Jul 262008
 

Are you Hungary for Wine?

Budapest Palace Hill

Have you ever thought about Hungary as a
major wine producing region? Well don’t
feel bad if you haven’t as you are in the
vast majority. But, as surprising as it may
seem, Hungary is the country that has
ownership to the claim that they make
“The Wine of Kings”, and “The King of Wines”
- the famous dessert wine, Tokaji Azu.

I had the pleasure to visit Hungary on a recent
trip and found it a venerable treasure trove
of old world culture, cuisine and, last but not
least, wine. I experienced ancient palaces and
fortresses brandishing the wounds of centuries
of war that housed royal families and their
garrisons.

I experienced at least three types of Goulash,
and even more types of Paprikas. It seems like
everyone had their own “special” Goulash recipe
for this national dish. I also had a range of
very good to what would be considered great
wines, many from varietals of grapes that I
had never previously heard.

Budapest (actually pronounced “Buda-Pesht”) was
my stop and it was a personal mysteriously
marvelous tour of the senses in eastern European.

To get the context of the wine experience, you
have to realize that it has only been about 15
years since the fall of Communism in Hungary.
The strides made by all sectors of the economy
are amazing. They have made a new life while
retaining the essences of their rich times of
yore.

As an example, I visited a grand, old restaurant,
The “Gundle”, which was opened over a hundred
years ago. However, by 1990, it was in morbid
decline from years of Communist rule. In 1991,
it was refurbished and reopened with new
ownership to provide what some call, the
pinnacle of the Hungarian food and wine
experience, and certainly a dining pleasure
that ranks in the top of those that I have had
anywhere.

Gundel Restaurant Budapest

Furthermore, the Budapest Hilton Hotel on
Palace Hill was built on the foundations of
ancient Buda Castle overlooking the city
centre and the flat land across the Danube
River they call “Pest”.

Under the Hilton Hotel lay the most wonderful
surprise of my trip….a 10 kilometer long
labyrinth originally hollowed by thermal
waters. At the deepest point in this cellar
system is the Faust Wine Cellar where 750
years ago the Dominican Monks stored wine
from grapes harvested in the surrounding
wine growing regions of Hungary.

This cellar was also the location of a secret
drinking ceremony of the Monks held in the
1500’s. Sounds like something from “The Da
Vinci Code”, doesn’t it?

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