Get to grips with Bull's Blood, Tokaji and more.
A Beginner’s Guide to the Best Hungarian Wine. When it comes to listing off the darlings of a standard old-world wine list, it’s rare to find Hungarian Bull’s Blood lodged happily between a Barolo and a Burgundy. But the heartbreakingly smooth vintages from Hungary’s picturesque wine regions certainly deserve more than a curious double take. The country takes pride in the honey-coloured Tokaji, a rich dessert wine, and the full-bodied Bikavér, also known as Bull’s Blood. Allow us to introduce you to the very best of Hungarian wines.
Of Hungary’s portfolio of wines, sourced from its four wine producing regions of Eger, Tokaj, Villány and Somló, the syrupy golden Tokaji is easily the most sought-after. It rose to fame in the 17th century when it was praised by Louis XIV as the ‘wine of kings and king of wines’. Hungarians are so proud of this “sweet nectar” that it features in their national anthem. Tokaji Aszú is the most coveted variety. It’s produced using handpicked grapes that have been left to shrivel on the vine, which lends the wine its signature intense sweetness.
Less than two and a half hours’ scenic drive northwest of Budapest, Tokaj is Hungary’s most celebrated wine region. A visit here offers rewarding views across a landscape textured with vineyards as well as a plethora of award-winning wineries offering select tastings. Local oenophiles based in the historic town of Tokaj will accompany you on an expert tour of the best Hungarian wineries, or you can head off-piste and drop into whichever winery takes your fancy. Ensure you add Royal Tokaji to your itinerary for some of the best Tokaji wine in Hungary. The area’s annual festival Bor, mámor, Benye in the pretty gardens of neighbouring Erdőbénye is an excellent introduction to Hungarian wine and fine local cuisine.
At the other end of the spectrum to its sugary sibling, the bolshier Bull’s Blood hails from Eger, just south of Tokaj. It’s officially known as Egri Bikavér, earning its nickname from the invading Ottomans in the 14th century, who suspected the Hungarian’s stamina and resilience came from drinking bull’s blood rather than wine. While there’s no distinct defining character to Egri Bikavér – it’s blended from at least three grapes, one of those being spicy Kékfrankos (more widely recognised as Blaufränkisch) – it certainly holds its own when served alongside a meaty serving of goulash.
To discover the best producers of the infamous red, head out into the villages around the picturesque city of Eger. Many of the finest vineyards are patchworked along the scenic valley of Szépasszonyvölgy to the west of the city. This world-famous wine region offers a string of wineries across its hillsides, where you can learn about the history of Bull’s Blood, its production, and of course, sample some of the best Hungarian wine on the market.
To try Hungary’s best wines while in Budapest, there are some excellent bars devoted to serving up the finest local vintages. Of Szalonspic’s 60-strong wine list, most are sourced from local producers with a good range of Tokaji and Egri Bikavér on offer. Or there is Doblo – they offer daily tastings from smaller producers and lesser-known Hungarian vineyards.