I quite like wine. This will not come as a surprise to most of you. I’m not even a beer-drinker so I’ve not really been able to enjoy the famous European beers that are so much better than English lagers (although I did force myself in Belgium. But only to be polite you understand).
Fortunately however, Hungary is the first country on our list that’s famous for its wines and so I decided it would be rude not to taste some of the best properly. There are a few wine tasting places in Budapest, and the one in most guidebooks seems to be the Royal House of Wines. However the one I stumbled upon was not far from Szilvia’s coffee shop, The House of Hungarian Wines (Magyar Borok Haza) at Buda Castle.
I was a bit worried about pottering in on my own and trying not to look like a wino, but the friendly staff soon put me at my ease and my host Istvan (or Steven if you’re English) produced 5 different Hungarian wines for me to sample.
So I’m pleased to say I’m now an expert on Somloi Juhfark, a white wine named after the lambs’ tail appearance of the grape bunches, and one which, if a bottle is drunk on one’s wedding night will guarantee you a boy. 2 bottles will guarantee you male twins but 3 bottles should never be drunk as it may produce a king which is too much!
I also tried the red Villanyi Kadarka, and the Egri region Cabernet Franc, which is made by one of Hungary’s only female winemakers Estok Pinceszet, and contains so many antioxidants compared to even other red wines, the maximum of 3000 bottles a year are sold as “Dr Heart” – definitely a wine to drink that’s good for you! It’s a delicious spicy wine that reminded me of cloves and Christmas – a definite shame enough bottles aren’t made to allow export of this particular grape.
Which brings me to the Tokaji regional wines, Hungary’s most famous wine region, mostly for the heavy dessert wines that are typical. I tried the Tokaji Aszu which was like a really sweet sherry, very fruity and tasty – and one of the Tokaji dry white wines, the Furmint. The Tokaji wines get their distinctive taste from being grown in a microclimate where 3 rivers meet – one of which is warm and another cold.
Istvan was really happy to chat about the wines – I must admit I don’t know all that much about “proper” wine tasting, but it was a good way to find out a bit about the geography and the history of Hungarian wine making. It turns out Istvan has even worked in the UK, once in Inverary, and once in Totnes where he found a fondness for ciders!
So washed down with some traditional Hungarian shortbreads seasoned with sesame, poppy and caraway seeds, I not only got to glug some delicious booze, but actually found out a bit about what I was drinking too! Thanks Istvan! The House of Hungarian Wines is one more place I highly recommend you visit, should you find yourself in Budapest.