Any time I visit a new country, I am eager to discover the food and wines of that region. I usually book at least one formal wine tasting experience, because it is an excellent way to get a quick overview of the history and culture…and best of all, there’s wine!
On a recent trip to Hungary, I visited Tasting Table Budapest. Prior to my visit, I had never tasted Hungarian wine but I knew of Hungary’s famous late harvest wine, Tokaj Aszu. After doing my research, I booked the Wine, Cheese, and Charcuterie Experience at Tasting Table.
Discover the Best of Hungarian Wine
Tasting Table is the creation of Carolyn and Gåbor Bånfalvi, who have been leading food and wine tours around Budapest for years. In 2014, they purchased and a space that was formerly a cellar in the Palace District of Budapest—and Tasting Table was born.
The Wine, Cheese, and Charcuterie experience included five wines, four types of meat, and four kinds of cheese. The selection of cheeses changes often; Carolyn and Gåbor have relationships with many local, small production farms. The wines are from a mix of boutique wine producers and larger wineries, such as Oremus and Havas & Timår.
Taste 5 Hungarian wines
All of the wines I sampled at Tasting Table were excellent. The white wines were made from indigenous grapes, such as Furmint, Olaszrizling, and the famous Tokaj Aszu. The two red wines included a single varietal Cabernet Franc and a blend unique to Hungary called Bull’s Blood, which must contain at least 50% native red varietals. If you’d like to know more about each wine the tasting notes are listed…keep scrolling!
My personal favorite was the Tokaj (toe-kye). It’s a late harvest wine that is a deep golden color, tastes like ripe apricots and honey, and which, according to Royal Tokaj Winery founder, Hugh Johnson, “is a wine that will make angels sing out loud in praise.” I’m no angel, but I have to agree.
Community style tasting experience
Not only was this tasting delicious and informative–it was also fun! The Tasting Table only has communal-style seating so you will meet new people and the host encourages interaction. If you’re a little introverted don’t worry, after a few sips of wine, you’ll be just fine!
In addition to guided wine tastings, Tasting Table Budapest sells wine by the bottle and by the glass; if you live in Budapest, it could be your favorite wine shop.
Take home a bottle of Hungarian wine
Tasting Table Budapest feels like a well-kept secret—which is exactly what the owners intended. On their website, they state: “We want our guests to go home feeling like they discovered things they didn’t even know existed, and that it was worth their while to dig deeply into new flavors, a new country, and meeting new people.” Perhaps that is the secret to the success of Tasting Table Budapest.
Whatever you fancy, red, white, sweet, or dry, Tasting Table Budapest is the place to go for a truly unique and local taste of Hungary.
If you live in the U.S., you can still enjoy wines curated by Taste Hungary through their wine club options. You can find out more about that on their website.
Tasting notes for all the wines I tasted
Szászi Winery. Olaszrizling 2018
Szászi is a family winery located on the beautiful Szent György hegy (Saint George’s hill) on the shore of Lake Balaton. Bazalt soils give an excellent balance between fruitiness and minerality to the wines of this region. The Olaszrizling had notes of ripe peaches, ripe melon, river stone, and flint. Pair it with light meats like pork and chicken. Olaszrizling is Hungary’s most widely planted variety and is often confused with Riesling from Germany but is not the same thing at all.
Oremus Winery. Mandolas, Furmint 2011
Oremus is one of the most famous wineries in Hungary; owned by cult winery Vega Sicilia. Mandolas, is the name of the vineyard in Hungary. The 2011 Mandolas Furmint is a single varietal, dry white wine. It is oak fermented and aged and has notes of sweet spices, vanilla, and coconut with the sharp acidity of the Furmint variety. This wine can has aged well and should be good for several more years. Furmint is the principle varietal in sweet Tokaj wines.
Vida Winery. Bikavér 2016
Bikavér – also known as Bull’s Blood – is Hungary’s most popular red wine. It can only be made in two of the 22 wine regions of the country: Eger and Szekszárd. Peter Vida’s family winery is located in Szekszárd city, in the south of Hungary. His Bikavér is a blend of five varieties: Kékfrankos, Kadarka, Merlot, Cabernet Franc, and Syrah. Aged for 20 months in 500 and 1.000-liter barrels. It exhibits earthy, spicy, crunchy red fruit and is a well balanced red wine. Try it with duck and mushrooms. This wine is available in the US via Taste Hungary wine club (tastehungary.us)
Havas and Timar. Franom, Cabernet Franc 2016
Cabernet Franc is the new star of Hungarian wine thanks to MW Michael Broadbent who called Hungary the home of Cabernet Franc. Franom is a great example of a northern-Hungarian Cab Franc: rich and concentrated but easy to drink–this is a pretty wine with aromas of violets, blackberry, graphite, tobacco, and blueberries. This wine is available in the US via Taste Hungary wine club (tastehungary.us)
Royal Tokaj winery. Aszú, 5 puttonyos 2013
Tokaj is the jewel in the crown; the wine that Hungarians sing about in their national anthem. 2013 was the last exceptional vintage of the 2010’s. This is a rich, concentrated, fruity, and fresh dessert wine. The sweetness is balanced by a high level of acidity. Aromas of dried apricot, acacia honey, orange marmalade, candied ginger. Try it with blue cheese or foie gras. This was my favorite of the five wines.
Hétszőlő winery. Aszú, 5 puttonyos 2008
This 12-year-old wine shows why Tokaj is the best sweet-wine making region of the world: an incredible balance between sweetness and acidity, walnut, dates, dried figs and ginger. Drink this now or keep it for 25 more years. These wines are invincible…and delicious! This wine was not on our tasting menu; it was a little surprise for us and I must say, it was delicious. This was served with a Hungarian version of blue cheese, some dried apricot, and walnuts. Delicious!
Tasting Table invited me to experience their Wine, Cheese and Charcuterie tasting while I was in Budapest. Please note that all of my reviews are meant to enlighten, educate and inspire. All opinions are my own.