Hungarian wine might not be the first thing you think of picking up when you pop down to your local wine merchant, or are planning wine pairings for a dinner party - but boy does it have a lot to offer.
All 22 regions in Hungary make interesting, native varietal wines - so there's plenty to get your teeth into. Under Soviet rule in the Cold War, wine in Hungary was treated as a simple commodity - just like vegetables or grains - and the focus was on quantity not quality. Fast forward to today and it's a different story. The wine industry has seen investment from other large wineries around the world and local farmers have realised the amazing potential of their vineyards. The focus has shifted onto quality wines so that Hungary can compete with a tough European export market for space on shelves.
Amongst the 22 different regions, the most famous are Tokaj - famous for the sweet wines Tokaji - and Eger, which is famous for the 'Bull's Blood' wines Egri Bikaver. The name 'bull's blood' dates back to the Siege of Eger in 1552. Legend has it that over 100,000 Ottoman Turks met a 1000 strong Hungarian army, and astonished by the strength of the Hungarian forces, the Ottoman army said they must have been drinking the blood of bulls. What's the wine like? When done properly, it's a big, rich, spicy red. Sadly there was at one point a bit of a mass marketing push with lots of low quality wine in the mix. But get your hands on a good bottle and it's top class.
We've recently started working with Audrey, who along with her father, specialises in importing Hungarian wines and spirits to the UK.
Born in Hungary, they have vast knowledge of the country and a true appreciation and desire to showcase the real quality on offer. We're thrilled to have kicked off our Hungarian collection with 12 wines from their fantastic range - including some international varieties such as Chardonnayand Cabernet Franc, alongside native varieties such as Keknyelu and Kekfrankos.
Here we've picked out our favourite red and white from the collection to get you started - but do make sure you pop across to our Hungarian page to discover the full range.
Szeremley Estate are based in Badascony, a small region on the north shores of Lake Balaton in the western part of Hungary.
They aim to use modern technology intertwined with tradition and local grape varieties to create truly unique wines which reflect the volcanic terroir in the region (yes, volcanoes in Hungary - we didn't know about that one either!) Their Keknyelu does exactly that. It's full of tropical fruits and ripe pears with a rich texture. It's then underpinned by a streak of minerality and dried green herbs. This is a white wine with huge potential for ageing. The fruit, texture and acidity are all perfectly balanced and it would make a great pairing with a meaty fish such as hake.
One of the standout reds from the selection we've taken is the 100% Kekfrankos from the Egri Korona Borhaz in the north of the country.
This wine is aged in new Hungarian oak barrels, produced by the vineyard's very own cooperage (their own onsite barrel-making facility). The attention to detail and level of control here is dialled up a notch to ensure the best possible quality. Rich and full bodied with brooding dark fruits, this is a serious wine and perfect throughout the autumn and winter months. It would be stunning with a roast dinner - I'm thinking rib of beef, roasted veg, Yorkshire puds and a rich red wine gravy!
We've put together a Hungarian mixed case if you were interested in exploring more of the region with a 10% discount. If you wanted to check out all of the individual wines take a look at our Hungarian collection.