As the weather cools down and the last of the summer vegetables go out of season, we find ourselves cooking our favorite autumn dishes again, and reaching for easy-drinking red wines to match. Hungarian reds have traditionally had a reputation for being full-bodied and heavy, but there are plenty of light, easy-drinking grape varieties and styles in the country worth discovering. Here are some of our favorite options.
First of all, let’s start with something that isn’t actually red wine, but very close: Siller is a dark, intense style of rosé. Swabian winemakers (Donauschwaben), who moved to Hungary in the 18th century brought this style with them, which was originally made by blending white and red grapes.
Today, it’s made by soaking the grape juice with the skin for a couple of hours to a couple of days. That’s longer than for rosé, but not long enough to make the juice become a dark red wine. Done right, Siller is the best of both worlds: refreshing like a rosé, but with the more complex flavors of a red wine. This style is also popular with natural winemakers who want to make rosés with more character and flavor than the usual light ones. Siller and darker rosés are also ideal as wine pairings for a variety of lighter dishes.
Portugieser is a red grape variety that ripens early, and is therefore often the grape chosen to make ‘new wine’ – the first released wines of the vintage. This has given it a bad reputation, since many of these wines are hastily made and cheap, but the grape variety is capable of so much more. When done right, it’s smooth and soft, with a nice balance of straightforward fruitiness and spicy, herbal notes. We’re fond of all the great Portugieser wines at the moment, be it a pure Portugieser from Villány’s Hummel or Piros Béka, or as part of a soft and easy Portugieser-based blend.
Kadarka is one of the oldest grape varieties in Hungary. Fragile and fickle, it’s hard to get right, and winemakers are still just finding their way with this grape. Those who succeed, however, have created some amazing wines reminiscent of the best Burgundy. Like a good Pinot Noir, Kadarka is low in alcohol and tannins, elegant, filled with earthy, leafy notes, strawberries and sour cherries. A grape variety that is searching for its way and evolving with each vintage.
Last but not least, let’s not forget that lots of Hungarian wine regions are great areas to grow Pinot Noir, one of the most elegant international grape varieties. Especially in northern regions like Eger and Mátra, it produces smooth, elegant wines with a unique local style and a bit more juiciness than what you’d expect from a classic French Burgundy wine.
Gál Tibor ‘Titi’ Egri Bikavér 2018€9,90
St. Andrea Akutyafáját 2020€7,90
Weninger Ponzichter 2018 (Bio)€13,50
Sauska Siller 2020€7,90
St. Andrea Hangács Bikavér 2017€18,90
Bott Frigyes Just Enjoy Red 2020 (Bio)€18,90
Bott Frigyes Pinot Noir 2020 (Bio)€21,90
St. Andrea Áldás 2019€12,50
Losonci Pinot Noir 2019 (Bio)€10,90