Wine Festivals

Hungarian wine regions




Tokaj – found in the North East of the country, in the foothills of the Carpathian Mountains. Volcanic soils. Best known for its sweet Tokaji Aszú wines, and the Furmint, Hárslevelű and Muscat grapes that it contains, although we are also seeing increasing numbers of dry whites emerging from the region too.

Eger – in the north of Hungary is renowned for elegant reds, in particular its Bikavér blends. Recent wine laws also established the new Bikavér Superior label, for the very best of these historical blends. The more northerly latitude means they may not have the body of reds from more southerly regions such as Villány, but they have an elegance and complexity that has drawn comparisons with Burgundy. Certainly an increasing amount of Pinot Noir is now being grown there.

Villány – if Eger is the Burgundy of Hungary, then Villány (some would argue along with it’s rival Szekszárd) is Bordeaux. Villány is Hungary’s most southerly and hottest wine region, producing the country’s best and most full-bodied red wines. Bordeaux varietals such as Cabernet Sauvignon and Merlot are keys here, and Cabernet Franc has made a particular name for itself. Portugieser is also central, the second most widely planted grape in the region after Cabernet Sauvignon.

The most famous Hungarian grapes

Hungarian winemakers use all sorts of exciting and unusual grape varieties to make their wines, so forget about sticking to Chardonnay and Cabernet Sauvignon, and explore our guide to the top ten grapes you should get to know if you want to try something that little bit different:

1. Furmint (white) – as the most famous and most commonly grown grape in Hungary’s most famous wine region, Tokaj, Furmint had to be our number one Hungarian grape. It makes up about 70% of the vines found in Tokaj, and has also made a name for itself in the Somló region. Furmint is best known for being one of the three grape varieties used to make the sweet botrytised wines which have made Tokaj famous throughout the world, but it also produces fine, fiery dry wines, with high levels of acidity, which can make them good for aging.
2. Kékfrankos (red) – Hungary’s most widely planted blue grape (“Blue-Frankish”) was singled out by no less than Napoleon as a grape worthy of our attention. Fine acid and a good tannin structure with fruit of the forest flavours, and a sometimes spicy character. It is usually the single biggest component of Eger and Szekszárd’s Bikavér blends and in the past few years has changed from a grape renowned for producing easy drinking local wine to a Hungarian flagship, particularly in Szekszárd. It is the same grape as Austrian Blaufränkisch and German Lemberger.

3. Kadarka (red) – Kadarka was once the most famous red wine grape in Hungary, but its tendency to ripen perilously late, its susceptibility to disease, and the need to tightly control its natural vigour led to its virtual abandonment under Communism, in favour of Kékfrankos and Portugieser. When produced in small, concentrated yields it can produce seriously classy wines – fairly low in tannin, but with plenty of acidity, ripe red fruit flavours, and a spicy aftertaste. It is one of the compulsory and main constituent grapes in Bikavér, giving the blend its aroma and spicy aftertaste. The region of Szekszárd is particularly prized for its Kadarka, the grape is also grown on the Great Plain, and it is being reintroduced to Eger.


Figure 1. a) Furmint, b) Kékfrankos, c) Kadarka

4. Hárslevelű (white) – This white grape may be hard to pronounce, but it is the second most widely planted grape in Hungary, and makes up approximately 18% of the vines in Tokaj. It is most famous as one of the three grapes that make up the sweet wines of Tokaji, where it is added to Furmint and Muscat to bring floral aromas and richness to the blend. These days it is also increasingly appearing on its own as dry varietal white. The name Hárslevelű translates as “Linden Leaf,” and good examples of Hárslevelű wines are powerfully aromatic, rich, green-gold, with Linden honey flavours.  The Hárslevelű of Somló is particularly prized, where it produces wines with greater minerality and less aroma.

5. Olaszrizling (white) – Olaszrizling was widely planted throughout Central and Eastern Europe under Communism due to its high yields, and it remains Hungary’s most planted white grape, despite being introduced to the country less than a century ago. It is the same grape as Austria’s Welschriesling, although examples from Hungary tend to have more body than their Austrian counterparts due to Hungary’s warmer climate – Olaszrizling produced around Lake Balaton, Somló, and Eger is particularly prized. It responds well to aging in oak and has a unique bitter almond character. Despite the name it has no link to the Riesling grape of Germany.


Figure 2. a) Hárslevelű, b) Olaszrizling

6. Muscat (red/white) – there are many types of Muscat grape, but the one we are most concerned with here is the extensively titled Muscat Blanc à Petits Grains, thankfully also known as Muscat Lunel or Yellow Muscat in Hungary. The oldest and finest grape in the Muscat family, it makes up about 8% of the plantings in Tokaj, and is the third major component of Tokaji Aszu. Lots of people ask why you can’t say a wine tastes of grapes – well, muscat is one of the varieties where you traditionally can, without expecting to be laughed at. Look out for orange flowers and spicy hints as well, and a strong perfume. Outside of Tokaj another variety of Muscat – Muscat Ottonel – is the most widely planted, and takes up considerably more hectares than Muscat Lunel.


