A few weeks ago I enjoyed sampling some Hungarian wines at a New York reception hosted by Perceptive Travel magazine. The folks at Monarchia Winery and Hungarian Tourism were kind enough to provide a collection of regional wines for tasting. I particularly enjoyed sampling two Tokaj varieties. Traditionally known for its sweet dessert wines, the two I tasted were drier, and quite nice. (You want to know what they are called, right? Yeah…well someone has misplaced her notes. Maybe one of my travel writing pals will jump in with an informative comment?!)
It was a pleasant evening, and left me reminiscing about my introduction to Hungarian wines, which began when I arrived in Budapest in spring 2006 on the eve of the country’s national labor holiday. I checked into my room at Grotta Haz, a quiet hostel on Castle Hill that unfortunately no longer operates. The best part of this place, besides the fact that no one else seemed to know about it, was that the owners operated a wine bar in the basement. Eszter, my gracious hostel host, doubled as bartender in the evenings, and welcomed me with an inviting glass of red from the Villany region. Throughout that week, after long days of sightseeing, I’d return to the Grotta, exhausted, but ready to sample whatever Eszter suggested. She introduced me to cuvees and rieslings from the Szekszardi region and also encouraged me to check out the nearby Hungarian House of Wines.
On my last night in Budapest, an American friend and I spent a few hours there, where we sampled at least 15 varieties from around the country, including a 2003 Egri Bikaver “Bulls Blood” from the famous Eger wine region. The House of Wines is an affordable (about $25 to sample up to 50 wines) and enjoyable way to sample Hungary’s vast wine offerings — as you can see from this happy photo of me and my friend with one of the wine house staff near the end of our tasting spree :) But I do wish that I had actually visited a few vineyards while I was traveling through the country. Eszter has invited me back to do some touring…all I have to do now is find the time. Thanks to Perceptive Travel for reminding me to plan that trip!