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Five Great Small Wine-Makers from Around Hungary

If you shop for wine in England or the United States, you might have discovered just how few Hungarian wines are available. What you are likely to find are mass-produced Bikavér (Bull’s Blood) or prohibitively expensive Tokaj dessert wines. The scarcity of Hungarian wine on foreign shelves is not due to poor quality, it more reflects the culture of wine-making, which largely originates from family-owned vineyards. This means a small to medium yield of product: enough for local drinkers, but not enough to build a brand abroad. But, if you happen to be in Hungary on a shoot and want to try some of the more offbeat vineyards that are favorites with local insiders, do not despair. Below is a list of five great small to mid-size Hungarian wine-makers.

Luka: Luka stands out as one of the few female-run vineyards in Hungary. Enikő Luka, who is as easy on the eyes as her wine is on the palate, presides over this small vineyard near Sopron, which lies just east of the Austrian border. Luka does well with the same full-bodied flavorful reds that also brought the Burgenland region fame. Try their Zweigelt or Kékfrankos (Blaufränkisch). Check out the Luka site here (in Hungarian).

Malatinszky: Csaba Malatinszky ruffled feathers when he arrived in the staid Villány region with his daring blends and modern winery. His wines are known to be as dashing and eccentric as the winemaker himself. Malatinszky likes to break rules, and his products display his ability to pull off risks. Try the Cabernoir, one of our favorite Hungarian mid-priced bottles. Malatinszky reposts wine-related news from around Hungary in English on his site, which can be found here.

Orsolya: A new craft winery from the Eger region that has become a favorite with local purveyors. Like many Eger vineyards, they do both reds and whites well. We especially like the traditional Eger Leányka (Maidon of Eger) and the adventurous red blends like the recently released Tehéntánc (Cow Dance). Run by a husband and wife team, you can taste the care they put into every bottle. Explore their site here (in Hungarian, though there is a Google translation option).

St. Andrea: This family-run winery has a huge following with expatriates who live in Budapest. It recently won the Winemaker of the Year title here in Hungary, so St. Andrea’s star is rising. Known for their strong reds – particularly their takes on the traditional Bull’s Blood blend – the winery also excels at Pinot Noir. Their white blend called Napbor (Sun Wine) tastes like a summer day in the countryside. If you want a spectacular high-end red for under 50 dollars, try the Merengő (Daydreamer). St. Andrea’s site can be read in English here.

Pannonhalma Apátsági: If a wine comes from a monastery, you can be pretty assured of its quality. Though this Saint Benedictine monastery was established over a thousand years ago, their wine-making business is a spry 100 years old. Situated in the famous Badacsony wine region that lies above Lake Balaton in central Hungary, the lava-rich soil makes for excellent white wines that are full of mineral and tang. Pannonhalma’s are among the area’s best. Try their Rajnai Rizling (Rhine Riesling) and check out the lively web-site in English here.

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