Firmly part of the Old World, Hungary is perhaps one of the best-kept secrets in wine. There is an argument with some coherence that Hungary’s wine production predates the Romans and there are certainly some very strong winemaking traditions found across the country. Indigenous grape varieties, unique and expressive wine styles, and appealing price points make Hungary a growing player on the scene, particularly as people are more prepared than ever to step outside of the comfortable borders of the big national players.

Detrimental to its position on the world stage was some serious devastation at the hands of Phylloxera in the late 19th Century, and since then commerce has not been helped by two world wars and, more recently, a Communist regime that enforced a quantity over quality production. Since the late 20th Century, though, Hungary has been graced with a host of young winemakers who are breathing life back into the industry and stretching beyond the long-famed sweet wines of Tokaji.

White wine production dominates in Hungary, but it is certainly the dazzlingly revered, lusciously sweet wines from Tokaji in the country’s northeast that command the most fame internationally. Here, a confluence of rivers provides the perfect conditions for the onset of noble rot (locally known as aszú), where the resulting wines predominantly made from the Furmint grape are traditionally aged under a layer of yeast in barrels. Tokaji dessert wines are highly sought-after, offering a spectrum of dried, cooked and exotic fruit characteristics, accompanied by spice, herbs and honeyed flavours and are incredibly age-worthy.

Dive deeper into the country’s winemaking, though, and you will find a host of small, quality-driven and regionally-focused appellations where some cracking bottles are produced. No bottles are worth seeking out more than those from Somlò, a tiny area where grapes are grown on the slopes of an old volcano. The enclosed landscape and mineral-rich soils have proven perfect for white wine production. The Tornai winery, the most important in the Somlò region, produce concentrated white wines with incredible, Chablis-like, minerality and a smoky, high-tone character at unbelievable prices. For a case of Hungarian wines, look no further than Sociovino.

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