Hungary

A grand tour around Hungary’s best sparkling vineyards

Covering an area outside of the capital Budapest, the Etyek-Buda region has been a centre of Hungary’s historic wine trade for centuries but is still producing exquisite wines today. The majority of the vineyards are located on the windswept plateaus and sunny hillsides of the Etyek region, to the northeast of Fejer County. The high acidity in the grapes is in large part thanks to the forest soils layered over limestone, creating unique conditions for wine growing.

Grapes have been grown in Etyek-Buda since Roman times, with records dating back to the 13th century showing that Buda was a centre of wine production and a major source of employment. Today, more than 750 years later, things haven’t changed all that much, although only around 120 of the original 1,000 wineries remain in operation.

Many of the wine-growing traditions and processes date to the start of the 18th century, when German growers flocked to the region and established a period of prosperity. Today, Etyek-Buda’s wines enjoy favourable comparison with those produced in Champagne, winning international acclaim and accolades.

Plus, the proximity to the historic and beautiful city of Budapest gives the region an added appeal. Explore the city, including the stunning parliament building, hilltop palace and numerous thermal baths.

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Day 1 - Budapest

There are regular flights to Budapest with a number of both major and low-cost carriers, so arriving in the city is affordable and convenient. It’s well worth spending as much time as you can in Budapest, a city with several distinct neighbourhoods divided by the mighty Danube.

The city is bursting with a youthful energy and excitement, best experienced in one of its many “ruin bars”, including the famous Szimpla Kert. Set up in abandoned apartment buildings and factories, these bars are labyrinthine networks of graffitied walls, open air spaces and funky drinking dens.

Of course, Budapest is equally renowned for its high culture, boasting a world-class classical music scene, with the Buda Castle Quarter and banks of the Danube both Unesco World Heritage Sites. Among the myriad other things to do in Budapest, a visit to one of the famous hot springs is a must if you like to relax. The Gellert baths and Széchenyi Spa are two of the oldest and most popular.

When you’re suitably chilled out, head back to your choice of Budapest hotels and rest up for the evening before your wine tour starts in the morning. This tour of Hungary’s famous sparkling wine region is best taken by car and there are plenty of Budapest car hire options available through Expedia.

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Day 2 : 36km
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Day 2 - Garamvari

The family-owned and run Garamvari Winery is the first stop on your wine tour. Located in Balatonlelle on the southern shores of the colossal lake Balaton, the winery makes a wide range of different wines, including everything from light whites to rosés and sparkling wines. Opened in 1990, chief vintner Vencel Garamvari initially planned to sell his wines to the Hungarian market but he was able to expand and experience success across Europe and the wider world, especially in creating sparkling wines including the Chateau Vincent.

With grapes mostly growing on the gently sloping shores of the lake, varieties include Chardonnay, Sauvignon Blanc, Merlot, Pinot Noir and more. Wines range from being extra dry to sweet, with the vineyard winning an increasing number of domestic and international awards. Some of the must-try wines include the Balatonlellei Sauvignon Blanc 2006 and Chateau Vincent Blanc Fleur 2007.

At just an hour and a half from Budapest, it’s easy to drive to and from Lake Balaton in a day, so you can spend another evening soaking up the culture in the capital. Choose from Expedia’s large selection of hotels in Budapest in some of the city’s best locations and enjoy everything that this major historical capital has to offer.

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Day 3 : 144km
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Day 3 - Gyongyos

Leaving Budapest behind, head east up into the Matra mountains, the highest in Hungary, and discover the small mountain town of Gyongyos. It’s around an hour and half by car and with an ample selection of hotels in Gyongyos available at Expedia you can enjoy the best the compact centre has to offer.

Take a stroll through the main square and sample some traditional Hungarian food as you sip one of the excellent local white wines for which the area is famous. If there’s time, you can also take the narrow gauge train further into the mountains, where you’ll see vineyards where the local tipples are produced.

