As we were recounting our best food memories of 2016, naturally many of them involved wine. At The Tasting Table and through our tours (and tour research) we taste a lot of wine, regularly meet winemakers, and visit the beautiful places where these wines come from. We are in love with the astonishing range of wine in Hungary, and take whatever chance we get to delve deeper into it, taste something new, and visit a new cellar. We asked some of our tour guides to recount their year in wine and share the best things they’ve drunk in 2016. While we all travel frequently outside of Hungary (often to other wine regions of the world), this year it so happened that all of our best wine memories took place in Hungary, with the exception of one from Austria from our Vienna-based wine guide (we’ve shared the addresses here so you can try them for yourselves). With nearly two dozen wine regions in this small country, and so many top-quality wines to discover, it is no wonder that we are so enamored with our own wine. We also were not surprised that there was one particular bottle of wine (which several of us tasted together) that was named as the highlight of the year by several of us. We hope that you have also experienced some great wine and wine travel in 2016.
Here are some of the best wine experiences that Taste Hungary guides have had in 2016. We’re already looking forward to what will come in 2017!
“I think my best wine moment of 2016 was thoroughly discovering the Tokaj wine region and its superb dry and sweet wines. I visited the region about 20 times, I picked grapes there, hiked in the different vineyards, and visited many times the best wineries to taste. Instead of getting bored of the region, I began to appreciate it even more, realizing its complexity, beauty, and huge potential. I had some great wine moments there, such as tasting the dry furmints, aszús, and eszencia from István Balassa, Erzsebet Pince, István Szepsy, Gizella Winery, Tokaj Oremus, Samuel Tinon, and the Holdvölgy Winery. Though perhaps the most interesting one was the 4 puttonyos Oremus aszú wine from 1956 that I tasted in The Tasting Table. It was not only the age of the wine and the historical year that made it interesting, but the wine itself was in superb condition. It was much more youthful than I expected—deep and complex with nutty aromas, but also lively and balanced. A great moment of tasting!”
Hegyalja út 37
Batthyány út 59
Dienes utca 78
Bánom út 8
Bem József utca 16
“The 1956 aszú which we tasted at The Tasting Table is the wine of the year for me.
Visiting Friuli and learning about Friulano was also a highlight. I had a chance to visit the Livio Felluga winery in Friuli and taste their portfolio. I was really impressed by the fact that Livio, the founding father of the winery, was 102 years old when we visited and was still involved in the business.”
Tasting Table Budapest
Bródy Sándor utca 9
“The 1956 Tokaji aszú was an unforgettable experience! Thanks to the Tasting Table!”
“The Oremus tasting (Thursdays @The Tasting Table) with the 1956 aszú was the most unique moment in this year.”
My best wine moment of this year was tasting a 2013 kadarka from the Dúzsi Tamás Winery at the Tasting Table in November. I know it is not easy to find a really good kadarka, but this one was just perfect! Medium bodied, lively, and exciting, but at the same time elegant and smooth. It was spicy with some sour cherry fruitiness and made me think of an exciting rendezvous on an early summer day!
Also, just recently I was lucky enough to taste two absolutely unique things at a sparkling wine and aszú tasting event. One was Signature 2007, an estate selection sweet wine from Holdvölgy winery in Tokaj. It was a blend of furmint, hárslevelű, and zéta, which combined resulted in such a wonderful harmony that after the first small gulp I was completely spellbound by its lively aromas and flavors. The almost 10 year old wine was both sweet and fresh, with a very dynamic structure. Although the sugar content made it equivalent to a 5 puttonyos aszú, the acids completely balanced it out and it tasted just perfect!
Later at the same tasting I had goose cracklings covered in chocolate. Although I can hardly resist dark chocolate, I am usually one who would rather choose goose cracklings over chocolate! But that evening I didn’t have to choose—I could enjoy both at the same time. The velvety chocolate combined with my favorite crispy goose cracklings … well, that was heavenly!”
“I had a fantastic tasting in August at the Szent Donát winery in Csopak. They also run the Marga Bistro, which has an amazing view of the lake, and it is a great wine destination. The winery primarily makes single vineyard and selected olaszrizlings and furmints, but my favorite was a kékfrankos selection from the Tihany peninsula called Magma. This the first year they made this wine. It was fresh and fruity medium-bodied red wine, with cherry and candied red fruit aromas. It was defined by cool elegance and great complexity, which was highly enjoyable!”
Szent Donát winery
Szitahegyi utca 28
“Just like homemade food was my culinary highlight, homemade wine also was. A friend of ours brought his dad’s own wine from Etyek to us. They bottle it, but don’t label it. I have to say that was the best wine I’ve tasted in 2016!
I also have another friend whose dad has an amazing vineyard and cellar in Balatonfelvidek called Ódon Pince. It’s a quite serious operation, with ten giant size barrels, considering it’s not being marketed. He even makes his own Unicum-like drink, called Irmikum, because of the woman (Irma) who helps him make it. I haven’t tasted something so nice before. It is lighter than Unicum but has an almondy twist.
“The most amazing food and wine experience for me was Villa Tolnay at Csobánc. The winemaker’s wife cooks is an amazing cook and they do private dinners for guests using mainly local ingredients, including fresh fish from the lake. The whole thing is beautiful, they are friendly and nice, and the food is very good—fresh and simple, but still quite Hungarian. The wines are very good, as well. We are looking forward to going back there next summer.”
Csobánc hegy 24
“I would have to say hearing the amazing stories from winemakers I have visited since living in Austria. I bring these stories with me on my tours and people get a real sense of what it is like to be a winemaker in Central Europe.”
“This year my girlfriend and I went to Zemplén county. We tried many wines. I never knew about furmint as such a delicious one. I had tried it before, but had not loved it. In Zemplén every place we went to started with a wine recommendation, and it was always furmint—all of them were different, yet amazing (tasty, smoky, lighter, stronger, etc.). Now I think I know even less about it, after realizing the huge variety and range of characters, so I have to try more.”