Hungarian grapes and wines

Hungarian wine in Karaff

A brief introduction of grape varieties grown and cultivated in Hungary

This overview is intended to be a short description for consumers only and contains some of the most important sensory impressions offered by these varieties and wines.

Grapes for white wines:

Ezerjó ('a 1000 good things')

A plain wine with plenty of assertive and crips acids. Greenish white colour, dry, low on aroma. It ages well in the region of Mór. ('móri ezerjó' is well-known)

Furmint

Yellow with some greenish tints, ripe apple aroma. After aging in wood barrels it can develop an aroma of walnut and honey. Rich in extract and high in sugar content. It requires aging to make a robust wine with accented acids. The main regions are Tokaj-Hegyalja and Somló where the taste of the terroir gives a special bouquet. Excellent ingredient for dessert wine but the dry Furmint is also worth to taste.

Hárslevelű ('linden-leaf')

Fruity light aroma with a greenish yellow colour. Faintly spicy on the palate. It could offer more elegant acids than Furmint. Some tartness can be tasted in the finish. Typical grape of Tokaj-Hegyalja, Somló and Eger region.

Cirfandli

Usually has gold colour with some greenish tints, flowerly delicate scent and some reserved spice in taste. It often leave some residual sugar after fermentation. It ages well. Typical region of Cinfandli is Mecsekalja region.

Juhfark ('sheeptail')

"The honeymooners' wine". According to the legend if a couple drinks of this wine after the honeymoon their first child will be a son. The name 'juhfark' comes from the shape of the grape clusters. Restrained bouquet with a straw yellow colour. Well defined acids and tartness on the palate. It improves greatly and ages gracefully. Typical grape of Somló region where the volcanic soil gives a terroir wine with high mineral content.

Leányka ('maiden')

Soft acids. It is suitable for long term aging only in exceptional years. The main region is Eger.

Királyleányka ('princess')

It has a faint golden yellow colour. Slightly perfumed. Lively, refreshing acids with an attractive aroma. It ages well. Mártaalja and Eger are the main regions.

Kéknyelű ('blue stem')

With female flowers this kind of grape is difficult to set and grow. The new wine is pale green and it remains light even with aging. It has a firm but unobstrusive bouquet, and an overall character similar to Királyleányka.

After prolonged aging the vigorous acids attain magnificent harmony.

Budai zöld ('Buda green')

The number one pollenizer of Kéknyelű, unique to Badacsony. In its pure version it makes a harsh but not complex wine, similar to Ezerjó.

Olaszrizling (Italian or Welshriesling)

Related to Rhine Riesling only by name. A late-ripening variety, consistently good producer, resistant to freeze.

Olaszrizling makes a straw-blonde coloured wine with flashes of green. Not too reach in aromas, but the big wines can perform a bouquet reminiscent of mignonette. Milder taste than Rhine Riesling, it has refined acids that are dependent on the location and the year. Reseda fragrance.

It can have a bitter almond aftertaste. The best of the Olaszrizling comes from Szent György-hegy (Mount St. George) and Csopak region.

Rajnai Riesling (Rhine Riesling or white riesling)

A universal variety referred to as 'Riesling' around the world. After chardonnay it is the most well-known white grape variety. A late-ripening variety. It makes a wine with fresh scents and sweeping acids. When it is made of ripe grapes it can be an outstanding, generous wine not comparable to anything else. Its acidity gives the wine an enormous aging potencial. In Hungary it performs best on volcanic soil.

Tramini (Gewürztraminer)

Spicy taste, when it's ripe the fruit can be reddish, making the wine a golden yellow colour even in youth age. It has an intense fragrance with a touch of rose and apricot, and aroma similar to Muscat. The wine's acids are mellow except in Somló region. The taste recalls exotic fruits like lychee and exotic spices like cinnamon and ginger in the aftertaste.

Goes well with Asian cuisine.

Muskotály (Muscat)

Sárga Muskotály (Yellow Muscat or Muscat Lunel) is more elegant than Muscat Ottonel. Both varieties have an opulent, perfumed bouquet reminiscent of orange blossoms. It can possess long-lived acids. When overripe it produces an excellent dessert wine.

