Hungary is famous for its excellent wines and, although it is not a big country, it has as many as 22 wine regions. These regions produce all the characteristic wine styles, from pezsgö (sparkling wine) and light whites that come from Mátra, near Lake Balaton, to dry reds from Villány or Eger, as well as Tokaji, a distinctive sweet dessert wine. Many wines from different vineyards are matured in a maze of underground cellars in Budafok, As well as prominent wine producer, Hungary also makes beer, pálinka (a drink distilled from different orchard fruits), several types of brandy and a bitter herb liqueur called Unicum.
Pálinka from Hungary
Kecskemét is the largest region that produces the Hungarian alcohol drink pálinka, which is distilled from fruit grown in the orchards situated on the Great Hungarian Plain, some 100 kilometers (60 miles) from Budapest. Pálinka is a spirit native to Hungary and comes in different flavours including barack (apricot) and cseresznye (cherry). The best of them, however, is the Hungarian alcohol drink szilva (plum) which comes from the Szatmár district and is much favoured by the Hungarians. Pálinka is not the only spirit indigenous to Hungary. Other examples include Törköly, a spirit based distilled from rape, which possesses a very delicate flavour, and Vilmos, an Hungarian alcohol drink of the brandy kind made from Williams pears.
Sparkling Wines from Hungary
Sparkling wine, called pezsgö (the Hungarian word for "sparkling"), enjoys a good reputation as an Hungarian alcohol drink within the country. The classic method of producing these wines was introduced to Hungary from France by József Törley, in 1881. It was Törley who built the first production plant in Budafok, which continues to produce excellent sparkling wines over 100 years on. Today, Hungary has several other vineyards producing pezsgö, mainly concentrated around Budapest, in the Pannonia and Balatonboglár regions. As well as Törley, Hungaria is another good label to look out for.
Tokaji from Hungary
The desert wine Tokaji has a very different style. Its bouquet and flavour come from a mould that grows only in the Bodrog and Tisza rivers and the volcanic soil in which the vines grow. Tokaji ranges from sweet to dry and is full-bodied and rich. Particularly worth sampling is Aszú, which is made with the addition of over-ripe grapes harvested after the first frost. The proportion of these grapes added to the must (grape juice) determines the wine's body and sweetness. The more of these grapes used, the sweeter and richer the Aszú. Although cheap varieties of Tokaji do exist, they do not have the same quality as the genuine article.