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Day 4 : 222km
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Day 4 - Thummerer Pince

Day four of your tour and it’s time to take in the second vineyard. And what better choice than the award-winning Thummerer Pince? Located in Noszvaj, not far from the centre of Eger, the estate was set up in the early 1980s. The carefully controlled temperature in the cellar is ideal for ageing wine from grapes picked on the 100-hectare estate.

“The 2,000 sq. meter cellar, which was once an estate manor, was carved out by hand from the volcanic tufa rock. We extended the old cellar with a new, 2,200 sq. meter cellar system that was also hewn from the volcanic tufa rock. The temperate and balanced climate of the cellar provides ideal conditions for wine aging.”

Thummerer grows about 80% red grapes to 20% white, but produces a wide range of wines using the latest technological equipment to ensure the quality remains high. In recent years it has been rewarded with a number of major awards at both local and international level.

Some of the top wines produced at the vineyard include the 2015 Egri Csillag, with its greenish tone and aroma of spring meadows creating a fresh and long-lasting finish. The Egri Bikaver classicus 2012 is another top pick, with a bright ruby colour coming from barrel ageing and with a soft spicy finish.

“We first harvested for sparkling base wine in 2013. Beside Chardonnay and Pinot noir, we chose Királyleányka as a hungarian variety, from Kőkötő vineyard. The moment when we first hold the finished bottle closed with the cork and sealed with the wire cage was uplifting. We hope that with these sparkling wines we can bring joy and satisfaction to all of our wine lover friends.”
Quote supplied by Mr and Mrs Thummerer and Polett Pulay.

After a day sampling fine wine produced using the latest available viniculture technology, choose from a range of Noszvaj hotels to rest up for the night.

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Day 5 : 278km
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Day 5 - Miskolc

Continuing your wine journey to the north and east, arrive in the city of Miskolc, one of the largest in Hungary. Situated in the foothills of the Bukk mountains, the city is surrounded by beautiful scenery and popular tourist attractions. These include the famous cave baths in Tapolca and the popular ski resort at Bankut.

The nearby ruins at Diosgyor Castle have been partly restored in recent years and you can learn more about the history of this enigmatic place, as well as the old Pauline monastery, at several exhibitions that are on display here.

Head to Lillafured to take a boat out on the lake or delve deep into the Anna, Istvan or Szeleta caves. A museum of metallurgy details the history of the ancient foundry here, and there’s some great hiking on offer too. Book your stay at one of the best Miskolc hotels with Expedia.

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Day 6 : 328km
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Day 6 - Patricius Tokaj Winery

Another family-run winery sitting in the heart of the world-renowned Tokaj wine region. The world’s first vineyard classification system was used here way back in the 1730s and the wines produced echo this rich history.

Founded by the Kekessy family, winemaking is a family tradition, with knowledge and winemaking secrets passed down the generations. Explore the reconstructed winepress now used as the tasting area, which forms the centre point of this wine estate.

Some of the winery’s highlights include the 2015 Dry Furmint. It’s one of its core labels and bursting with fruity and complex flavours. The Yellow Muscat is another favourite and the sparkling Pezsgo is often referred to as Hungary’s answer to Champagne.

Patricius is without doubt one of the finest wineries in the historic Tokaj region and well worth a stop on any wine tour of Hungary. Base yourself in one of a selection of Tokaj hotels during your stay, with accommodation to suit most budgets and tastes.

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Day 7 : 372km
Day 7 - Nyíregyháza

Last stop on your tour is Nyíregyháza, often overlooked by western tourists but a firm favourite with visitors from Poland, Ukraine and Romania. Stroll through the pretty squares and parks, spending some time in the excellent open air museum. The city is also known for its bathhouses where you can go to relax one final time before heading back to the airport for your return flight. Choose from a number of Nyiregyhaza hotels available through Expedia.

WEATHER: Hungary has a typical continental climate characterised by hot, dry summers and cold winters so the weather can vary depending on the time of year you visit.

(C) Thummerer Pince. Used with permission. View the Thummerer Pince site here.