“Now is the ideal time to tune into Hungarian wine,” writes Robert Smyth in Hungarian Wine: A Tasting Trip to the New Old World (Blue Guides, 2015). Those who are newly tuned into Hungarian wine are lucky to have this book as a guide, while those who have been following Hungarian wine for awhile will surely agree that a book like this has been missing from the English-language offerings on Hungarian wine. In fact, the book will be just as useful to newcomers to Hungarian wine—who do not yet know their kadarka from their kékfrankos, or their cserszegi from their cirfandli—as it will be to those who have been following the delicious improvements in the Hungarian wine industry for some time.
The book is organized by region, with maps, nicely-written introductions to each region, and profiles of recommended producers in each region. Each regional section concludes with a shorter list of producers to watch for, and then a brief list of food and accommodation suggestions. In his winery profiles Smyth includes winemaking details that will appease the wine geeks among us, but his writing is easy to read and will not be a turn-off to the Hungarian wine beginner.
The book begins with a brief history of Hungarian wine and a section with profiles of the country’s grape varieties. Sidebars throughout add further information, and for the wine lover in Budapest, the book ends with recommended wine bars, shops, and tasting events. I’ve already used it as a practical guidebook to seek out wineries to visit on a weekend trip to the Kali Medence (but don’t forget to always make appointments in advance if you want to be sure to taste some wine!), and it could come in handy when you need a bit of guidance on which unknown bottle in the wine shop to take a chance on.
For those who have long been tuned into Hungarian wine, Hungarian Wine is a handy summary of the country’s best wineries to watch—a group which sometimes seems to multiply too fast to keep track of. “Just a decade ago, one had to stretch out coverage of the quality producers to fill up the pages of a wine book,” writes Smyth. “Today it’s a case of having to omit worthy candidates.” Even being a relatively small wine country—“Hungary is larger than Austria but smaller than its other regional peers Bulgaria and Romania,” Smyth tells us—it is hard to follow all of the winemakers and wineries, and the new and interesting wines which they are producing. Smyth’s winery profiles (which are both of big companies, such as Törley, as well as tiny cellars which may not even own any land of their own) give great concrete details on specific wines which you will want to seek out to taste.
Smyth, an expat Brit who has been drinking (and writing about) Hungarian wine for 15 years, is just the guide who you want by your side as you explore Hungarian wine, region by region, winery by winery, and glass by glass. It is clear that he has been focused on getting to know these producers, these wines, and these regions well, and his passion for the wines of his adopted country (and for educating others on them) shines through.
This book is highly-recommended for anyone interested in learning about Hungarian wine, or for experienced Hungarian wine drinkers who want to explore it deeper. But, a word of warning: you better be near a wine shop with a well-stocked selection of Hungarian wine before reading this book … it will make you thirsty! I’ve already started a list of wines from the book which I need to taste, and it gets longer every time I open the book.
Hungarian Wine: A Tasting Trip to the New Old World
(Blue Guides Limited, 2015, www.blueguides.com)
Robert Smyth will be having a book launch and guiding tasting at The Tasting Table on October 15th at 7pm! He will be telling the story of Hungarian wine—through its distinctive regions, varietals, styles, and personalities—through ten carefully-chosen wines. Our cheese and charcuterie boards will also be served. Get a signed copy of the book, as well as Robert’s insight on Hungarian wine! 8,000 HUF per person. Spaces are limited. Book your space!