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Category Archives: Tokaj
Furmint Forever
Posted by Gábor Bánfalvi on 31 January, 2017 in Drink ,Events ,Explore ,

February in Hungary is long, grey, cold, wet, and gloomy. But for the past eight years at least we’ve had furmint to look forward to in February! Furmint Február (“Furmint February”) is a series of events, including a grand tasting in Budapest, dedicated to promoting this grape varietal which is so important in Hungary. This year the festivities are going international, with the debut of International Furmint Day on February 1st. If it was up to me, I’d make furmint the most widely planted white grape in Hungary. It’s already the signature grape in Tokaj and Somló (along with juhfark and olaszrizling in Somló). Sporadically (but increasingly) you can find some great furmints in Northern Balaton and Eger. I’m hoping to see much more of that all over the country because this grape—if done right—could be Hungary’s flagship wine. There’s no other grape that can make such complex sweet wines, consistently delicious easy-drinking dry wines, and full-bodied single vineyard terroir-driven wines.

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2016—My Year in Wine Memories
Posted by Carolyn Bánfalvi on 25 December, 2016 in Drink ,Explore ,People ,

Looking back on 2016, it’s was impossible to name favorites among the wines that I’ve tasted. I did lots of wine travel in 2016  (some related to Taste Hungary, and some was not), and had the opportunity to taste plenty of good wines from Hungary at The Tasting Table. It was the context surrounding the wines that made wine memorable for me this year. Here are my top four wine experiences of the year (including the addresses of those places that are located in Hungary). I hope 2017 will bring you some special wine travel experiences.

Read: 2016—Our Year in Wine Memories

Read: 2016—Our Year in Food Memories

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2016—Our Year in Wine Memories
Posted by Carolyn Bánfalvi on 22 December, 2016 in Drink ,Explore ,

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!

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The Eater’s (and Drinker’s) Guide to Hungaricums (Part 1)
Posted by Anna J. Kutor on 09 December, 2016 in 100 Essentials ,Drink ,Eat ,

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You’ve seen shop signs and restaurants touting Hungaricums all around Budapest … but what exactly is a Hungaricum (and can you eat one)? Hungary is proud of the many inventions which its citizens have given to the world (in case you haven’t heard, Hungarian are the brains behind inventions including the Rubik’s Cube, the ballpoint pen, vitamin C, and the hydrogen bomb). They are proud (and fiercely protective) of their natural treasures, outstanding achievements, and matchless flavors and culinary products. In order to shield and preserve these uniquely Hungarian products on a local and international scale, many are protected under the term Hungaricum. The Hungaricum Act was established in 2012 and includes quintessential local products such as Herend porcelain, Matyo folk art, Hungarian grey cattle, and the Hungarian cimbalom. Check out the complete list of Hungaricums (pdf file).

We are not the only ones who think that some of the Hungary’s best assets are edible (or drinkable)—out of the 60 Hungarian treasures which have been declared as Hungaricums, 25 are foods, drinks, ingredients, or dishes. The culinary component of the Hungaricum collection shows off the best of what Hungary has to offer—craftsmanship, distinctive flavors, and a time-honored heritage. Below, we highlight the edible (and drinkable) Hungaricums which display the pure essence of Hungary.

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Wine Pairing (With a Side of Thai Massage)
Posted by Gábor Bánfalvi on 05 December, 2016 in Cook ,Drink ,

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Now that the year is almost over, I have time to reflect on some of our best food and wine moments of 2016. One of these happened when Louis Watana, the first secretary the Royal Embassy of Thailand, reached out to me with an interesting idea. He wanted to organize a few Thai dinners paired with Hungarian wine. He suspected that the two put together could lead to some great pairings. The dinners were also part of Watana’s larger project of producing a Thai e-cookbook featuring Hungarian wine pairings.

For our experimentation in finding the best pairings, we split the job: Watana was in charge of arranging the food (his area of expertise) and I chose the wine pairings (my expertise). The first dinner would be at the Thai Ambassador’s Residence, and the second would be at the Tasting Table. The guests were ambassadors and diplomats residing in Budapest, as well as a few visiting diplomats.

