Hungarian wines are not usually the first that come to mind when deciding on a bottle, and that’s okay. Like Greek wines, Hungarian wines are often misunderstood, in the sense that not many would know of its varietals. Similar to Greek wines, Hungarian wines have a long history and was once so highly regarded that Louis XIV referred to Tokay wine as ‘Vinum Regum, Rex Vinorum’ which essentially translated to: “Wine of kings, king of wines.”
In fact, the history of Hungarian wine predates even the Roman empire. In Carpathian basin, the territory of the Kingdom of Hungary, history of winemaking went back to 20,000 years. Their winemaking practices stemmed during their travels as a nomadic tribe from Asia, thus when they settled in the Carpathian basin, they cultivated the existing vines there with the skills they picked up. But that was only limited to white wine.
The practice of cultivating red wine only really came when Hungary became free of Turkey’s rule, resulting in Serbs migrating over to the country. They brought with them knowledge of red wine cultivation, which greatly influenced the Hungarian wines of today. However, all was not well. Hungary too was not spared of the phylloxera disease that killed many vines. This led to all the existing red wine varietals to disappear, except for Kadarka. To aid the industry, winemakers brought in vine cuttings from France and Germany, but this led to the loss of authentic Hungarian red wines.
Another devastation that descended on Hungary’s wine industry was the nationalisation of all its wine regions during the post-Second World War Communist era. Quantity was preferred over quality, and some wine regions were destroyed in place of fruit orchards. Although after the communist era ended and some of the original winemakers attempted to restore the quality of wines from Hungary, it never really found its way back to international appreciation. At least, not just yet.
As for the Hungarian wine varietals that are currently in existence, you can find out more about them below: