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The Grand Central Wine & Foodie Express: Hungary & Slovenia

Experience, taste, and discover the wine and culinary traditions from two countries that any food lover must visit: Hungary and Slovenia.

November 4-15, 2021

This is 11 day small-group tour (12 people max) starts in Hungary before heading to Slovenia. Along the way we will experience a variety of terroirs, taste dozens of different wines (the vast majority of which are not available in the US), nosh on an array of local dishes & flavors and meet the hospitable and passionate people who make all of this happen.

Tour Price Includes

  • A dozen wine tastings

  • All breakfasts and 17 other meals

  • 11 nights' accommodation

  • Other tastings and sightseeing (listed in itinerary below)

  • Transportation by small bus

  • Experienced local guides in Hungary and Slovenia

Details

  • This tour will have a maximum of 12 guests

  • Tour begins at 2 pm in Budapest. Tour ends in Ljubljana, Slovenia.

  • We can arrange transfers for an additional fee. Transfer to Venice (VCE) or Trieste (TRS) airports/train stations are also possible.

Hungary’s Culinary culture has many layers to discover—from the hearty home-cooking in the countryside and the Jewish kitchen (which has contributed so much to the flavor of the country’s cuisine), to the decadent baking traditions, and more recently, the contemporary Hungarian restaurants which are spicing up the dining scene in Budapest. There’s definitely lots more to Hungarian cuisine than paprika (though we will also taste plenty of dishes which rely on this quintessential Hungarian spice), and the excellent hand-crafted wines are still under-appreciated outside of the country. We’ll spend a few days in Tokaj, where we will meet winemakers, tour their labyrinth-like cellars, and taste their wines—both sweet and dry. Sample dry Furmints (the region’s signature grape), Hárslevelű (another indigenous varietal), and Aszú, the sweet wine for which the region is most famous. It’s an exceedingly special wine with a long-lingering finish and the potential to age for decades, even centuries.

At a geographic, cultural and culinary intersection of Mediterranean, Slavic, German and Central European influences is Slovenia. Get ready to fall in love with unique whites such as Zelen, Pinela and Rebula in the strikingly beautiful micro regions of Goriska Brda and Vipava. Discover gibanica cake, spicy bograc, red Modra Frankinja wines and the many uses for pumpkin seed oil in the idyllic eastern part of the country. We’ll even uncover the connections between Hungary’s Tokay wines with their Slovenian relatives.

Join us on this intimate travel experience that will inspire you to delve even deeper into this fascinating region filled with thousand-year-old traditions, delicious food and wine, scenic vistas and charming towns. But this tour is more than just a fabulous collection of wine tastings and dining on delicious local culinary delights. Each day presents a special opportunity for guests to sit down, talk with and learn from a myriad of friendly local producers, wine makers and chefs in their cellars, houses, kitchens and vineyards.

Itinerary

Day One: Welcome to Budapest

Overnight: Budapest

Your Taste Hungary driver and guide will meet you at the airport. Check in at a centrally located 4-star hotel. Take a four-hour long walking tour covering the major sights on the Pest side. Taste Hungary’s private wine cellar and restaurant in the heart of Budapest will introduce you to the Hungarian kitchen with a casual cooking presentation/class. Enjoy foie gras, beef stew with spätzle (nokedli), which guests can help make, and Hungarian pancakes (palacsinta) for dessert.

Day Two: Central Market foodie by day, ruin bars by night

Overnight: Budapest

Central Market for a four-hour walk exploring Hungary’s culinary and wine culture. The tour will include tastings at the market, a traditional lunch at a butcher, cakes and coffee at a traditional coffeehouse, and a short wine tasting back at the Tasting Table. Mid afternoon at leisure.

Meet your guide for an evening of beer, wine and ruin bar walk with snacks. Ruin bars are unique Budapest institutions. They started popping up in the late 90’s in the former Jewish district’s abandoned buildings serving cheap boose and some bar food to students. We will try a little bit of everything. Craft beer, pálinka, spritzer, maybe add a couple of local liqueurs. We will order some light, local bar food and have fun.

Day Three: Buda castle and Danube river cruise

Overnight: Budapest

Cross over to the Buda side of the city and discover the Buda castle/Royal Palace with your guide. It houses both the Budapest History Museum and the Hungarian National Gallery. Lunch with your guide at a traditional restaurant. Private Danube boat ride with sparkling pezsgő wine. Spend the evening on your own and get ready for the trip to Tokaj.

Day Four: Discover Tokaj wines in Hungary’s famed wine region

Overnight: Tokaj wine region

Tokaj was the world’s first delimited wine region, and some of the world’s finest dessert wines are produced in this little corner of Hungary. Morning tasting at one of the most renknowned estates of Tokaj. We will usually start with dry, lighter furmints then move on to heavier dry wines, sometimes vineyard selected. Along midway we will jump into the sweet side of Tokaj starting with szamorodni, then move on to different aszús and finish with eszencia, the most expensive wine in the world, wherever we can. Tasting and tour at the Spanish-Hungarian Oremus Winery, which has one of the most amazing cellar systems in the region, dug deep into the rhyolite tuff, formed from volcanic ash.

Lunch at a traditional family owned cellar. They have their own farm, raise their own animals and make the full spectrum of Tokaj wines! Visit the castle of Sárospatak. It sits right on the Bodrog river and is a landmark that made it to many historic wine labels. It ha’s been nicely renovated and is a beautiful example of a medieval Hungarian fortress. Check into hotel located in the middle of endless vineyards and right by the side of the Teresia hill, it is also a great place for walks in our off time. The restaurant and it huge garden with ancient trees is also makes it a really pleasant place. Dinner at the hotel.

Day Five: Barrel making and Jewish heritage in Tokaj

Overnight: Tokaj wine region

Visit a Synagogue in town of Mád which dates back to 1795. Situated on a hill overlooking the majestic vineyards of this wine region, it is one of the oldest surviving synagogues in Hungary. Enjoy traditional beef goulash (gulyás) cooked over a fire by a local winemaker. Head to Erdöbenye, a lovely village which has a long tradition of cooperage. Visit a cooper in his workshop and have a demonstration of handmade traditional Hungarian oak barrels (the oak comes from the nearby Zemplén forests).

Walk off the wine and food with an easy hike around the beautiful wine country. Enjoy a farewell dinner with a wine maker couple who will welcome us in their home.

Day Six: Lake Balaton wines by day, Slovenian wines by night

Overnight: Jeruzalem wine region, Slovenia

Say goodbye to Hungary and depart for Slovenia. Stop at Central Europe’s largest freshwater lake, Lake Balaton, for your farewell Hungarian wine tasting and lunch. We will be drivng on the southern side of the lake which is more of a red wine region along with a good amount of sparkling wines. We will try local Kekfrankos, cabernets, merlots and some of the rieslings and sparkling wines.

Continue on to Slovenia and its most idyllic micro wine region of Jeruzalem. Meet with owner of Kupljen winery and taste his macerated and experimental twists on many of the classic wines of eastern Slovenia, not to mention his love of Star Wars that has made a mark on the wines. And we’ll tie-in Tokaj from Hungary to a Slovenian wine made from same grapes (but in a different style) with a bit of a French twist. Dinner at his restaurant, surrounded by terraced vineyards.

Day Seven: Discovering Slovenia’s ‘chicken head’ region

Overnight: Jeruzalem wine region, Slovenia

Visit to one of the few female vintners in Slovenia who’s winery has 360 views (and a special 360 wine) over rolling hills of Austria and Slovenia. Then it’s yum, yum, yum in Slovenia’s chicken head, one of the tastiest parts of the country despite its strange name. Take a look at Slovenia’s shape on a map and you’ll see it as a chicken running towards Hungary. Prekmurje is the head of this chicken. Learn how Slovenes make the delicious nutty and smokey taste of pumpkin seed oil, the ubiquitous speciality of the region, as we tour and taste at a local mill. Chocolate tastings featuring local products in innovative and unusual combinations at a family-run shop.

Tuck into classic regional dishes such as bograc (a spicier, thicker cousin to goulash), chicken paprikash and dödole (a hearty potato-based dish) and gibanica, the multi-layered cake which seemingly has every ingredient packed into it. We’ll try some Ranina, a very nice and aromatic wine, and to go along with our meat-heavy dishes will be Modra Frankinja (Blaufrankisch), a varietal that was not long ago proved to be indigenous to Slovenia, not Austria.