Figure 3. Muscat (white and red type)

Simplified flow sheet of white wine production

Simplified flow sheet of red wine production

Medical effects of wine

In the last ten years, many medical papers appeared about the positive effect of wine – mostly red wine – on the human health.
Norrie wrote that the wine has been used as medicine for the past 5000 years, and nowadays not only the experience recommends the wine consumption, but the biological explanation of the effect of wine starts to be more clear. A new study followed 1400 males for the past 40 years. All wine drinkers, in moderation, lived an average of five years longer than abstainer did.
The healthy components of wine are the various antioxidants, such as the polyphenols quercetin, epicatechin and resveratrol. Flavonoids act as antioxidants, prevent the aging process, cell destruction, irreversible malfunctions. Protect against arteriosclerosis, coronary art disease, and tumour growth. Red wine is rich in antioxidant polyphenols with potential neuroprotective activities. In vivo data clearly demonstrated that moderate consumption of red wine have a beneficial effect against Alzheimer’s disease.
Resveratrol is the most promising polyphenol. The resveratrol in the dried roots of the Japanese ko-jo-kon was traditionally used in the Asian medicine against supprative dermatitis, gonorrhea, and favus. Resveratrol (3,5,4’-trihydroxy-trans-stilbene) was first isolated in 1940, and has been found in about 70 plants including grapes, berries and peanuts. Researchers performed in vitro experiments, established that resveratrol content of red wine has a beneficial effect on ischaemic tissues, and injured blood vessels. Resveratrol in the diet can act as a chemotherapic agent to inhibit mammary carcinogenesis in human. The trans-resveratrol has chemo preventive aspect against colon carcinoma, without cytotoxicity.  Mokni et al. studied the hemodynamic parameters (heart rate, developed pressure, maximal positive values) in isolated heart from control or resveratrol treated rats. Chronic treatment with resveratrol exerted strong cardioprotective effects by inhibiting ischemia-reperfusion injury.
Recently efforts are made to increase the resveratrol content by modified winemaking. With new patents 50% increase was gained instead of the average 1-2 mg/L (white) and 3-6 mg/L (red wine) resveratrol content.
Recent in vitro, ex vivo and in vivo experiments proved many positive effects of resveratrol on the organisms:

  • inhibits tumor development in various stages
  • stimulates carcinogen detoxication
  • protects the organism against the effect of diverse environmental toxins
  • prevents tumour development (leukaemia, colon, breast, prostate cells)
  • has beneficial effect on cardiovascular diseases
  • has neuroprotective effect (Alzheimer’s, Huntington’s, Parkinson’s diseases), protects the brain from damage caused metabolic toxins, disease or age

Resveratrol targets whole pathways and sets intracellular events rather than an enzyme. Due to their pharmacological safety, resveratrol and its analogues may be used in combination with other chemotherapeutic agents in order to enhance their efficacy thus minimizing chemotherapy-induced toxicity.

Harvest festivals

Harvest festivals are held in many cities in the country. The festivals’ purposes are preserving the tradition of the harvest, and keeping the noble relationship of wine and culture. Some examples:


During four days there will be interesting programs, exhibitions, concerts, wine tasting. The guests can taste the typical cuisine of the region. The audience will be amused by professional artists, amateur arts groups, alternative bands, street party, disco and dancehouse. The festival's most spectacular event is the Harvest Parade on Saturday afternoon. In the procession will appear the harvest-related tools and traditions, colourful costumes, institutions and creative folk dance formations. In the Wine Yard the guest can taste the wines of Szekszárd.



The country's longest and most colourful harvest parade held on Sunday September 11 in Badacsony. The colourful program series – which signs the start of the autumn harvest – will begin on Saturday in the historic wine region. The nearly four-kilometre harvest procession starts from Badacsonytomaj and arrives to Badacsony. King Matthias and his decorated courts lead the procession. Next to the traditional oxcart folk dance, Roman legionaries, wine estates, lancers, hussars and also flag acrobats are marching. The last year Queen of Wine personifies King Matthias's wife, Beatrix.

After the traditional fishing competition Harvest Ball held on Saturday evening. Over the weekend the folk all-day play, craft exhibitions and fairs, blacksmiths and barrel makers are available here, and in the park next to the pier debuts the seven largest winery of Badacsony.


Balatonboglár is the most important "wine" settlement of the southern lakeside of Lake Balaton. The city has received the ‘International City of Grape and Wine’ title. The harvest festival will organized around August 20. Visitors can learn about the wine offerings, while a lot of concerts and other entertainment and cultural events awaits them. During the four-day program of events there will be harvest procession, wine knight inaugural ride, fireworks. Next to the groups preserving the folk tradition star groups, orchestras and musicians also perform. The humor, quizzes, and the local talent introduction can not be left out.


Recommended link: Wineries in Hungary:

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