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The 1956 Tokaj Aszú: A Wine With A Long Finish
Posted by Gábor Bánfalvi on 14 November, 2016 in 100 Essentials ,Drink ,Explore ,Shop ,

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The 1956 vintage was a good one in Tokaj. But 1956 didn’t go down in the history books because of the great quality of botrytis in Tokaj that year, rather because of the revolution that began 60 years ago on October 23rd. On a warm fall day, a revolution against Soviet rule in Hungary broke out. The streets in Budapest, and other cities, filled with people who were fed up with the Rákosi regime. The oversized statue of Stalin (which sat next to Budapest’s City Park) was pulled down by the protesters on the first day. Shots were fired at the National Radio building on Bródy Sándor street, just next to The Tasting Table. After a few glorious and violent days, the revolution ended up turning into a war of freedom against the Soviet empire. Russian tanks, barricades, freedom fighters, and Russian soldiers filled the streets of Budapest. In some neighborhoods, battles raged from building to building. It was a war we could not win. The wounds from the siege of Budapest in World War Two had still not healed, and now there were more bullet holes in facades across the city. The war was lost in a few weeks, and Hungary remained part of the Communist block for the next three and a half decades. Hundreds of thousands left the country, prisons were filled with the revolutionaries, and a new communist leader called Kádár was named.

During that fall, despite the Russian tanks and soldiers, grapes still had to be picked and wine still had to be made. As the revolution raged, aszú berries were being harvested and wine was fermenting in the caves of Tokaj. In the fall of 1956, due to the long fall, there were lots of aszú berries and a good amount of wine was made. After it was bottled a few years later, most of it was soon drunk by Russian officials coming to check on Kádár or by good comrades from the Hungarian Communist party. But not all of the 1956 batch was imbibed. Somehow a few hundred bottles survived in a remote corner of the state cellar until the fall of the communist regime in 1989. Perhaps when the communist leaders visited the state-owned cellar for a tasting, the winemakers were afraid of serving the ‘56 vintage and served a ‘55 or ‘57 instead. Even the number 56 was a taboo for almost four decades. I remember a scene I once saw in a movie when the number 56 was even skipped when the presenter announced the winning lottery numbers of the week. After Communism was finished, the remaining bottles of ’56 aszú, along with other vintages, were sold to private investors.

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The Lost World of The Jewish Wine Trade in Hungary (and The Old Habsburg Empire), Part II.
Posted by Gábor Bánfalvi on 12 October, 2015 in Drink ,Explore ,People ,

Read Part I of this series here

After researching Central European wine history—particularly how Jews were involved for centuries in the wine trade and in winemaking—over the past few years, I have found this untold story: the fascinating back story preceding the takeover of the state-owned coops in Hungary, which lasted more than forty years (and devastated Hungarian wine). The family names and trading houses that I have been reading about were big players in the European wine trade in their day, only to have their stories forgotten. Here are a few brief stories of some of the families …

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Part II.

A Few Abaúszántó Families
The Teitelbaum family, which lived in the Tokaj region for many generations, is another great example of how Jewish families were able to set up big and successful businesses which lasted for generations. Their winery was founded in 1783 in Abaújszántó. Until the beginning of World War One they saved a few bottles from every vintage since the winery was founded, making it the biggest (and oldest) collection of wine in the region. Also located in Abaúszántó was the Flegmann family. As you can see on the label here, they had an importer, the Krauss Brothers, in New York. These families knew what they were doing: selling beautiful wines in the world’s most important wine markets, with different labels depending on where the bottle was going to be sold.

Kassa 1 1938

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The Lost World of The Jewish Wine Trade in Hungary (and The Old Habsburg Empire)
Posted by Gábor Bánfalvi on 09 October, 2015 in Drink ,Explore ,People ,

Part I.

Satoraljauhely_Synagogue

There’s no denying that the Hungarian wine industry has come a long way since Communism ended in 1989. The story of the first generation of winemakers—as well as the foreign investors who brought know-how and money—to re-start the wine industry in the early 1990s is a compelling one which has been often told. But what about the Hungarian wine industry before 1990? The unfortunate Communist period, during which quality was not a concern and winemakers were expected to hand over their wines to the cooperative to be unceremoniously mixed together, is part of the narrative. And the story of phylloxera wiping out much of the vineyards during the late 19th century is also an important part of the story, which is often told.

But what about the rest of the story, particularly the period when Hungarian wine was renowned around the world? There was a time when Poland was the major export market for Hungarian wine (and the Poles are still crazy about Tokaj aszú) and Tokaj sweet wine was sold all over the world, praised by royalty, politicians, and popes. When I visited Monticello, the home of Thomas Jefferson, Virginia, I was happy to see that a plaque stating the countries where his sizable wine collection came from included Hungary. This story of how the Hungarian (and Central European) wine trade functioned before the two world wars and communism is not a well-known one, and the practicalities of how the bottles got from their sleepy countryside villages of origin to the tables of fine restaurants around the world is a forgotten part of the story.