Day Eight: Slovenia’s oldest town and Europe’s oldest vine

Overnight: Jeruzalem wine region, Slovenia

Walking tour of Ptuj, Slovenia’s oldest town situated along the Drava river, with a visit to the collection of crazy and colorful Kurentovanje costumes that locals where during Slovenian carnival. Stop by to a small scale winer smack dab in the middle of Ptuj’s old town to try a Pét Nat sparkling from Kobal winery, a light sparkling wine from Slovenian endemic wine variety Blaufrankisch.

Visit to the city of Maribor to see Europe’s oldest vine (over 400 years old) that still produces grapes. The varietal is Žametovka which means the Velvety One. Then it’s off to one of the Štajerska’s wine makers Johannes Protner to try his whites (Yellow Muškat. Grüner Silvaner and a variety of different Rieslings) along with some sparklings from Chardonnay and Zametovka as well as Pinot Noir before enjoying dinner overlooking the vineyards.

Day Nine: Beer fountains, cave cheese and unique white wine varietals

Overnight: Vipava Valley, Slovenia

We head west, stopping at a small town that grows hops to try out some local craft beers. Arriving into the highest position overlooking the Vipava Valley, we meet with a cheese maker at his organic farm. One of the highlights is cheese aged in a cave with various local herbs such as thyme and peppermint. Grab a torch and explore these caves which are actually an old bunker installation built by the Italians when they held this part of Slovenia between the First and Second World War. Get a well-rounded overview of Slovenian history, wine making and geography AND get introduced to Vipava Valley’s predominantly white varietals (Pinela, Zelen and Malvazija) at Lepa Vida winery. Four course dinner at Majerija restaurant-homestead, where we overnight in Vipava.

Day Ten: Soaking up Slovenia’s beautiful Brda region

Overnight: Vipava Valley, Slovenia

Head into Slovenia’s most beautiful wine region of Goriska Brda – draped in vineyards, rolling hills, orchards, olive groves and small winding country roads. Taste the country’s best dry sparkling wines at Bjana, whose wine cellar is the oldest in the region (more than 800 years old). Olive oil tasting of Brda oils (the northern most point where oil is produced in Europe) followed lunch in a tiny medieval hill town. Everyone loves their chocolate cake with orange-infused oil. Make sure to ask for the recipe! A five-course dinner paired with macerated wines (known as amber, orange or skin-contact wines) at a winery which houses some large amphoras from Georgia, where this style of macerating white wines originated from.

Day Eleven: Prosciutto, Teran wine and the rustic charms the Karst region

Overnight: Vipava Valley, Slovenia

Tour of Karst hill town of Stanjel and see its collection of stone houses, and pretty gardens before sampling a little air-dried pršut (prosciutto) to go with the red wine which the Karst is known for – the iron-rich Teran. We’ll meet with a young wine maker who specializes in Teran and a rare white varietal as well.

Our farewell dinner will be at cozy farmhouse where they grow and produce nearly all their food. It is really 0 kilometer dinning. Just be sure to same room for their famous honey ice cream!

Post Tour Option: Croatia’s Istrian peninsula is the country’s Mecca for food lovers

November 15th-18th

Five years and counting it has been ranked the #1 olive oil region in the world. It is filled with all boutique producers so no worries about fake EVOO here. Spiced sausages (kobasice), Istrian ox (Boškarin), and lamb cooked under hot embers (peka) are here for meat lovers. All manor of home made regional pastas are smothered in truffles, mushrooms or wild game goulash. There are tucked away gems like an off the charts, crazy-great goat cheese farm and a small family winery that also makes honey and pairs the two together to perfection.

Pint-sized hill towns dot the interior while Venetian, Roman and Byzantine towns line the coast. Great wine makers abound and nothing is more than one hour drive away. Join us for a 3 day extension exploring the treasures of Istria.


  • Best Contribution to Wine & Spirits Tourism

  • Traveller's Choice 2020

  • Wine Writing Award 2020

  • Wine Writing Award 2019

  • Certificate of Excellence Hall of Fame

  • Best Wine Tour Operator Winner in 2017 & 2018

  • TripAdvisor logo

    Certificate of Excellence Winner (2011-2019)

  • Best Contribution to Wine & Spirits Tourism

  • Global Food Tourism Association (Member)

  • Fortified Travel (Co-Founder)

  • Wine Writing Award 2021