December 10, 2016 / Leave a Comment
Budapest would have to be one of my favourite destinations in the world right now. It’s officially the cheapest city in the world in which to drink – so wine lovers, you’re going to be in heaven here. In fact, everything is great value in Budapest.
The stunning scenery in Buda and Pest (each side of the river carries a name that forms part of the city’s moniker) is more than enough reason to visit, but oeonophiles should definitely visit this picturesque city as it’s pretty much the only place in the world you’ll get to taste Hungarian wine. They have over 100 varietals, 22 regions and produce around 2% of the world’s wine – but they have such a thirst for their own drop that they consume almost all of it within their borders!
For those wanting to try a wide range of Hungarian wines without leaving the inner city, I recommend heading to Sofitel Chain Bridge. It’s perfectly located right by the picturesque bridge it’s named after that links the two sides of the city, and has a fabulous outdoor bar that affords lovely sunset views of said bridge and across the river. A top spot. They offer wine tasting flights and have a very knowledgeable sommelier – I spent well over an hour talking wine with them! Why not stay at the Sofitel and save yourself the crawl home (I was severely ripped off taking a taxi leaving the Sofitel one night, watch out for dodgy taxi driver charging in Budapest, one of the few downsides of the city!).
Their most famous varietal (and one special enough that some of it escapes the Hungarian borders to be enjoyed by connoisseurs worldwide) is Tokaji. Often called the ‘Wine of Kings, the King of Wines’ there are plenty of historic references to this wine being loved by royalty all over Europe. It’s a wine produced by noble rot, and as far as sweet dessert wines go, it’s pretty good! You definitely have to try it when visiting Hungary.
Those who like whites such as Sauvignon Blanc and Riesling will enjoy Hungary’s offerings in this category, but for me it was all about the reds. Certainly some interesting drops that are getting better all the time. And of course, all represent fantastic value – I recommend anything from the Villainy region.
I love to get amongst the vines in any country I visit, so decided to embark on a wine tour of nearby regions that I booked through Viator.com. I am SO glad I did. With no expectations, the day turned into one full of amazing memories that I’ll cherish for a long time!
You’ll get to experience the full spectrum of ‘wine life’ in Hungary with this tour. The tour starts with one of the largest, most commercial wineries in the area – Etyeki Kuria. Surrounded by vines, Etyeki Kuria offers beautiful brand new facilities and a large selection of wines to taste, along with some of the most amazing traditional savoury scones. They are insanely good. Why not purchase some wine here for the drive back to Budapest later? We found it certainly came in handy for the fun bus ride home!
The next stop is so unique and just so atmospheric. You’re taken to an old limestone quarry that has been repurposed into a group of wine caves, each owned by a different family residing in the small town. The story goes that the vintners and residents got sick and tired of having to journey up the mountain to taste the new season’s wines, then somehow have to roll back home after all that tasting! Thus, they created a closer environment where they could store, taste and enjoy each other’s wines as a community. It’s pretty special.
We enter one of the caves for some more tasting (hooray!) and some nibbles. It’s a little chilly and damp in the caves, as one would expect for an environment designed to store wine, but never fear – there are cosy capes and blankets to keep you warm if you haven’t got your ‘wine coat’ on yet. By this point, the group is having a fabulous time, and with much merry-making it’s on to stop three.
Stop three is something truly unique – you visit a local home where they serve you their own wine and traditional food. The property we visited actually had a cellar containing wine that was over one hundred years old still in barrels (we tried some straight from the barrel itself)!
All too soon (it’s a big day – but we were just having such a great time!) it’s back on the minibus to head back to Budapest. A perfect time perhaps to whip out a plastic cup and enjoy some of your purchases en route to a night cap at Szimpla Kurt back in Budapest (not included in the tour, but it’s never a bad idea to visit the ruin bars in Budapest). Trust me, you’re going to love this experience. Our host was fantastic fun and it’s limited to 12 people so you’ll get plenty of personal attention. As a price guide, it’s around $75USD per person and felt like fantastic value for the experience it delivered. I would do it all over again in a heartbeat!
There are also wine tasting cruises available in Budapest, and we tried one that was pretty great value. Here’s the link so you can check it out. For the price (around $22USD), we were happy that we got a) a scenic evening cruise, and b) around seven glasses of Hungarian wine. Let’s just say you’ll be, well, jolly by the time you step off the boat – but the admission price is worth it for the stunning view of the Parliament alone. The only issue is, don’t expect it to be an information led wine tasting – they pretty much recite one sentence and leave you to your own devices to drink. The staff who lead the tasting aren’t wine experts so chances are you won’t leave this experience learning anything – but you will drink, sightsee and have a great time – maybe even make some new friends!
I’ve got one more stop for you before you leave Budapest, and that’s Cultivini. I love enomatic tasting locations and I always seek them out when I’m in a new city. A fabulous way to taste your way through many wines in a convenient fashion, it’s also perfect for those rainier Budapest days.
With these tips, I hope you’ll discover a favourite Hungarian wine or two and maybe score yourself a couple of bottles to take home. Egészségére! (Pronounced Eggy-she-gear-eh, or, eggy shaky shake as we pronouced it after a few wines!) That’s cheers in Hungarian, I have no doubt you’ll be using it a lot in this wine-loving city.
Have a favourite location in Budapest I need to know about? Let me know in the comments below! x
Etyek Wine Country Tour with Dinner from Budapest – from around $75USD per person.
Departure time between 9.50am and 10.15am for the Morning tours and 2.50pm to 3.15pm for the Afternoon tours. Tour duration is 4-5 hours. Click here for more info and to book.
Budapest Wine Tasting Cruise – from around $22USD
Sofitel Budapest Chain Bridge – rooms from $100USD/night
Fabulous location and a wonderful place to taste Hungarian wines without leaving your hotel! Ask for the sommelier and trade some tasting notes. Click here for more info and to find the best price available online.
CultiVini – Enomatic wine tasting venue
It’s the usual drill – load money onto a card, and choose a sip, taste or glass from any one of the hundreds of bottles contained in the enomatic wine machines. CultiVini is a fab modern venue located in a beautiful shopping area of Budapest. Pay as you go, or packages start from around 20 Euro for a cheese platter and 4500huf (15 Euro) worth of wine tasting credit. A fab afternoon you can enjoy even when it’s raining outside.
Located at Párizsi u. 4, between Váci utca & Petőfi Sándor utca