Hungary’s climate can be temperamental , but its extremities are mitigated by the shelter of the Carpathian Mountains. The total area of grape plantations is comparable to the wine regions of Germany, Australia or Bordeaux. Officially, there are 22 wine regions in Hungary, but for the purpose of simplicity let us now divide the country into 5 areas based on its geographical layout: the Great Plain (South-East Hungary), the region of Balaton, the North Transdanubian (North-West Hungary), the South-Transdanubian (South-West Hungary), and North Hungary (North-East Hungary).
While in our Northern wine regions the white wines dominate, in the South-Transdanubian wine region red wine is more frequent. Thanks to our diverse geographical and climate characteristics all of the possible wine styles can be found in Hungary, from light champagne through well-bodied red wines to noble sweet wines. This diversity is made even more exciting by the harmony between world grape species and local grape species, which merge into enjoyable and exciting wines in the hands of expert and caring hands. This is a kind of great natural treasure that is available only in a few countries.
Factors determining the quality of grape:
-Ecological characteristics of the growing site (climate, soil, topographical relations and orientation),
-The weather conditions of the given year,
-The special qualities of the given grape species,
-The method of cultivation and technology of growing,
-The time of harvesting
-The method of grape picking and transportation.
Appropriate-quality grapes may be grown only in regions having an annual average temperature between 9 and 21°Celsius. However, the length of the growing period, the number of sunshine hours, the quantity of annual precipitation, and its seasonal distribution are also important factors. Grapes can be grown in the northern hemisphere between 30 and 50° of latitude and on the South Hemisphere between 20 and 40° latitude, in a strip around 2000 km wide.
In the northern hemisphere, where annual average temperatures range between 9 and 11° C, primarily white wine grape species may be grown. The wines of this region generally have moderate alcohol content and are rich in acid, flavour and aroma. However, the moderate zone, where medium annual temperature ranges from 11 to 16° C, is the most advantageous for wine production. In this zone, white and red wine grapes may both be grown, and the quality of the wines is very good. In the South, the zone averaging 16 to 21° C features grapes with lesser sugar and acid content. The climatic endowments are favourable for the blue grape species and excellent for producing red wines. The most significant grape growing countries are located in the middle and the South zone.
Grapes are one of the oldest cultural plants of mankind. Grape growing and wine production have a past of six to eight thousand years, and their original home lies in the region that today comprises Azerbaijan, Iran and Armenia. The development of pottery ensured the technical basis of wine production–wall paintings found in the pyramids attest that Egyptians had already started making wine 5000 years ago.
Grapes conquered the continents as civilizations grew: the ancient Greeks developed their empire together with a culture of grape growing 4000 years ago. In the 6th century, grape cultivation and wine production spread north into the European continent. It reached America in the 16th century, and it arrived in Australia and New Zealand in the 19th century.
Grape growing has a two thousand-year tradition in Hungary. Our ancestor Hungarians knew wine before they occupied modern Hungary, but grape growing and wine production did not spread until the reign of King Stephan (997-1038), during the period when the state was founded and Christianity was introduced. In the medieval age grape plantations were established around the monasteries, manors and cities, and wine production represented an important source of revenue. The development of our grape growing and wine production reached its peak during the ruling of King Matthias (1458-1496), as Hungarians learned the production of red wine from our Serbian neighbours. Kadarka and red wine started to spread in the 16th century, when Bulgarian, Albanian and Serbian people escaping from marauding Turks brought their grape species, grape growing tools and technology with them. Unfortunately, grape growing development was then hindered by the one and a half centuries of Turkish occupation.
Starting with the 17th century, the planting of grapes restarted, initially as a result of tax exemptions provided by the King, and later on (in the 18th century) in the Great Plain for the purpose of preventing erosion. At the end of the 19th century, phylloxera (grape root louse) that came from America to Europe devastated much of the Hungarian grape crop. At this time, the significance of grape plantations located on sandy soil, which resists phylloxera well, increased. Many wine farms fell on hard times due to World War I and then due to the overproduction crisis. In the 1950s, wine production started to develop again. Hungarian grape-growing land area was the most extensive in the 1970s (around 230 thousand hectares); after that, the grape growing area gradually decreased.
At present, grapes are grown in an area of about 90 thousand hectares, and high-quality wine is produced. Modern technology today is indispensable. The new wines are born in an ever-increasing number of cellars under the guidance of widely-travelled young oenologists committed to quality. If we look back on the past two decades, it is evident that these social and technological developments have changed the world of Hungarian wines in its roots.
Grape growers and wine producers often debate whether the vineyard location, or the species of the grape plays a greater role in the achieved quality of the wines. However, they share the opinion that the weather of the given year is the primary factor for determining quality.
There are 43 wine-producing countries registered by the International Organisation of Vine and Wine (OIV). Hungary is ranked Number 10 for area of grape lands in the world; it is Number 14 in wine production and Number 11 in wine exports. It represents 1.5-2 % of the wine production of the world.
Have you ever tasted a Hungarian wine? Have you already discovered Hungarian wine lands?
If not, we would like to help you!