Hungarian wine has a history dating back to the Kingdom of Hungary. Outside Hungary, the best-known wines are the white dessert wine Tokaji (particularly in the Czech Republic, Poland, and Slovakia) and the red wine Bull's Blood of Eger (Egri Bikavér).
The Romans brought vines to Pannonia, and by the 5th century AD, there are records of extensive vineyards in Hungary. Following the Magyar invasion of 896, Árpád rewarded his followers with vineyards in Tokaj. Over the following centuries, new grape varieties were brought in from Italy and France. Most of the production was of white wine.
During the invasion of Suleiman the Magnificent in the early 16th century, displaced Serbs brought the red Kadarka grape to Eger. This ancient variety was used to make the robust red wine blend later known as Bull's Blood, after the supposed secret ingredient in the wine that fortified the defenders of Eger in 1552.
It was also during the Turkish occupation that the Tokaj region became known for dessert wines, harvested late to encourage noble rot. Tokaji aszú is mentioned in a document of 1571, and it was famously christened by Louis XIV of France (1638-1715) "Vinum Regum, Rex Vinorum" - Wine of Kings, King of Wines.
After the Ottoman Empire ceded Hungary to the Austrians in 1699, the Germanic influence was felt with the introduction of grape varieties such as Blauer Portugieser. That influence also showed in the start in 1730 of the world's first vineyard classification in Tokaj, based on soil, aspect and propensity to noble rot.
From 1882, the phylloxera epidemic hit Hungary hard, with the traditional field blends of Eger and the many grapes of Tokaj being replaced with monocultures, often of Blaufränkisch (Kékfrankos) and the Bordeaux varieties in red wine districts, and of Furmint, Muscat and Hárslevelű in Tokaj. The twentieth century saw the introduction of modern grapes such as Zweigelt, which were easier to grow and to vinify than Kadarka, and under Communism quality was neglected in favour of overcropping, pasteurisation, and industrial production. Since 1989, there has been renewed interest in the traditional varieties and a lot of new investment, particularly in Tokaj-Hegyalja.
The official list of wine regions is defined by a ministerial decree. The current list includes 22 wine regions, which are usually grouped into five to seven larger regions.
The main variety of the region is Olaszrizling.
Mainly fresh and light wines from lots of varieties.
Hungary's most famous wine region lies in the foothills of the Zemplén Mountains of the far north of the country - in fact the traditional area crosses into the southeast corner of modern Slovakia. The area is notable for its long warm autumns and mists that come in from the River Bodrog, creating perfect conditions for noble rot. This can contribute towards creating the botrytised ('aszú') grapes for which the region is famous. These are individually picked as late as mid-November into buckets ('puttonyos') and crushed to a paste. Varying amounts of this aszú paste are then added to non-aszú must or wine made from a mix of Furmint, Hárslevelű, Muscat Blanc à Petits Grains, Kövérszőlő or Zéta grapes, and left to ferment. The resulting wine is then aged in relatively small barrels in a labyrinth of cellars in the soft volcanic tuff, on whose walls thick blankets of fungus regulate the humidity.
Given that aszú conditions only happen in perhaps three vintages per decade, a lot of dry Furmint is also produced. Other grapes grown in the area include Hárslevelű, Muscat Blanc, Kövérszőlő and Zéta.
For centuries the main product of the area was the sweet wine, mainly the Botrytised selections. The dry Furmint got into the attention of wine connoisseurs and experts of the world when the Úrágya 2000 single vineyard selection had been introduced by István Szepsy. The wine expressed great minerality, complexity and structure, which has been experienced only in the finest white wines of historic regions like Burgundy or the Mosel before. The aging potential was also promising. In 2003 more producers of Mád village produced single vineyard selected dry Furmint wines with great success. Mád village with its almost 1200 ha had the opportunity to produce high quality dry Furmint wine in significant quantity as a commune level wine, which can express the unique volcanic terroir of the region, this wine is named after its appellation Mad and produced by István Szepsy Jr. in the Szent Tamás Winery.
Several varieties of grape are known to have originated in Hungary. These are:
Other varieties of grape that may have originated in Hungary include: