Grand Budapest wine revival

Author: Tatyana Leonov

The latest crop of Hungarian winemakers has sparked a new focus on the nation's wines and a lively bar culture in the capital.

Not since the halcyon days of the Austro-Hungarian Empire have Hungarian wines received this much attention. "We are seeing eager winemakers who are wanting to find their own way," says András Jókuti, a Budapest food and wine blogger who has observed the revival of the nation's wine industry and the recent emergence of wine bars in the capital.

Leading the charge in 2009 was Doblo, an upmarket bar located in the Jewish 7th district. Owner David Popovits says wine bars have appeared in response to the nation's burgeoning wine production and a local audience with renewed interest in the nation's unique wine styles.

"In the past two decades, the European Union and government have supported wineries, and in particular young winemakers," Popovits says. "Today there are over 22 wine-growing regions in the country and most of it is consumed in Hungary because it's so good."

The nation's most distinctive styles include the highly prized Aszús dessert wine from Hungary's famous Tokaj wine region and the full-bodied, oak-aged Egri Bikavér red variety from the Eger wine region.

DiVino, in the 5th district, is a wine bar run by a group of entrepreneurial young winemakers who stock labels from 25 Hungarian cellars, including dry whites from the aromatic Furmint grape, and dessert wines from the light-skinned Ezerjó grape. "The winemakers frequently come to the bar to chat wines with enthusiasts," says Jókuti. "This personal touch makes it a unique space in Budapest."

The guiding business principle at the elegant Drop Shop is storytelling; staff are keen to tell the story of the wines stocked at this busy bar. An eclectic, often VIP crowd can be found here late at night with staff, chatting, tasting and debating.

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