Thanks to some melatonin and well-timed sleep, I’ve been hungry for Hungary for the past two days and have returned to my regular disposition of shameless debauchery. Since I’m here to write about Hungarian wine, I don’t even have to try very hard. I visited the cellars of sparkling wine producer Törley while most people were probably fixing their morning meusili. After a tour and some history, it was bottoms up.
The story of Törley is much like the story of the Hungarian wine industry overall. They made great stuff a hundred years ago, following traditional methods, then started cranking out crap en masse when they fell under Soviet power. Now they’re back to making good stuff again and are trying to gain some respect. It’s obvious that they really care about doing it right, with the pure Champagne method in place for the top lines. But because of the lingering perceptions, you can buy a bottle for a fraction of what you’d pay for similar quality from France, Italy, or even Spain. If you it on the shelves—Törley or Francois from Hungary—snap it up.
The other big wine stop of the day was the House of Hungarian Wines, where you pay about $25 and you can sample up to 50 wines from all the different regions of Hungary. It’s a great way to figure out what the heck Tokaji, Olazrizling, and “bull’s blood” are all about without doing eenie-meenie miney-moe on a restaurant wine list. You get to keep the glass even.
But all wine and no sightseeing would be trouble, so these stops were mixed in with visits to sites around the city and clear panoramas of the impressive buildings along the Danube River. The photos here is the famous Buda castle, constructed in the 1700s. If it weren’t for the god-awful modern Hilton Hotel building next to it, this whole historic area perched on a hillside would be close to perfect. Well, not perfect if you’re looking at the menu prices at the tourist restaurants for lunch, but more of a Hungary price check rundown to come.
Here’s one weird thing I’ve noticed about Budapest though that I’ve never seen anywhere else. Most of the tourists here this time of year seem to be over 65 or under 25. Kids who are loud and obnoxious or or grannies and grandpas wearing hearing aids. I’m out of my element either way.