Chardonnay

Practically it is the main white grape in the Burgundy region. This international variety can surprise wine experts how great chardonnay you can taste in Hungary. It has sometimes a smoky bouquet suggesting green apple and flintstone. Complex acids completed with flavours like ripe cantaloupe and if it's mature butter flavour can be tasted. Supremely elegant wine, ages magnificently especially aging in new barrels.

Sauvignon Blanc

Another international variety. Scents like cut grass and gooseberry are typical. At times it can have intensive fragrance. It can be a long-lived wine with well defined acid.

Szürkebarát (Pinot Gris)

The ripe grapes are purplish red making the wine that is pale gold in colour. It has genuine aromas and flavours like the distinctive overtone of catnip.

Pinot Blanc

Another white grape from the Burgundy region. The wine is characterized by a closed bouquet. Its flavours tending towards walnut and hazelnut, and it can perform remarkable elegant wine.

Zéta

It's a rare grape variety, but it is one of the four permitted grape varieties in Tokaji Aszú.

Zeus

The cross between Ezerjó and Bouvier. It makes a highly acidic wine, except in the late harvest when it is capable of performing miracle.

Zöld Veltelini (Grüner Veltliner)

Major white variety in Austria. It would deserve more attention. It has a refreshing aroma with the best wines resembling black pepper and mint. Lovely acids. It is a good choice for fish dishes.

Irsai Olivér

A cross between Pozsonyi Fehér (Pozsony White) and Csabagyöngye. Its aroma reminiscent of Muscat and it has gentle acids. It ages fast. It is perfect for a friendly corversation.

Rizlingszilváni (Müller-Thurgau)

Early ripening variety, doesn't require too much sun. It has appreciably crisp acids, not suitable for prolonged aging.

Cserszegi Fűszeres ('Spicy grape from Cserszeg' or 'the unpronounceable grape')

It's a highly aromatic wine like Irsai Olivér. Its bouquet reminds us to wild flowers. Less acids makes it not suitable for long bottle aging.

Grapes for red wine

Kadarka

It makes an excellent wine. Historically is one of the first varieties brought and cultivated by the Serbian minority. Its acids are vigorous and well balanced acids, nice low tannins. In good years its flavour is spicy. Great quality can be found in Szekszárd, Villány region and in the historical territory of Hungary in Ménesi region near Arad.

Portugieser (used to call Blue Oporto)

It can perform its best only in warmer climate where the wine offers mild, delicious acids and velvety tannins. It is not a long-lived wine in itself. Usually blended with 10-20% of Kékfrankos. It's a perfect wine for a friendly conversation. When the yields are severely reduced and kept in barrique barrel it can show a great wine. It is an ideal drinking wine.

Zweigelt

A recent hybrid of Kékfrankos and Saint Laurent. If the yield is controlled the wine will show a great quality with good acidity, however it rarely ages well. Pleasant flavour and lively.

Kékfrankos (Blaufrankisch or also known as Nagyburgundi)

Its colour is closer to purple. It can have strong acids, especially in cooler climates. Winemakers makes the acids smoother and with high extracts in case of low yields. It makes a reliable quality. Usually rich in tannins. Typical regions are Sopron, Villány.

Pinot Noir

An international variety of Burgundy. This grape now claims an even more prominent place among the top wines in Hungary. It's a sensitive grape, needs special care.

Merlot

Grassy aroma when it's unripe, raspberry and red rose aroma in its maturity. The flavours of the wine recall plum and berries. Mild acids. That is why it is used mainly for blending to soften cabernets

Cabernet Franc

Less aromatic than Cabernet Sauvignon. Rich in tannins. In good regions it can attain superior depth of flavour. It provides an excellent base for blended wine. It shows a nose of blackberry, flavour of blueberry and wild forest fruits and plum.

Cabernet Sauvignon

The 'king' of dark grapes. It has an aroma of cedar and cherry. Flavours like blackberry, black currant and eucalyptus. Rich in tannins. Alcohol content cannot be lower than 12% in order to harmonize with the body of the wine. Good vintage needs at least 5-10 years of aging depending on the location.