Light But Remarkable: Exploring Hungary’s Easy-Drinking Yet Volcanic White Wines

Hungary’s diverse terroir includes several volcanic regions, from the hills of North Balaton in the west to Tokaj in the north-east, each producing a range of unique and exceptional white wines. While volcanic soils are often associated with rich, heavy wines, Hungary’s volcanic soils also produce white wines that are relatively light, yet remarkably flavourful, thanks to the volcanic influence.

The volcanic advantage

Regions such as Tokaj, Somló and North Balaton, particularly Badacsony, are renowned for their volcanic terroir. The presence of volcanic soils gives the wines distinct characteristics, even in the case of lighter styles. But why do these volcanic regions produce such intense wines, even in their more accessible expressions?

Volcanic soils, rich in minerals such as potassium, magnesium and iron, impart unique qualities to the vines. The porous nature of volcanic rock allows for excellent drainage, which stresses the vines and encourages deeper root penetration in search of water and nutrients. As a result, grapevines grown in volcanic soils produce smaller berries with more concentrated flavours, contributing to the intensity of the wines. Done correctly, the added intensity and flavour does not have to mean a stronger wine, and many lighter, easy-drinking wines also benefit from the added complexity.

Finding lightness in complexity

A notable example of a volcanic region that often produces quite easy-drinking wines is the mountainous Badacsony region, characterised by its volcanic basalt soils. While it produces wines of intensity and structure, they are often enjoyed by the lake during the summer months.

Despite their lighter profiles, Hungarian volcanic whites offer complexity and depth rarely found in wines of similar weight. Even lighter grape varieties such as Yellow Muscat or Pinot Gris have more body and structure than usual when grown on these soils. Even grapes like Furmint, typically associated with rich and opulent wines, can surprise. Grapes like Furmint, known for their opulence, can surprise with lighter expressions that are juicy, fresh and bursting with flavour. The Furmint wines of Sauska, Degenfeld or Balassa, or Gizella’s estate blend of Furmint and Hárslevelű, show how even richer grapes can produce easy-drinking, juicy wines bursting with flavour.

Unique flavors, easy-drinking wines

In many of Hungary’s volcanic whites, you’ll find a fascinating blend of lightness and complexity – a testament to the region’s diverse terroir and winemaking skills. From Tokaj to Lake Balaton and beyond, these wines invite you to explore the nuanced flavours born from the rich depths of their soils.