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A Q&A with Photographer Brian H Neely on His Wine Filled Year
Posted by Carolyn Bánfalvi on 02 April, 2015 in 100 Essentials ,Explore ,People ,

Working in the Hungarian vineyards
Thanks to our common love of wine, we have gotten to know Brian H Neely, an American photographer, well over the past few years that he has been living in Budapest. For much of this time he has been working on a project called A Wine Filled Year. The seed of his project was born, naturally, over a glass of wine … or perhaps actually, over many glasses of wine! A Wine Filled Year has now been completed, and the result is a gorgeous book of photographs documenting several Hungarian wineries and vineyards over the course of a year. You can check out Brian’s blog for more information about the project, or you can order the book directly here. To meet Brian (and pick up a signed copy of the book!) come to his launch party on April 9th.

We spoke to Brian about his project, photography, and his favorite Hungarian wines.  Read More

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Q&A with Gabó Bartha, One of Our Kitchen Heroes
Posted by Carolyn Bánfalvi on 11 March, 2015 in Cook ,Explore ,

http://www.winelover.co/events/event/winelover-week-in-hungary-and-austria-september-2014/

The first time we met Gabó Bartha and Ákos Szokolai from the Budaházy Winery in Mád it was over a fabulous meal that she had prepared for us in Mád, paired with Ákos’ wines, naturally. Before meeting in person we had been corresponding by email about shared interests in food, cooking, and Tokaj for a few months. Since then we have been lucky enough to enjoy their thoughtful approach to cooking (enhanced by their lovely wines) many times, and the winery is always a favorite stop for our wine-touring guests.

It was fitting that Gabó was one of the very first people to help us break in the new kitchen at The Tasting Table in September when we hosted a #winelover BYOB dinner there, and now she is back with Ákos. Together they are busy shopping at the market, unpacking their stash of ingredients that they carted from Mád, and preparing for the dinner that they are hosting tomorrow at The Tasting Table.

We took this chance to ask Gabó a few questions about her distinctive cooking style, which has incorporated many influences starting from her childhood in Transylvania, up until the past nearly four years that she has spend living in the tiny village of Mád, in the Tokaj wine region. Read More

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Discovering Tokaj’s Sweet Secrets: At Home in Erdőbénye
Posted by Carolyn Bánfalvi on 04 March, 2015 in 100 Essentials ,Drink ,Explore ,

Vineyard view from Mád

Winemakers in Tokaj, the famed wine region in northeastern Hungary, are singularly obsessed with a fungus. No ordinary fungus, it is botrytis (or “noble rot”) which they are mad about. It is the ingredient which magically transforms their precious ripe grapes into the shriveled, small, raisin-like berries which make Tokaji aszú one of the world’s greatest sweet wines. The wine is the pride of Hungary, yet unfathomably, it is still practically a secret among the majority of the world’s wine drinkers. Winemakers in Tokaj rely on botrytis, which only occurs when weather conditions are perfect, to concentrate sugars and flavors in the shrivelly grapes. This results in rich, golden-colored wine that can taste of orange marmalade, hazelnut, bread, dill, citrus, apricot, honey, or a host of other flavors. These dried grapes are the backbone of Tokaji aszú and are not only hand-harvested, but are selected one by one.

It’s an exceedingly special wine, with a long-lingering finish and the potential to age for decades, even centuries.

Tokaji aszú berries

Tokaji aszú is a complex, traditional wine, which has been admired by royalty and popes, and is even praised in the Hungarian national anthem. As an expat who has been living in Budapest—200 kilometers fromTokaj in the southern foothills of the Carpathian Mountains—for around a dozen years, I slowly, but seriously, became so smitten with it that my husband, Gábor, and I fantasized about having a little piece of this dreamy place for ourselves. Read More

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Taste Hungary’s 100 Essentials List
Posted by Carolyn Bánfalvi on 01 January, 2015 in 100 Essentials ,

Essential Food, Wine, and Dining Experiences 

When in Hungary, be prepared to eat and drink … and then do it some more. To fully experience Hungary there are some food, drinks, and experiences that cannot be missed. We have compiled what we think are the most essential (and tastiest) ones. We could go on…but this is enough to get started! We have stories to match some of these “essentials” (which you can get to by clicking on links in the list below the photos), and in the coming months we will add stories for each one of them. You can download the entire list here (pdf). This list is in no particular order, and will update it from time to time.

