wine

 
 
 

I am wine-challenged.  I appreciate other people’s appreciation, but my own tastes are narrow and limited.  And, worse, I have very little interest in red wines at all.  So that aspect of this website will build slowly. 


What I know a bit about is Tokaji, the dessert wine that rivals the finest sauternes.  And, further afield, I may not know much about them, but I know what I like when it comes to whites.


In Tokaji’s I have a strong preference for the wines of Janos Arvay, and considerable appreciation for those of Istvan Szepsy.  I especially like like Arvay’s 5 and 6 Puttonyos Aszu and his Essencia, as well as his late harvest wines; I like Szepsy’s cuveés especially.  But it is hard to go wrong with any of the wines from either source.  The Kiralyudvar cuveés are wonderful, and the Grof Degenfeld Andante cuveé is a particularly nice accompaniment to a dessert when the wine is not aiming to be the centerpiece.  Any of the Tokajis goes well with almost anything involving libamaj (foie gras).  And as a casual Tokaji for much less money, those of the Vayi vineyard are bright and very pleasant.


Among whites I like the Oremus Mandolas Furmint, a sauvignon blanc from Szöke, and the Szeremley Badacsony Rizling.  There’s a lovely Gál Tibor Viognier.


To buy wine, I strongly recommend the Bortarsasag shop on Raday utca where the shopkeeper has never given me a bad recommendation, from the least to the most expensive wines; he's even sold me a couple of reds that I've enjoyed.  Bortarsasag has several shops and is owned by the Hungarian Wine Society, which has had a good deal to do with the revivification of Hungarian wines generally, and which distributes as well as sells at retail.  Their prices are as low as supermarkets’ for wines that are sold in both settings.


More importantly, to taste wines many restaurants now have extensive selections by the glass.  Borbirosag behind the Central Markethall, Klassz on Andrassy ut, Café Bouchon, and Pava all have a wide range, but really most serious restaurants in Budapest have many wines by the glass and it’s an excellent way to figure out which ones appeal to you.  Segal lists a number of wines by the glass on its winelist, but then it turns out that they'll serve a single glass of most of the wines listed by the bottle.  This is a far better way to try a range of Hungarian wines than the wineshops that offer tastings. 


If you're fortunate enough to be around in late August when the Budapest Wine Fair takes place by Heroes Square, don't miss it.  You pay an entry fee, they give you a glass, and you can wander from booth to booth buying tastes of more than a hundred Hungarian vineyards' products.


Don’t allow dreadful wines, of which there remain quite a number, to sour you on Hungarian wine.  It’s a solid tradition re-emerging from long dormancy, and there are now many good wines to be found but advice from a knowledgeable server or sommelier or salesperson is extremely helpful.




 

It's easy to be dismissive of Hungarian wines if you limit your exposure to the Egri Bikaver that manages to find its way acroiss the Atlantic -- fuel for those who drink till they hug commodes but largely undistinguished otherwise -- and the greatest and most distinctive Hungarian wines -- its Tokajis -- are not for everyone; relatively few oenophiles can warm up to a wine whose alcohol content is asymptotic to zero...but I've come to enjoy this exploration as much as as any in Budapest...