs and casual wine drinkers, are exposed to toasted, vanilla, sugary, woody, spicy and caramel-like flavors.  Year after year, Hungarian wines continue to have success at major international wine competitions, showing that the hype is well deserved.

Hungarian wines at international competitions:

Eight Hungarian wineries were awarded at the world's most prestigious wine competition the VINITALY of Verona. The International Wine Competition (Concors Enologico Internazionale) also known as the world's strictest wine competition.

3646 samples, more than a thousand winery, from 27 countries competed on the event.
Among the Hungarian vineries the best result was achieved by the Nyakas Winery, winning the SPECIAL VINITALY NATION AWARD 2010.
The Bárdos és Fia Winery, Günzer Tamás, Borpalota, Bock Winery, the Winery of Somogyi Tibor the Egri Korona Wine House were also awarded


Where to buy wine in Budapest?

Look for small wine shops around the city. You will find quality wine and assistance. In supermarkets and especially small food shops you have smaller chance to select a nice wine. Try to keep the price above 1500 HUF, that also increases your chance to drink quality wine.