Hungary Beyond Tokaji: How the Next Generation of Hungarian Winemakers is Changing Everything

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Mant prune grape brunch, work on a family farm

When it comes to Hungarian wines, it’s all too easy to think of Tokaji. After all, it is what the country has been best known for since the late 1400’s. The stuff of royalty, there’s much prestige in Tokaji. Despite being landlocked, the International Organization of Vine and Wine estimates that Hungary produced 3.4 million hectoliters yet it needs to do something drastic to flourish.

Struggle is a story as old as time in Hungary. Once upon a time, the vineyards were neglected or destroyed during the world wars. Following that in the 1950s’, the collectivization that ensued created mass-produced wine in the country’s control. This mechanized the process and left the quality hillside vineyards to suffer. In the 1990’s though, Communism fell and Hungary’s wine industry began to rebuild.

They’re still rebuilding it today though the primary reason it’s not as popular is that there remains much uncertainty about the historical and political nature of the country. As the Hungarians work to bring life back to their vineyards and wineries, they simply don’t have the funds to market themselves outside of the country in the way that other wine-producing countries like France or Italy could.

Tokaji isn’t the only star of the land though. It’s important to focus on these other varietals that are being revived on those hillside parcels. With rapid growth anticipated, the toughest challenges that lie ahead involve getting noticed in other European countries to export and grow the industry.

That’s not all though. Hungary’s vineyards are shrinking due to the financial incentives posed by the EU to convert those vineyards into soy and corn fields. In 2016, the vineyards were just 67,000 hectares while in 2006, they were 78,000 hectares. Very little is being done to promote the small wineries too.

The wines from Hungary are getting better with every vintage. It’s a testament to the hard work and devotion of those smaller wineries that are determined not to give up. The enthusiasm they have for embracing the native varieties, following organic practices, and drumming up international recognition is starting to turn heads around the world.

When shopping for Hungarian wines, dare to explore beyond Tokaji and open up your palate to new possibilities. Each of the flavor profiles of the wines from Eger and Tokaj to Villany and Somlo are all so vastly different yet entirely the same in terms of history. They’re bold and authentic with a persistent spice. Taste them and you’ll wonder why so few people are lavishing attention on this tiny yet distinctive wine region. History and dedication are found within every bottle. With lush reds and ashy whites, you’re missing out on what truly makes Hungarian wine beyond Tokaji so splendid.

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