History of Hungarian Wine
Treasured Hungarian Family Recipes™
It is said that the Romans introduced vines to Hungary, or Pannonia, as it was then known. There are historical records indicating that wine making took place in Hungary during the Roman occupation. Saint Stephen founded the Kingdom of Hungary in 1000 AD. St Stephen was responsible for the spread of Christianity across Hungary and the monasteries spread wine culture. A flourishing wine industry developed and Hungarian wines were exported to neighboring countries.
In 1526, the Turks invaided much of Hungary. They occupied Eastern and Central Hungary. Many people headed west ahead of the advancing Ottoman army or sought exile in Transylvania, which retained some degree of autonomy. As a consequence of this and of general economic collapse, the wine industry went into decline and large parts of the countryside went uncultivated. Legend has it that, in 1630, fearing an attack from the Turks, the harvest was abandoned and not completed until some time later when the rot had affected the grapes. When the wine from the late harvested grapes was opened the following spring the high quality of the wines was recognized and the reasons behind its success was identified.
After a prolonged siege Buda was liberated in September 1686. This marked the end of Turkish occupation and the start of Austrian Dominance. Hungary was still not independent, but the Habsburg Empire provided an ideal market for Hungarian wines. The large feudal estates that had been seized by the Turks were re-formed and many incomers, in many cases Serbs, Swabs and Romanians, who brought wine making skills with them, were invited to repopulate the wine growing regions. Economic stability encouraged vine planting on a large scale. Wine was the most popular drink in Hungary and much was exported. The fine wines of Hungary were held in high regard and sold to the upper classes of the Austrian Empire, Poland and Russia.
Around 1700, although the exact date may be disputed, Tokaj can lay a claim to the first Vineyard Classification system in the world. This five level system was drawn up at the behest of the then landowner, Ferenc Rakoczi II. After the passage of time some vineyard boundaries can be difficult to locate with certainty, nevertheless the system is still promoted today. Towards the end of the nineteenth century the Hungarian wine industry was at its zenith.
The economy was growing rapidly, driving domestic demand for wine and Hungarian wine was exported throughout central and eastern Europe where it was held in the highest regard. After one hundred years the renaissance of the Hungarian wine industry is under way. While many producers in lesser areas are still under-capitalised, investment in the traditionally famous wine areas has allowed the latest wine making and bottling equipment to be installed. As a consequence of land redistribution in the 1940s many growers have to manage several disparate 2 hectare plots. Conversely this allows numerous winemakers to access the best vineyards. In Hungary the new wine growers are held in high regard and in foreign market Hungarian wine is more and more sought after.
All of these wines are available at the Canadian LCBO stores. Even smaller stores carry "Tokaji Aszu", which is the most famous Hungarian white wine. It is also called the nectar of the Gods. Bulls Blood is also another world famous wine from Hungary. It is a deep red colored, robust wine. Learn the legend of "Bulls blood". You'll be surprised to learn where the name came from. Debroi is another well-knows and sought after quality white golden wine. Try them, you won't be disappointed. Ask me if you need to know what food to pair them with.