The Balaton Lake, located 150 Km. southwest of Budapest, is one of the more famous wine regions of Hungary, and very popular as a vacation spot for foreign and local tourists.
This huge lake is known as ” the Sea of Hungary”. Out of the vineyards covering the northern shores of the lake, come a variety of red and white wines in many styles. Villages here are noted for their characteristically dry, fruity, and charming white wines, but also produce some cheerful red wines to be enjoyed when young.
The countryside is undulated and very fertile. Small villages are interspersed throughout the route breaking the monotony of the landscape. Although there are now many privately owned wineries, co-operatives operate large-scale production facilities inherited from the previous regime and century.
Our first stop was at the Balatonboglar wine co-operative. The friendly manager of the winery showed my translator and I the facilities with a capacity exceeding two million litres, a substantial part of which is exported in bulk to Germany and other European countries.
After the visit we tasted the following wines Balatonboglar Riesling (pleasant with a relatively dark colour, and some residual sugar); Balatonboglar Szurkebarat (Pinot Gris) (fruity and rich in extract); Pannonhalma Riesling from a small monastery (dark yellow, complex bouquet of fruit barrel aged, well balanced, and refined.) Most of the small production is sold at the monastery and only a few cases reach old established markets in Germany.
The Kekfrankos was light and pleasant, but the Merlot, grown only on a few hectares of young vineyards on the most southern point of the northern shores of the Lake Balaton caught my attention. It was almost a textbook Merlot fruity, light and brilliant with nuances. Authorities informed me that plans are in place to plant many more hectares. Soon we may be able to taste some Hungarian Merlot in Canada.
After the tasting we drove along the northern lakeshore eastwards and inspected some of the vineyards. The manager of the Balatonboglar winery explained that the grapes grown on the lakeshore are used for ordinary wines, the ones from inland grown on an altitude of 50 – 100 meters yield better quality and those grown above 100 meters yield the finest.
The winery in Badascon is much smaller, but produces a range of white and red wines marketed in western European countries.Tourists and businessmen visiting Hungary buy the few bottles that reach the local market.
The young and enthusiastic manager of the winery showed us the production facilities with ancient gigantic wooden barrels, and huge glass-lined concrete containers for white wines.
Following the short, tour we were ushered to the tasting room. First, I tasted a regular off dry, pleasant, Badacsonyi Szurkebarat, produced from grapes grown on vineyards located on the northern shores of the Lake. The second wine by the same name was produced from grapes of vineyards located on 50 to 100 meters altitude a few kilometers inland. It was fruity, light in colour, well balanced, full-bodied and contained half-a-percent less alcohol with a long finish.
The third wine, Badacsonyi Szurkebarat, came out of vineyards located above 100 meters. It had a pale green-yellow colour, unique fruitiness, and 11 per cent alcohol. In the mouth the acidity was noticeable without detracting from the flavour.
Badacsonyi Szurkebarat is appropriate with fish dishes containing cream sauces, battered and pan-fried sole fillets, and with cod, baked Portuguese or Italian style.
The Kekfrankos (Blaufrankisch) from Sopron, a small village located approximately 60 kilometers northwest of Badacson, was light, brilliant, fruity, and with a long satisfying aftertaste.
The Merlot from Sopron region was medium-bodied, fruity, pleasant and enjoyable.
Hungarian wines generally represent good value, but in Ontario the selection is still limited. Special imports become available from time to time through agencies specializing in Hungarian wines.
The red wines from Szeksard in the southern part of the country are becoming better with every vintage, and are receiving international awards recognizing their quality.
Hungary has a long history of wine and good food. It is now evolving much faster than in the last century, and soon will conquer the palates of millions in North America.
|Writer – Hrayr Berberoglu – E-mail – Read his books?
Professor B offers seminars to companies and interested parties on any category of wine, chocolates, chocolates and wine, olive oils, vinegars and dressings, at a reasonable cost.