An Canadian ex-lawyer’s wine guide to Hungary
Craig Heschuk had a “normal life” with a career in law, when – as he said – a “light bulb went off” and he turned to wine. He did it seriously, went to University of California Davis programme in Winemaking and Viticulture, and ever since that he has been working in the wine business. He told to Hungarianwines.eu how lucky he was: “I am usually able to combine my (real) work with some wine travel”. His wine travels are well documented on his wine blog The Wine Beat. Me, being a Hungarian, I was more than curious to read Craig’s thoughts on Hungary.
A thorough guide to Budapest wine bars
Telling the truth, with more than a decade of editorial work, I am impressed when someone pays attention to correct spelling. And Craig does, every accent of the difficult Hungarian names is on its proper place, in the proper direction, congratulation! But the wine bar recommendations are even better, I cannot object any suggestions of him. It is also amazing that Craig found relatively new and small places like Wine & U, a little wine bar run by two ladies. Kadarka wine bar is also one of our favourite wine bars with really attentive staff and creative wine list. Craig does not mention concrete wines here, but let me add a suggestion if you start your “wine education” in a Budapest wine bar: Hungary is famous for its entry level aromatic wines, these are easy to drink, easy to fall in love with. And of course there are outstanding examples of aromatic wines, too. At Kadarka wine bar for example you can try Babarczi Irsai Olivér, a grapey, juicy, crispy, lovely reductive white wine.
Eger and its stars
After a deep dive in the wine bars of Budapest, Craig headed to Eger. He explains what Bikavér (Bulls’ Blood) is, then he goes on revealing the secret of Egri Csillag. “Egri Csillag is the name of Eger’s local white wine blend. Crisp, bright and aromatic, Egri Csillag is a dry white that ticks a lot of boxes for current wine tastes.” At this point I nearly fell in love with Craig. If I could have been his guide! Then he recommends some wineries – again I should admit that they are excellent choices. St Andrea, Gál Tibor, Bolyki, Tóth Ferenc Winery, Juhász and Thummerer Winery – this latter one illustrated by Craig’s photo as well. “Thummerer Winery has an impressive estate with large cellars carved in the dark volcanic tuff that is a signature of the Eger wine region.”
Tokaj and its dry turn
“Tokaj’s name will forever be associated with these “wines of kings”. But there is an emerging, dry wine production that is breathing new life into the region. And helping to put the wines of Hungary back on the map.” So right! “Dry Furmintshould be high on your list of wines to try. The local winemakers are embracing this additional wine offering and it is revitalizing the region. Tokaj is an under-visited wine region despite the fact that it is so well geared to wine tourism.”This last thought is again heart warming for a born Hungarian. Is it? Is Tokaj so well geared to wine tourism? I could list things to improve till midnight, but I am glad that this Canadian wine professional could find the few but good places to stay and visit. Again his choice of wineries is excellent: Royal Tokaji, Barta, Disznókő, Patricius, István Szepsy. Well done! The photo below is also from Craig’s article, it depicts Barta’s vineyard, the famous Öreg Király, from where Barta’s amazing dry Furmint wines come.