Hungary has a very old winegrowing culture, because wines from Sopron and Eger were already known in the 13th century. The Greeks introduced viticulture in Hungary from the south-east along the Danube and its tributary the Tisza upwards and the Romans from the west across the Pannonian plain to Lake Balaton. Despite Hun, Vandal, Goths, Tatars and Ottoman invasions over many centuries, wine was always grown in this area. Even the Ottomans, who occupied the largest part of the country for about 160 years, did not suppress wine growing despite the ban on alcohol and were happy to collect taxes for it, but development was inhibited during this time. According to a rather legendary tradition, Emperor Charlemagne (742-814) was so enthusiastic about "Avar wine" that he had some vines brought to Germany.
From the Hungarian king Matthias Corvinus (1440-1490), who in the last five years of his life was Vienna (Austria), the statement is handed down "that all the people should have wine and the winegrowers should be highly respected". In the Middle Ages, the Catholic Church played a leading role in Hungary, as in almost all other countries, in spreading viticulture and wine culture. The famous Tokajer is decisively connected with Hungary's wine history. After the phylloxera catastrophe and the two world wars, the focus was shifted to the production of mass wines. Since the political upheavals of 1989 and a re-foundation of the winegrowers' association, however, viticulture has been on a steep upward trend again.
It has a central European, continental climate with hot summers and cold winters. The geographical latitude corresponds to French Burgundy, which produces aromatic white wines. However, about 2,000 hours of sunshine per year also favour the production of red wines. The Danube, which flows from north to south, divides the country into about two large halves. With the 1997 wine law, 22 wine growing areas were defined. Transdanubia lies in the west, stretching from the borders with Austria, Slovenia and Croatia in the west to the Danube. In the centre is Lake Balaton (Balaton), the largest lake in Central Europe with 591 km². Together with Neusiedlersee and the Danube, it has a positive climatic influence on viticulture. Transdanubia consists of four wine-growing regions with 15 wine regions:
In the south-east between the Danube and the Tisza rivers lies the large Pannonian lowlands 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 that endangers the harvest and in winter there is frost. The Duna region has three wine growing areas:
Hungary is predominantly a white wine country with almost 70% of production, although the red wine variety Kékfrankos (Blaufränkisch) clearly dominates. The Tokajer variety Furmint only ranks third after the Olasz Rizling (Welschriesling). In 2012, the area under vines covered 52,000 hectares, which is more than halved since 2000 (when it was 126,000 hectares). Of this, 1.818 million hectolitres of wine were produced (see also under Wine Production Quantities). The 2010 grape variety table (statistics Kym Anderson):
The information on the label is usually short and concise. The place name with the ending "i" (which corresponds to the German "er") is usually followed by the grape variety, for example Soproni Kékfrankos (Blaufränkischer from Sopron).
Wine categories: In August 2009, the EU wine market regulation became valid for all member countries with fundamental changes in wine designations and quality levels. There are the following new designations or quality levels (see also detailed 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 ranges of country wine, which are marked by a blue and yellow seal on the label.
OEM (Oltalom alatt álló Eredetmegjelölésü Bor):
There are 33 quality wine areas, which are marked by an orange-red seal on the label. The first DHC area was Villány in 2006, followed by Eger, Tihany, Somló and Izsák.