Market + Wine Tour
Combine a market tour with a wine tour and get an education in both Hungarian food and wine. The tour will begin by spending the morning visiting Budapest’s Central Market Hall. We will then travel by car to Etyek, an up-and-coming region which is the closest wine region to Budapest (just a 30 minute drive), arriving in time for lunch with wine pairings. After lunch we will explore this gorgeous little village, which holds many small top-notch wineries and old rows of cellars, and visit one more winery for a tour and tasting. Etyek’s limestone soil produces mainly white wines characterized by their crisp acidity, as well as pinot noir, the region’s red wine specialty. You’ll be back in Budapest in time for dinner. Because the markets are closed, this tour is not available on Sundays.
Go to Tokaj (230 km from Budapest) to discover what is most unique about winemaking in Hungary, from the centuries-old process of making botrytized sweet wine and the native grape varieties (like furmint and hárslevelű) to the kilometers of underground stone cellars and the unforgettable dry wines, particularly the furmints. The town of Tokaj is in the southwest corner of the region (where the Bodrog and Tisza rivers meet) and the Zemplén hills form the border in the northwestern part. All of the elements combine perfectly here to create the famously sweet Tokaji aszú. Though Tokaj is famous for its sweet wines, the region actually produces a bigger quantity of dry wine these days. Traditions are strong in Tokaj, yet winemakers are amongst the country’s most innovative. The region is one of the most beautiful parts of the country and Hungarian winemaking truly shines here, with standards (both in tourism and winemaking) among the country’s highest. In Tokaj we will visit a mix of wineries—from the large foreign-owned ones which first brought new life to the region after the fall of the Iron Curtain to the new we boutique wineries creating hand-crafted wines. In Tokaj we will only taste white wines.
Eger is most famously known for its signature “Bull’s Blood” blend, which has improved greatly in recent years. Though the region (14o km from Budapest) is better known for its reds, it also produces many whites with high minerality (including native varietals like leányka and kiralyleányka). On this tour you will taste a mix of whites, reds, and rosés, and possibly a pálinka. The pretty town of Eger has a castle to visit, as well as several architectural monuments from the 16th century Ottoman rule over Hungary. The old cellars in Eger are uniquely carved into the stone under the ground, and the town holds several different old cellar rows which are still in use. An extensive system of wine cellars underneath the town is currently being restored and can be toured. We will dine either in the center of Eger (at one of Hungary’s most highly-rated restaurants) or feast on a traditional home-style meal prepared at a winery in a neighboring village.
The so-called “Mediterranean of Hungary” produces many of Hungary’s biggest and best reds. Villány (220 km from Budapest) is a charming village with a strong Swabian influence, evident in its row of traditional whitewashed wine cellars which are very much still in use. In Villány we will aim to visit a variety of wineries, from large ultra-modern ones to tiny family-owned ones in the surrounding villages. Villány’s signature grape is portugieser, and kékfrankos is also widely planted. The region has been especially praised for its fine cabernet franc. Quality is important to winemakers in Villány, who recently implemented their own regional appellation system. In Villány we will dine in a winery-owned restaurant, at a small inn, or at a small cellars which specializes in traditional meals cooked in wood-burning ovens.
This 78-kilometer-long lake attracts crowds during the warm months. The area surrounding the lake is officially five separate wine regions, which produce slightly different wines. Balaton (120 km from Budapest) is best known for its whites such as olaszrizling (welschriesling), szürkebarát (pinot gris), tramini (gewürztraminer), chardonnay, and muscat lunel (muscat ottonel). But reds are making a comeback on the flat southern shore, which also produces some fine sparkling wines. The southern shore also holds a small distillery which produces some of Hungary’s smoothest pálinka. On the hilly northern shore, Badacsony’s volcanic vineyards make it one Hungary’s most scenic wine regions (it was also among the first to be mentioned in Hungarian historical records for winemaking). The nearby Balaton Uplands National Park raises Hungarian heritage animals like Racka sheep, Mangalica pigs, and Hungarian Grey cattle. For lunch, we can dine on a terrace in the vineyards overlooking the lake, at a winery-owned restaurant. Lake Balaton is best visited during the summer, late spring, and early fall.
Sopron and Burgenland
Sopron, Hungary’s westernmost wine region, has been heavily influenced by the traditions of Germany and Austria. Dramatic Lake Fertő, its shore covered with reeds is here, and so are the foothills of the Alps. The charming center of Sopron (220 km from Budapest) holds Medieval, Renaissance, and Baroque buildings. Kékfrankos/blaufrankish is the king in this area, and we will taste plenty of them! But we’ll also taste some fine zweigelt, cabernet franc, and zöldveltelini (better known as grüner veltliner across the border in Austria). On this trip, it is also easily possible to make a detour across the border to visit Austria’s Burgenland region, which produces some of Austria’s top reds. Here we can visit a winery with vineyards and cellars on both sides of the border so we can taste the differences (and similarities). The wines of Sopron and Burgenland are elegant and subtle. The cuisine in this region is also heavily German/Austrian influenced, and it is well-known for its heavy use of beans. We can taste the local dish called poncichter stew (only found in Sopron), a hearty stew of chicken, pork, beans, and potatoes.
Pálinka, pure fruit brandy, has long been a traditional Hungarian spirit. These days top-shelf distilleries are producing increasing amounts of premium pálinka, making exploring Hungarian pálinka more exciting than ever. Today’s premium pálinka is nothing like the harsh pálinka of the past. Artisan distillers throughout the country make it in small batches, and always with the best quality fruit. Many distilleries have tasting rooms, and can prepare food to accompany the pálinka—just like at a wine tasting. We can introduce you to pálinka either at a tasting in Budapest, or at the source.