In 2009 the European Union unified the classification system for wine made by its member countries. With the aim of making it easier for consumers to understand the quality of European wine, wine was divided into three simple categories based on its origin: the highest quality Protected Designation of Origin (PDO), the mid-quality Protected Geographical Indication (PGI), and the basic quality Wine.
Each member state can translate the category names to its own language. The French call their PDO regions Appellation d’Origine Protégée (AOP), the Italians call theirs Denominazione d’Origine Protetta (DOP), and Hungarians call them Oltalom alatt álló Eredetmegjelölés (OEM).
What is a PDO? What is a PGI?
There are 37 protected areas in Hungary: 31 of them are PDOs and six of them are PGIs. The 31 PDO zones include the 22 wine regions of Hungary (all bear a PDO status), two large geographical areas (with several PDOs within them), and seven sub-regions. The PGIs are mainly large geographical areas with several regions and sub-regions within them. A good example can be the Balaton PGI, which has six regions, two sub-regions and another PGI within it.
PDO wines are those that are highly influenced by their place of origin and most of their quality depends on it. These regions usually have stricter winemaking laws concerning density of plantation, fruit yields, grape varieties and ageing. The Hungarian name for PDO is “Oltalom alatt álló Eredetmegjelölés” (OEM). (In this article we will use the English names for these categories). Some Hungarian examples of PDO regions are Villány, Eger, and Tokaj.
PGI wines are those that are somehow influenced by its origin, but their quality is not necessarily dependent on it. Winemaking laws in these regions are less strict, and mostly indicate the place of origin of the grapes, rather than any specific winemaking techniques (such as vinification standards or length of barrel aging). The Hungarian name for PGI is “Oltalom alatt Földrajzi Jelzés” (OFL). Some Hungarian examples of PGI areas are Balaton, Duna-Tisza közé and Zemplén.
Wines in the lowest category, which are simply labeled “Wine”, don’t show any influence of the place of origin. The grapes can come from any part of the country and they don’t have to submit to any special set of winemaking laws. In Hungary these wines are simply labelled “Bor” (the Hungarian word for wine) or “Magyar Bor” (Hungarian wine). In the past these wines were called “table wines”.
In Hungary all of the protected PDO and PGI areas have been revised and are supervised by the Hegyközségi Nemzeti Tanácsa (HNT) office.
All of Hungary’s Protected Areas
Balaton PGI: Includes nine PDOs and the Balatonmelléki PGI within it
Balatonmelléki PGI: Since the Balaton PGI was approved, this PGI has not been used much.
- Balatonboglár PDO (2,800 hectares) mainly produces bulk sparkling and still wines
- Badacsony PDO (1,430 hectares) is one of the top volcanic regions of the country.
- Balaton-felvidék PDO (1,031 hectares) is a good value region, producing mostly whites.
- Balatonfüred – Csopak PDO (1,640 hectares) is a top region for Olaszrizling.
- Tihany PDO (95 hectares) is Hungary’s smallest wine appellation.
- Káli PDO (453 hectares) is a sub-region of the three northern Balaton PDOs.
- Zala PDO (671 hectares) is located west of Lake Balaton.
- Nagy Somló PDO (442 hectares) is a region grouping three uncontinous hills.
- Somló PDO (326 hectares) is a sub-region of the Nagy Somló PDO; it comprises one of the hills.
Felső-Magyarország PGI: This is “Upper-Hungary,” the area surrounding the Mátra, Bükk, and Eger regions.
- Bükk PDO (1,150 hectares) is a region with great potential, but is not highly cultivated.
- Mátra PDO (5,470 hectares) is the second largest wine region of the country
- Eger PDO (5,160 hectares) is home of the famous Bull’s Blood red wine, and the newer Egri Csillag white blend.
- Debrői Hárslevelű PDO (940 hectares) is a sub-region of the Eger PDO, only for white wines from the Hárslevelű grape.
Zemplén PGI: This is the area surrounding the Tokaji region.
- Tokaji PDO (5,155 hectares) is Hungary’s oldest historical wine region, famous for its botrytized sweet wine, Tokaji aszú.
