Spilling Hungary's Best Kept Secret

Before we take a deep dive into Central Europe, can we talk about the "Dry January" detox? Apparently it's a tradition for some people, which I didn't realize until recently. While I fully support this intent (and/or quitting drinking completely), I have a different resolution for the rest of you: try an offbeat wine region this month.

When thinking about fresh, interesting wines to try, Hungary might not come to mind right away, or ever. In fact, you might forget about Central Europe altogether. But with many people vowing to save money at this time of year, Hungarian wines are excellent options for expanding your mind and protecting your pocketbook.

Wine: a mini trip in a glass!

Hungary for New Wines?

First, sorry about that pun but I had to. Let's just be happy it isn't the title of the post. Second, did you know that Hungary is the home of the first appellation control? Allegedly Tokaj wine was classified in the 1700s. Hungary is best known for its dessert wine, Tokaji Aszú, from this region, but there's an abundance of unique dry wines coming out of this little Central European country, too.
Tokaji Aszú (n.): A sweet wine made with six varietals, including the principle grape Furmint.
Some folks shy away from Central and Eastern European wines because of their unappetizing names, like Furmint. Most people don't want to drink a wine that sounds like a fur ball chewing gum. I can't say I blame them but they are missing out on versatile, crisp, and diverse wines. Get past the unfamiliarity and keep an eye out for these wine regions:
  • Tokaj
  • Balaton
  • Eger
  • Villány
  • Duna
You might also find Hungarian wines labeled with their grape instead of or in addition to their region. Popular grapes include Kékfrankos and the aforementioned Furmint.
Lemberger/Blaufränkisch/Kékfrankos (n.): A red grape with many names that grows across Central Europe.

Neither Furry, Nor Minty

Concerned you won't be able to find Hungarian wine? Good news: stores are expanding their selection! (PA folks, one of the better Hungarian importers, Boutique Wine Collection, is actually based in Philly.) I snagged a bottle of Love Over Money Evolucio Tokaj Furmint 2016 for only $12 and I'm happy to report it is neither furry nor minty.

Unlike the famous sweet version, this Furmint is dry and tasted like Granny Smith apples. There are also hints of lime custard and faint salinity but apple is the true star. Do yourself a huge favor and pair this with some mild cheddar—you will not be disappointed!

What's your favorite offbeat wine region? I would love to explore it!
Next: Check out Slovenian orange wine.
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