Budapest: The Very Novel Wine Guide
Budapest is the perfect blend of architectural grandeur and non-stop nightlife - with enough history to boot.
The Hungarian capital is also a wine tasting epicentre, and here you can sample bottles from the 22 ancient winemaking regions across the country. We love nothing more than discovering its rich viticultural heritage than by dipping into one of its cellars.
Located at the centre of the Carpathian Basin, Hungary’s mountainous terrain is optimum for cultivating grapes. Following a period of Soviet rule, Hungary has today became best known for its knowledgeable viticulturists and their excellent wines emerging from each harvest.
Wine is more than a drink here in Budapest - it’s a part of a deep-reaching culture that has in the past been overshadowed by war and politics. However nowadays, around every corner of the city, you’ll find resident sommeliers who can wax lyrical about the luscious Hungarian vineyards.
Venture across both sides of the Danube; from Buda to Pest, and lose yourself in the headiness of Tokaj wines; a wine region with a history that dates back centuries. You can even enjoy wine in the cool stone cellars of Buda Castle. So, cheers - or egészségedre!
Széchenyi Chain Bridge, Budapest, at night.
Wine tasting in Budapest
A lively Hungarian wine hub
Inside the vivacious Jewish Quarter, the Kadarka wine bar is named after a famous red grape variety. Down to earth and wholly loyal to local wine, here you can sample more than a hundred types of Hungarian classics. It is a firm favourite among the locals, and has plenty of outdoor seating to watch the world go by.
Hungarian natural wines
You know how much we love organic wine here at Novel Wines. Well, Budapest is home to its very own natural wine bar, VinoPiano, following a trend that has been picking up speed. Located in an atmospheric cellar, there are regular wine tasting events with the producers themselves, and a handpicked selection of natural vinos from Meinklang, Bencze and Hummel - to name but a few.
For good music, wine and company
Travel across Hungary with your tastebuds, as Dobló wine bar introduces you to the fascinating world of Hungarian viticulture. Tasting can take place across grape varieties or terroirs - and is nearly always accompanied by live music. An atmospheric spot, you can expect glowing chandeliers, cosy brickwork and a wine cellar feel. The cornershop location is in the heart of the Old Jewish Quarter in Budapest.
The locals’ favourite haunt
To experience Budapest as a true local, head to Cintányéros, the most authentic wine tavern of them all. The locals love this place; it’s a friendly spot where you can sample house wines by the glass. You’ll feel like you’re living the capital city the right way - and won’t leave a huge dent on your wallet.
High up above Budapest
For something a little more upmarket, consider one of Budapest’s most notorious sky bars, St Andrea. Run by a small winery from the Eger wine region, the décor is entirely wine themed. Innovative dishes match a handpicked selection of local bottles - in fact, some of them can’t be sampled anywhere else other than at this towering bar.
Sip and admire the Basilica
Saint Stephen Basilica undoubtedly features as part of any iconic Budapest cityscape. So why not indulge in a glass of local wine while you admire the view? Domus Vinorum is a large wine cellar in the basement of a 19th-century building, with more than 200 wines and 50 Hungarian spirits from the past four decades. The sommelier is English speaking, and will happily show you the ropes.
A symbiosis of wine and art
Hidden in the bohemian XI district, Palack Wine Bar contains around 800-100 wines from small producers around Hungary. Each wine is handpicked by sommelier Gabor Petranyi, who can also offer some valuable recommendations. This wine bar is located in the same building as the high-quality Profeta art gallery, so once you’ve perused an exhibition you can finish with a glass along with a selection of tapas, ham and cheese.
Our favourite Novel restaurants for wine
Vendéglő a KisBíróhoz
We love any excuse to venture to the quiet, leafy Buda hills on the east of the Danube. This is the sister restaurant to the famous Bock Bisztro in the Jewish quarter, but provides a breath of fresh air and a gulp of Hungarian wine. Expect local delicacies, such as the ox cheek - and more extraordinary options such as black banana or tobacco ice cream. The wine list is something of legend here, and is the perfect accompaniment to this feel-good menu.
Budapest is home to a whopping six Michelin star restaurants, and the illustrious Stand joined the greats in 2019. We recommend heading for the three-course lunch menu, which is actually quite reasonable in price. Stand is the brainchild of local celebrity chefs Tamas Széll and Szabina Szullo; a showcase of contemporary Hungarian gastronomy blended with hearty peasant dishes.
Working predominantly with local producers, we love it for its signature duck liver dish made with tokaji aszú wine - and a wine selection handpicked by head-sommelier Janos Gervai, who is also a noteworthy grower. Service is friendly and warm, and you’ll be able to browse bottles from all of the best Hungarian wine regions.
Hungarian Novel Wines that you must try
And if a trip to Budapest isn’t yet on the cards… We’ll bring the city to you, with one of our select Hungarian wines. We hold Hungary particularly close to our heart, as it’s also the home of our co-founder, Gyorgy - so rest assured that you’re in good hands.
Our number one Tokaji wine
The Kardos Tundermese Fairytale wine is particularly special, as it was the first wine Ben & Gyorgy bought for Novel Wines. It’s a beautiful example of a Tokaji variety, thanks to its sweet, fresh and fruity flavour. Notes of honey, melon, pear and quince will capture your imagination, that’s delectable, but not too heavy. The Kardos family are experts in producing limited amounts of late harvest wine to pair with a dessert. A gorgeous example of the Hungarian Mád terroir.
The wonderfully crisp, white Furmint
If you can’t make it to Central Europe, we’ll bring the deliciously dry Furmint variety to you in the form of the Kardos Furmint. Picked from 20-year-old vines in the Tokaj region, the south-facing vineyard is grown on fertile volcanic soil. The result is an electric zing, which is dry with notes of gooseberries, ripe pear and lime.
The legendary Bull’s Blood wine (Egri Bikaver) is said to get its name from the bloody Siege of Eger in 1552. It was during this battle that invading Ottoman forces tried to seize the city’s castle, but failed. Turkish soldiers thought that the defending Hungarians must have been drinking wine mixed with bull’s blood! We suppose, then, it is a wine of victory and resistance.
In reality, it is an earthy red wine full of dry and spicy allure. This particular bottle has been aged in 500-year-old aged barrels, and the result is a symphony of black fruits.
The sweet, sweet Aszu dessert wine
Take one look at the golden hue of this wine, you know you’re in for a treat. No Hungarian wine tasting is complete without a sip of the Aszu dessert wine. Pair it with something decadent, like a sticky toffee pudding, and witness the honey and fig notes unfold across your palate. Delicious.
A volcanic Kekfrankos
For a taste of single estate prowess, try the St Donat Kekfrankos. The Kekfrankos grape is native to Hungary, and thrives in rich, volcanic soil. This particular bottle was grown near Lake Balaton, on a mix of clay, basalt, tuff and limestone - and we adore it. Enjoy notes of fresh red berries, plum and vanilla.
With this guide, we reckon you’re ready to enjoy the Budapest wine scene to the fullest.