WineHandpicked by IWSC

Eight award-winning Hungarian wines to try

Hungary is best known for Tokaji – but there’s more to the country’s winemaking than its exquisite sweet wine. Read on to discover the best Hungarian wines to drink right now, from Furmint whites to lively sparklers

Words by IWSC Judges

Hungarian landscape
Handpicked by IWSC
A vineyard on the edge of Lake Balaton in Hungary, surrounded by 10,000 hectares of vineyards

Wine has been made in Hungary since Roman times, and it’s one of the biggest producers in Europe – in fact, more wine is made there than in Austria, Greece or Bulgaria.

Hungary’s biggest vinous contribution is undoubtedly Tokaji, that noble sweet wine that rivals Sauternes as the finest in the world, and was once described by Louis XIV as the ‘wine of kings, king of wines’.

Tokaji continues to wow sweet-toothed palates, but the past decade has seen a big focus on Hungarian dry whites, particularly those made with the Furmint grape. Furmint is something of a star in waiting in the wine world – it’s an incredibly versatile grape, with the potential for razor-sharp, vibrantly acidic wines that mimic the best Riesling, but also rich, buttery versions that will please lovers of white Burgundy.

Tokaji furmint grapes in Hungary
Furmint grapes left on the vine for botrytis to take its effect, before their concentrated flavours are used to make sweet Tokaji

There’s renewed interest in the reds, too, such as Kékfrankos, which is not only of Hungary’s most planted grapes, but works as a supporting partner in red blends, as well as a straight varietal in its own right.

But there’s no doubt that Hungary’s white wines are leading the charge – claiming all eight of the spots on this list. Taking the top spot was a Tokaij from Balassa Bor, which scored 95/100 and impressed judges with its ‘Piercing fresh fruit, herbal notes of fennel and subtle toasty aromas.’

Moving away from Tokaij, a wine made with the native Irsai Olivér grape from Törley impressed, too – scoring 91/100, and noted for an aromatic palate of ‘Turkish delight, pineapple and fresh citrus.’

wine glasses
As well as first-class sweet wines, the Furmint grape makes excellent dry whites, which are starting to gain attention from experts

Other exciting varieties to look out for include Juhfark, a mineral-driven, citrussy variety that excels when planted on the volcanic soils of the Nagy Somló region in the west of the country; Hárslevelü, a great blending partner for Furmint, adding aroma and perfume; and red variety Kadarka, a light, elegant grape reminiscent of Pinot Noir.

Every wine in the Hungary category was divided up into colour/type, and were judged blind by an expert panel led by Master of Wine Sarah Abbott. Waitrose wine buyer Marien Rodriguez was also part of the IWSC Hungary panel, along with London wine bar owner Sunny Hodge and Berry Bros and Rudd‘s chief content officer and Master of Wine Barbara Drew.

Hungarian wine has a long, illustrious history, but it’s still off the radar of quite a few wine drinkers, so remedy that and take your pick from our list of the top Hungarian wines to try.

Hungarian vineyards complete with traditional wine-press houses

How do we judge these wines?

We run a tightly structured, rigorous wine tasting process. That means that each wine sample is pre-poured into numbered glasses and assessed blindly by the judges. Most importantly, our IWSC wine judges are experts in their field, who work across all sectors of the wine industry. For evidence, see our full list of judges.

How do we score these wines?

Only the best wines sampled receive a Gold or Silver award. For example, to win Gold, wines have to score between 95 and 100 points. Meanwhile, Silver wines range from 90 to 94 points. Click here to read more on our scoring system.

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