Category Archives: Hungary

Hungarian wines

Szabó Pince Turán Sweet Red

I bought this Szabó Pince Turán about a year and a half ago when I spent a miserable week in Balat, Hungary. The only thing that made that trip bearable was the Hungarian Festival with all its food and wine booths.

Szabó Pince

While I do like a sweet wine, I don’t normally lean towards sweet reds. Even though I quite liked this Szabó Pince Turán when I tried it at the festival (although to be fair I was likely rather in my cups at the time) I’ve hesitated to open it since bringing it home. However when my girlfriend over at Multiculturally Wed sent me a recipe for red wine brownies I knew I’d found the perfect excuse to open it.

Using a sweeter red wine for the brownies and the red wine glaze gave great balance to the darker chocolate I used in the recipe and the left over wine paired really well with the finished brownies!

Szabó Pince Turán

Tasting notes Szabó Pince Turán:

In the nose the Szabó Pince Turán is largely raspberry and sweet candy aromas. With only 12% abv it’s not a thick, cloying sweet wine; more of a semi sweet and not a dessert wine. There was a bit of tannin on the palate with a fair amount of acid. In addition to the raspberries which were the dominate flavor I also got some baking spices.

I still have no idea what grape this was so this isn’t the most informative review as reviews go. I don’t read Hungarian and if I was told what grape was used for the Szabó Pince Turán I have no memory of it. I can tell you that it goes very well with chocolate though!


Tihanyi 2013 Cabernet Sauvignon

Aside from the Georgian restaurant a colleague and I found in Budapest on our free day, the only highlight, indeed the only thing that made the eight days I was stuck in Lake Balaton, Hungary bearable was the Hungarian Festival with its myriad of food, wine, and craft stalls. Especially the wine stalls like Tihanyi.

Set in the middle of a park (which we don’t see too much of in Istanbul to begin with!) the festival was very atmospheric with lights strung up in the trees and communal tables for eating and drinking the many offerings. Many of those many offerings were pork-based foods and you can bet I took advantage! Oh my gosh the food was amazing. Because we were there for work our company covered all our meals-as long as we took them at the hotel. Unfortunately the food there was really not good so as the week dragged on more and more people eschewed the hotel dinging room in favor of the festival flavors.

I tried many of the wines on offer. For a small deposit you got your wine glass and could then taste and buy glasses and bottles all night long with that glass. When you were finished you returned the glass at any of the wine stalls and got back the deposit. One of our last nights at Lake Balaton a small group of us started here with a bottle of the Tihanyi 2013 Cabernet Sauvignon which ended up being one of my festival favorites. Our table quickly collected more and more colleagues looking to escape from the horrors of our retreat and as new people joined our table they went to get their glass and yet another bottle of the Tihanyi to share around.

I found one thing good about this trip!

So there we are, probably 12 of us, and suddenly the stalls are shutting down and the festival is closing for the night. The group of us descended on the poor kids working the Tihanyi booth with a proposition: rather than refund our glass deposits, just give us as many bottles of wine as the deposits will afford. Hungarians must not be big drinkers because we had to convince these kids, who got to know us turning up every 20 minutes for a new bottle, that yes we really did want some 10 more bottles.

We left the fair grounds for the park along the lake and drank more bottles there until we were rousted by cops. Apparently the lake has a closing time too. I packed it in when we finally trudged back to the hotel but about half the group stayed out to finish the remaining bottles (and order more from the hotel bar). Needless to say we did not see everyone at the first session the next morning.

So what was this wine which we imbibed so enjoyably?

The Tihanyi 2013 Cabernet Sauvignon was a medium-bodied dark, raspberry colored wine with a gorgeous combination of flavors. Raspberry and red fruits like red currants and other berries were foremost but there were hints of green pepper, jalapeno, and mint. From the oak I got some interesting cedar and smoke flavors.

Was this the best Cabernet Sauvignon I’ve ever had? No. Was it good drinking? Yes definitely. It is also what leads me to conclude that wine, like proper grammar, saves lives because without this and the many other Hungarian wines I (and my colleagues) drank on this trip I think our work retreat might have turned into a J.G. Ballard novel.


Gelleri 2012 Cabernet Sauvignon

I’ve been really lax about posting the Hungarian guest wines! I still have something like four to go! So on that note, next up is the Gelleri 2012 Cabernet Sauvignon.

I quite liked this one. If I recall correctly we may have gone through the Gelleri stall’s stock of this one evening. We started out as four people and by the fourth or fifth bottle we’d collected a few more disgruntled colleagues. Each new person joining us went to get another bottle. The drinks stalls had a 500 Fiorent deposit on glasses and you could return them to any of the wine vendors to get back the deposit. Or do what we did that night. At five to 11 (closing) our group (which had swelled to 12-ish people) descended on the stall and, instead of asking for our money back, we asked that they give us the Fiorent equivalent in wine. So after drinking at least ten bottles at the table we turned in 12 500 Fiorent glasses which bought us a fair few more bottles of 2200 Fiorent wine. Which we then drank by the lake until we got rousted by Hungarian security guards and returned to the hotel.

I really quite liked this Gelleri. I believe it was my favorite at this point in my tour of Hungarian wine. For one thing, there’s my theory about how if I like the color I will like the wine. The Gelleri Cabernet Sauvignon was a really lovely raspberry red, not at all opaque. The nose, full of red fruits, was a little jammy. On the palate the berries, cassis, and pepper were complimented by light but well-integrated tannins and acid. This is certainly not a steak eating Cabernet, rather a nice easy drink.

Not a big wine but the well-balanced flavors filled my mouth and lingered for a smooth finish. All in all, a winner; and only about $8.