Duna-Tisza közé PGI: This is the area between the rivers Tisza and Danube. It is flat land with sandy soil, which is the best combination for producing easy-going, bulk wine.
- Duna PDO is a huge area, a bit smaller than the Duna-Tisza közé PGI, but similar.
- Csongrád PDO (2,600 hectares) has an extreme continental climate, with the highest average temperature of the country.
- Hajos-Baja PDO (2,150 hectares) has soil that is between the sand of Kunság and the loess of Szekszárd. It produces easy-going, cheap, aromatic white wines.
- Kunság PDO (23,300 hectares) is Hungary’s largest wine producing area.
- Izsáki Arany Sárfehér (3,800 hectares) is a sub-region of the Kunság PDO, only for white wines from the Arany Sárfehér grape, near the town of Izsák.
- Monor PDO (340 hectares) is a sub-region of the Kunság PDO.
- Soltvadkerti Ezerjó PDO is a sub-region of the Kunság PDO. Only for whites and sparklings made from Ezerjó, near the town of Soltvadkert.
Dunántúl PGI: This is the area west of the Danube river.
- Pannon PDO encompasses other four PDO regions, and is the area south of the Balaton PGI and west of the Danube.
- Pécs PDO (720 hectares) lives in the shadow of Villány, and has good value medium body reds.
- Szekszárd PDO (1,620 hectares) also produces the Bull’s Blood red wine blend.
- Tolna PDO (1,950 hectares) lives in the shadow of Szekszárd, and has good value light reds.
- Villány PDO (1,620 hectares) is the premium red wine region of Hungary.
- Etyek-Buda PDO (1,410 hectares) is known for its sparkling wines, and charming cellar rows.
- Neszmély PDO (1,355 hectares) is near the Danube, and focuses on international grape varieties.
- Mór PDO (650 hectares) is the spiritual home of the Ezerjó grape variety.
- Pannonhalma PDO (596 hectares) is one of the first wine regions of Hungary.
- Sopron PDO (1,615 hectares) is near the Austrian border, specializing in light reds from Kékfrankos.
What It Looks LIke on The Label
DHC (Védett Eredetű) Wines
The Védett Eredetű—or Districtus Hungaricus Controllatus (DHC)—is a voluntary sub-category within the PDO. It was created in 2003 for wine producing areas, which are the size of a region or smaller, to designate the strictest quality-controlled areas in the country.
A PDO region that wants to be granted with this distinction has to apply to the HNT office with a specific set of rules, created by the region itself, for its wines. These rules concern plantation density, yields, grape varieties, minimum ageing, vessels for ageing, among other things.
If a region has DHC status it means that its wines will usually show a certain style and flavor profile which is typical to them. They shouldn’t be thought of as the best winemaking regions of Hungary necessarily, but as the strictest, with strict sets of winemaking rules they must follow in order to be granted that title. The DHC works in a similar way as the Austrian DAC system.
We can’t forget that this is a voluntary classification system, meaning that there will always be regions which, for some reason, don’t want to be part of it, but can still be producing wines of outstanding quality.
These regions must use one of these names on their labels:
- Védett Erdetű bor (VEB)
- Districtus Hungaricus Controllatus
This category is usually misunderstood—even among Hungarian sommeliers and wine experts—and thought of as the Hungarian name for the PDO wines. However, it really is a sub-classification of it. DHC classification needs more marketing and explanation for it to be understood, appreciated, and talked about more often.
Today, there are seven regions bearing DHC status. This number is likely to increase in the next few years:
- Eger DHC – Encompasses the whole region. Also includes Egri Bikavér DHC (Bull´s Blood) and Egri Bikavér Superior DHC wine styles.
- Debrői Hárslevelű DHC — A sub-region of the Eger PDO.
- Villány DHC — Encompasses the whole region.
- Somló DHC — A sub-region of the Nagy Somló PDO. Includes the Somló Nászéjszakák bora DHC and Somlói Arany DHC wines.
- Káli Medence DHC — This is an area on the northern shore of Lake Balaton.
- Izsáki Arany Sárfehér DHC — A sub-region of the Kunság PDO.
- Tokaji DHC —Includes máslás, fordítás, szamorodni, aszú, and eszencia wine styles.