1. Lángos | 2. Unicum | 3. Gulyás (Goulash) | 4. Neighborhood Markets | 5.  Pezsgő (Sparkling Wine) | 6. Mangalica (Mangalitsa) | 7.  Nagy Vásárcsarnok (Central Market Hall) | 8.  Római Part (Romai Strand) | 9. Picnics | 10. Coffee: Historic Coffeehouses, Retro Eszpresszos, and 3rd Wave Coffee | 11. Rétes (Strudel) | 12. Nose To Tail Eating | 13. Fröccs (Spritzer) | 14. Zsíros kenyér (“Fatty” Bread) | 15. Szalonnasütés (Bacon Roasting) | 16. Szódásüveg (Soda Syphons) | 17. Michelin-Starred Restaurants | 18. Romkocsma (Ruin Bars) | 19. Dobos Torta | 20. Pálinka | 21. Túró Rudi | 22. Jewish Cuisine | 23. Velőscsont (Bone Marrow) | 24. Tokaj | 25. Indigenous Grape Varietals | 26. Liba/Kacsa Máj (Foie Gras) | 27. Kacsa (Duck) and Goose (Liba) | 28. Szilvás Gombóc (Plum Dumplings) 29. Szörp (Fruit Syrup) | 30. Taste Hungary Tours |31. Étkezde (Lunch Rooms) | 32. Cukrászdas (Patisseries) | 33.  Fagylalt (Ice Cream) | 34. Mák (Poppy Seeds) | 35. Dió (Walnuts) | 36. Húsleves (“Meat Soup”) |  37. Hideg Gyümölcs Leves (Cold Fruit Soup) | 38. Töltött Paprika & Töltött Káposzta (Stuffed Peppers & Stuffed Cabbage) | 39. Palacsinta  (Pancakes) | 40. Furmint | 41. Holiday Traditions | 42. Paprika and Peppers | 43. Disznótor (Pig Slaughter) | 44. Drinking From Unmarked Plastic Bottles | 45. Házi Barack & Szilva Lekvár (Homemade Apricot and Plum Jam) | 46. Hungarian Wine Country | 47. Artisan Cheese | 48. George Láng’s The Cuisine of Hungary | 49. Lake Balaton: Corn on the Cob, Lángos, and Artisan Products | 50. Craft Cocktails | 51. Bogrács (Cauldron) | 52. Savanyúság (Pickles) | 53. Craft Beer | 54. Tökmag (Pumpkin Seeds) | 55. Fresh-Picked Fruit | 56. Meggy (Sour Cherries) | 57. Gomba (Mushrooms) | 58. Halászlé (Fisherman’s Soup) | 59. Házi Fánk (Homemade Donuts) | 60. Krémes | 61. Hidegtál (Cold Plate) | 62. Yeast-Raised Desserts | 63. Flódni | 64. Fried Food (with Homemade Tartar Sauce) | 65. The Tasting Table | 66. Gyula Krúdy’s Novels | 67. Etyek | 68. Budapest’s Natural Springs | 69. Bor Mámor Bénye | 70. Budapest Wine Festival | 71. Sólet (Cholent) | 72. Lecsó | 73. Maximilian | 74. Rozé (Rosé) | 75. Tokaji Esszencia | 76. Rákóczi Túrós | 77. Kürtöskalács (Chimney Cake) | 78. Leves (Soup) | 79. Seasonal Eating | 80. Pogácsa | 81. Red Wine from Southern Hungary | 82. Sörözős and Borozós | 83. Hungarian Breakfast | 84. Kovászos Uborka (Fermented Cucumbers) | 85. Tészta (Pasta) | 86. Paprikás Csirke (Chicken Paprikás) | 87. Lunch at a Butcher | 88. Pork: Sausage, Bacon, and More | 89. Főzelék | 90. Zsír (Fat) | 91. A Spájz (The Pantry) | 92. Home-cooking | 93. Túró (Curd Cheese) | 94. Poncichter Ragu (Soproni Bean Stew) | 95. Pörkölt (Stew) | 96. Bodzalé (Elderflower Juice) | 97. Wine from Somló | 98. Téliszalámi (Winter Salami) | 99. Gesztenyepüré (Chestnut Puree) | 100. Sunday Lunch

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