Dorgicsei Juhfark 2009

Aside form a late harvest white I have yet to open, the vast majority of wines I brought home from Hungary were reds. However a talkative young man at the Dorgicesi hut convinced me that I should try a wine made from a traditional Hungarian grape and got me to give their Juhfark a try.  For 1200 HUF (just over $4) what could it hurt?


Absolutely nothing, that’s what it could hurt. Or couldn’t hurt more accurately.

If scents are colors then the color of the Juhfark and the nose match perfectly. The wine is a beautiful golden color that seemed almost reflected in the hints of honey in the nose. Actually, it smelled a great deal like a cider-full of apples with those undercurrents of honey.

It did more than smell like a cider; it rather tasted like one too; a non-carbonated (which is not to say flat) cider. The Juhfark is medium dry with a nice level of acid just shy of being crisp. It’s a little buttery on the tongue with apples, honey, and possibly orange blossoms. Unsurprisingly it went very well with dried apricots, dates, and apples and honey.

I’m very glad I got talked into buying this! If you’re going to be in Hungary any time soon I fully recommend this one.


Vylyan 2012 Ordog

The Vylyan 2012 Ordog we found at a restaurant one evening. Our choices were limited to only three reds (one of which was immediately eliminated for the sin of being a Merlot) and of the two remaining options, the Vylyan won because of the fantastic description:

Because this is Hungary, the description in the menu was in Hungarian, English, and German. I have no idea what the Hungarian says but the English translation was pretty boring telling is only that “barrel aging makes this wine really demonic”. It’s in the German though that we found the best description: “Der Teufel der alten Legende ist liebevoll!” Or: The Devil of old legend lives!

Even the label reflected boasted of the wine’s demonicness (demonocity?)!

I’m not really sure what a demonic wine should taste like but I rather don’t think it would taste like the Ordog. They pulled us in with clever advertising and then gave us the old bait and switch.

The clear, cherry red color gave way to a slightly woody nose with underlying scents of red fruits and spice. Once it hit the palate though I realized that the description was the most exciting thing about it. Not that I’ve ever done free association games with wine and religion before but were I to think about what a demonic wine would be like, I would think of something dark, heavy on the tannins, maybe to the point of being chewy, with lots of spice, maybe some tobacco, and dark fruits.

I would not think of a wine that’s a little on the flabby side with low tannins and a mouth puckering tart, black currant and sour cherry flavor. That’s what we got with the Ordog. Still entirely drinkable but I certainly felt a little cheated.

Chataeu Vazsonyi

Chateau Vazsonyi Zweigelt 2012

I brought home a number of bottles from my miserable week in Hungary. Which, to clarify, was miserable not because I was in Hungary but because of why I was there. What’s not entirely miserable is this 2012 Chateau Vazsonyi Zweigelt I picked up while there.

I’m not sure I’ve ever had a Zweigelt wine before. Typically an Austrian grape (although apparently also cultivated in Hungary) the blue-black Zweigelt grape is used for both red and rose wines.

A dark, opaque red, the Chateau Vazsonyi is very hot in the nose with cassis and maybe blueberry. It’s definitely a little hot. Not much for the tannins, nor is there a great deal of flavor beyond the initial taste of dark fruits and spice-maybe clove? What flavor there is though is nice enough. Goes pretty well with grilled meats.

It’s definitely much better chilled a bit. I know you really should chill most wines (even reds!!) for 20 or more minutes before serving but usually I’m too impatient to do that. However my limited experience thus far with Hungarian wines makes me think that I’ll want to take the time with the rest of the bottles I brought home.

Royal Victoria

Chateau Vazsonyi 2014 Royal Victoria

We’re trying something a little different today! I was stuck in the middle of nowhere Hungary for work for a 10-day staff retreat…so naturally I was drinking. I was drinking a lot. It’s been 12-ish years since I was in Hungary and I knew zero about wine then which means that Hungarian wine made no impression on me (sorry, dudes). However I was happy to learn on this trip! That was about the only ting I was happy to do on that trip…

The village where we were sequestered had a festival of Hungarianness. Although (as one vendor explained to me) it was not Hungarianness that has always been Hungarian but things Hungairans have adopted which have, over time, become a “native” part of their culture. Perfect example: the paprika. Hungary and paprika are pretty synonymous but the paprika came to Hungary from the western hemisphere.

That’s a long intro to say there was a Biergarten-like place in the park: lots of wooden stalls with food and drink and tables between, all under the trees and charming villagey. The majority of the stalls are wineries so naturally I did all kinds of tasting. My first foray was to the Chateau Vazsonyi stall where a lovely girl and I discussed the merits of Hungarian wine in German. Well, she was speaking German, I was speaking some sort of weird mix of German and Turkish; Germish if you will. But I successfully tasted and bought wines, including the Chateau Vazsonyi 2014 Royal Victoria so it was all good!

^That’s my wine opener; it came in handy several times in Hungary. I travel with one. That’s how I roll.

The Royal Victoria is a ruby red Cabernet Franc with a lovely nose of pepper, raspberry, and maybe cassis. It’s a nice, medium bodied wine. Nothing particularly wow! about it but it’s well-crafted and nicely drinkable. On the palate the tannins are noticeable without being overwhelming with low-ish acid. The main flavors drop off pretty quickly but the tannins linger. I’m not sure if it’s odd or not but I found that the flavor of the Royal Victoria was really more in the nose than on the palate.

The best part? The bottle cost about $8.75. I ended up on a little bit of a buying spree and bought four bottles from my friendly German-speaking wine adviser and had to ask her twice if she were sure that all four bottles only cost 10,000 HUF ($35). I told her that was what I would pay for one bottle of decent wine in Turkey. She was as horrified as I used to feel about that. I’ve really rather become numb to the prices of decent Turkish wine.