You must drink this – the 9 things you need to know about Hungarian wine

Are the wines you drink as boring as your love life?! Think about it – if drinking the same wines day in, day out, has sucked all the excitement out of your life, maybe you should open up the relationship to new experiences!  I’m not talking freaky stuff here, maybe just a few new varieties or even a few foreigners.

I was recently invited to the Hungarian Embassy in Stockholm to taste Hungarian wines for the first time – I was instantly hooked.  If you’re interested in trying out some exotic eastern European beauties, here’s our buyers guide…

  • Hungary’s younger winemakers are breaking traditions. Meaning: they are focussing their attention on the country’s indigenous wine varieties like Olaszrizling, Furmint and Kekfrancos, but making them with modern winemaking techniques.
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  • The total area covered by Hungary’s wine growing regions is relatively small – it’s half the area planted in Bordeaux. The 22 regions are spread out across the country, each with its own personality due to soil and climate differences.
  • For white wine – look out for Olaszrizling, the most widely planted white grape variety. It translates to ‘Italian Riesling’ (even though it’s not related the Rheine Riesling grape variety).  Expect crisp mineral/talc like aromas with traces of lemon and apple.  It can be made several ways; oak maturation or fermented in stainless steel, dependent on the intensity/ripeness of the fruit being sourced and winemaker’s preferences.
  • In Hungary, price usually dictates the style of the wine – ie – the more affordable wines are cheaper to make because they usually aren’t wood matured.
  • If Olaszrizling is the most widely planted white variety, the variety that is almost exclusive to Hungary, Furmint, is the most prized white variety. If you’re craving something truly unique, you should seek this variety out.  Just like Chardonnay – the winemaker can throw lots of tricks at Furmint in order to raise its complexity.
  • Kekfrancos however is THE grape variety of Hungary – hunt this red wine down! It is the most widely planted across Hungary because it adapts very well to all of Hungary’s climates.  If you love a top end Merlot, you will love Kekfrancos.
  • Hungary has its own version of Italy’s cult- wine, The Super Tuscan. The wine style is called ‘Bikaver’, which translates to ‘bull’s blood’, and just like the Super Tuscan, is a mix of indigenous red grape varieties and noble grape varieties (like Cabernet Sauvignon).  But the big selling fact – Bikaver wines can be purchased for a fraction of the price, yet offers a wine as intensely concentrated and complex, thanks to greatly improved viticulture and wine making techniques as well as the use of new oak maturation.
  • 20 years ago Hungarian winemakers became lost. Instead of concentrating on the varieties that would stand them apart from the world, they planted lots of noble grape varieties like Chardonnay, Cabernet Sauvignon etc.  They were hoping to take on the likes of Burgundy and Bordeaux, but when placed side by side, people still preferred to drink the popular French regions.  The Winemaking and viticulture techniques being used 20 years ago also needed a complete overhaul.  Thankfully that has now been fixed.
  • Hungary also produces prized sweet wines called Aszú or Tokay, which can be either ‘late harvest’ (for a fresher style), or Botrytis affected (for more intensely concentrated wines). They come from the region of Tokaji and are predominantly made from Furmint or Hárslevelű grape varieties.


  1. The first line is a killer. Unfortunately, invitations from embassies might never windfall my way. I was fascinated by the varietal range, especially Bikaver, or Bull’s Blood, not that I crave for the latter, and even though I prefer the white kind.

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  2. The eternal dilemma of living in a wine-producing country (Portugal a the moment)… You want to try wines from different countries, but the local stuff is so good and you’ve access to so much variety, you just really don’t see the point of paying for an imported bottle. I am absolutely loving Portuguese wines and enjoying these few years we’re living here (even though it’s been a dry season for me due to pregnancy/breastfeeding). Bring on the end of lactation hahaha! Oh, and maybe some enotourism? Gonna keep these Hungarian wines in mind for when that moment (hopefully soon!) comes 🙂 Thanks for the (bulletpoint -love that style of writing) article!

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      • Oh, there are so many! For red – Alentejo, and white it has to be a supercold ‘vinho verde’. And let’s not forget a good Port wine from Douro – not only for Christmas pudding. Another region, less known outside Portugal, is Dao (i.e. Quinta de Lemos, Quinta de Cabriz). Oh, it’s so hard to gather it all in one comment 😉

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    • suoer (sour) tuscan, perhaps sour grape? Would recommend to check the authencity of Bikaver. Tuscany wine is not bad at all but have come across one or two in San Gimignano which was like acetato.

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  3. My two favorite Hungarian wine memories are from my first visit there and my latest. The first, on our honeymoon, was of being wedding-gifted a Tokaji that turned out to be corked to the point of being unfit for insect repellant; the latest was when my spouse was leading a choir tour a couple summers ago and, as conductor, was invited by the Count and Countess in the town of Fot to their home with some of the choir; they gave a lovely afternoon reception featuring some of the patrimonial white wine that was really lovely and light on the palate. I take it this is in fact indicative of the direction Hungarian winemaking has been trending over the last 2 decades, and if so, Hurray! Just makes me want to go back there as soon as I can manage!!

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  4. To anyone who likes good and interesting wines – try a Hungarian-German specialty wine, Siller. It’s a type of wine made of Kadarka grapes, and it’s more red than rosé, but it’s not yet a red wine. Historically it was made by mixing white and red grapes, but since you can’t do that now, they use Kadarka (which is a red grape) only. Siller wines have a very complex taste, usually heavier than a rosé, very fruity, but still perfect for a hot summer night 🙂


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