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The first record of viticulture in the area is in the 1075 charter of the Garamszent-benedek Abbey, which refers to vineyards around the village of Alpar along the Tisza River. The town of Szeged and the other op-podiums— commercially important settlements with privileged trade and tax rights—had their own estates of vines in the 14th century, not only locally but also in the famous Syrmia further south (today in Serbia). The 15th century saw new vineyards planted in the immediate vicinity of Szeged. During the Ottoman Occupation, wine was an important source of income for the Ottoman officials and landowners. The first red wine grapes arrived in Hungary from the Balkans around this time, led by the Kadarka variety. The prevailing training method of the day did not employ any form of support for the vines.
The departure of the conquerors ushered in the civilization of the Great Plain where conditions had grown quite savage during the Ottoman Occupation. In 1779, Queen Maria Theresa issued an edict urging the plantation of vines in the Great Plain as a measure to bind the quicksand. Plantation on a large scale continued in the 19 th century, and came to play a crucial role in replenishing the country’s wine production when it was decimated by the phylloxera invasion. This root louse cannot survive in loose sandy soils with a quartz content over 75-80%, and thus it did not wreak havoc in the Great Plain as it did elsewhere in the country. The extensive plantation projects were also instrumental in converting the uninhabited reaches of puszta, the wasteland steppe, into a farmland with scattered tanya, Hungary’s equivalent of the ranch.
For most of the 20th century, wine growing remained an important business in the area, but began to decline in the 1970 s as the government gradually withdrew subsidies covering production costs. The process ended with ( the collapse of Hungary’s Eastern-Bloc wine markets, which in turn set off a radical reduction of the acreage under cultivation—all this despite the fact that in 1990 Csongrad attained independent status as a wine region. Now that the Eastern markets are no longer around to encourage the production of inferior wines, professionals and consumers are curious to see whether Csongrad will be able to readjust to the higher quality standards dictated by the West.
The wines generally resemble those of the Kunsag region, although quality wines in Csongrad claim a higher share of the total production. They tend to have a medium to high alcohol content but fairly low acidity if the grapes are harvested ripe. Although fine wine production in commercial quantities is unheard of in these parts, the area has certainly had its own popular wines over the last century, such as Pusztamergesi Olaszrizling, Csongradi Kadarka, Csongradi Cabernet, and Csongradi Kekfrankos.
Area: 1770 hectares.
Climate: dry, extreme, a lot of sunshine.
Vine varieties, wines: Kövidinka, Zweigelt, Italian Riesling, Kadarka, Kékfrankos.
For more interesting information:
> Hungarian wines and wineregions (authors: Zoltán Benyák, Tibor Dékány)
> Terra Benedicta 2003: Tokaj and Beyond (authors: Rohály Gábor, Mészáros Gabriella, Nagymarosy András)