Hungary has a very old viticultural culture, as wines from Sopron and Eger were already a household name in the 13th century. The Greeks introduced viticulture to Hungary from the southeast up the Danube and its tributary the Tisza, and the Romans from the west across the Pannonian Plain to Lake Balaton. Despite Hun, Vandal, Goth, Tartar and Ottoman invasions over many centuries, wine was always grown in this area. Even the Ottomans, who occupied most of the country for about 160 years, did not suppress viticulture despite the ban on alcohol, gladly collected the taxes for it, but development was inhibited during that time. According to a rather legendary tradition, Emperor Charlemagne (742-814) was so enthusiastic about the "Avar wine" that he had some vines brought to Germany.
The Hungarian King Matthias Corvinus (1440-1490), who resided in Wien (Austria) during the last five years of his life, is said tohave said that "all the people should have wine and the winegrowers should be highly respected". In the Middle Ages, as in many countries, the Catholic Church played a leading role in the spread of viticulture and wine culture in Hungary. The famous Tokaj is decisively connected with Hungary's wine history. After the phylloxera catastrophe and the two world wars, the focus shifted to the production of mass-produced wines. Since the political upheavals of 1989 and the re-establishment of the winegrowers' association, however, winegrowing has been on a steep upward trend again.
The climate is Central European and continental, with hot summers and cold winters. The latitude is similar to France's Burgundy, which produces aromatic white wines. However, around 2,000 hours of sunshine a year also favour the production of red wines. The Danube, flowing from north to south, divides the country roughly into two large halves. The 1997 wine law defined 22 wine-growing regions. In the west lies Transdanubia, which stretches from the borders with Austria, Slovenia and Croatia in the west to the Danube. In the centre lies Lake Balaton (Plattensee), the largest lake in Central Europe with 591 km². Together with Lake Neusiedl and the Danube, it exerts a positive climatic influence on viticulture. Transdanubia consists of four wine-growing regions with 15 wine-growing areas
In the southeast between the Danube and the Tisza lies the great Pannonian lowland with sandy, steppe-like soil, called Alföld in Hungarian. The vineyards here exert a consolidating influence on the soil. In summer there is often drought, which endangers the harvest, and frost in winter. The Duna region has three wine-growing areas:
Hungary is predominantly a white wine country with just under 70% of production, although the red wine variety Kékfrankos (Blaufränkisch) clearly dominates. The Tokay variety Furmint ranks only third after Olasz Rizling (Welschriesling). In 2016, the vineyards covered 63,881 hectares. Compared to the year 2000, this is a halving, which resulted from clearings. Annually, about 2.5 million hectolitres are produced from this area (see also under wine production volumes). The grape variety index 2016 (statistics Kym Anderson):
In August 2009, the EU wine market regulation became valid for all member countries with fundamental changes to the wine designations and quality levels. The designations are (see also under Quality System):
OEM DHC (Districtus Hungaricus Controllatus) with levels DHC-Classicus and DHC-Premium
OFJ (Oltalom alatt álló Földrajzi Jelzés Bor)
There are 13 country wine areas marked by a blue and yellow seal on the label.
OEM (Oltalom alatt álló Eredetmegjelölésü Bor)
There are 33 quality wine areas marked by an orange-red seal on the label. The first DHC area was Villány in 2006; then followed Eger, Tihany, Somló and Izsák.
The information on the label is mostly brief and to the point. The place name ending in "i" (which corresponds to the German "er") is usually followed by the grape variety, for example Soproni Kékfrankos (Blaufränkisch from Sopron).
Wine types & wine names
Similar to Germany and Austria, there are two levels of quality wines. The predicate wine designations are