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The “Buda” element of the compound name is quite misleading, because this region has nothing to do with the former Buda wine region along the Danube, from Szentendre in the north to Teteny in the south, which for 600 years produced what were known throughout Europe as “Buda wines.”
In its present form, Etyek-Buda is one of the country’s newer wine regions, although the fame of wines grown on the slopes of the Buda Mountains goes back to medieval times. During the reign of the late Arpad Dynasty in the 13th century, wine provided the citizens of Buda with their main source of income. In the wake of the Ottoman Occupation, Serbian immigrants settled down in the city and its environs; their legacy is still felt today in local place names in the Taban and Gellert Hill districts of Budapest. Owing to the influence of the Balkans that these settlers communicated, red wines gained the upper hand in the local vineyards. The Buda-Sashegyi Kadarka attained a Europe-wide reputation in its day. Following the expulsion of the Ottoman conquerors, the ethnic scene was diversified further with the arrival of German vineyard hands who set up house in In 1890, the phylloxera ruined most of the vineyards that had been spared by industrialization and the sprawling city. By the first decade of the 20th century, viticulture in the area of medieval Buda was consigned to the annals of history. Etyek itself rose to prominence in the middle of the 19th century as one of the centers of Hungarian wine production, owing to the diligence of German settlers and the proximity of the Törley House, which sourced the grapes for its famous sparkling wines from this region. After the Great War, the communist system had no plans for Etyek other than to provide base wines for cheap sparkling. For decades, the region sold practically no products under its own name, although the small growers continued to make wine for their own needs.
The region was resurrected in 1990, at first as Etyek, on the reconstructed vineyards around Velence, a formerly prosperous region ruined by the phylloxera a century before, and on the vineyard holdings of the giant Hungarovin that had superseded the Torley Estate in Etyek. In 1997, the Wine Act added a few wine producing communities at the foot of the Buda Mountains, changing the region’s name to Etyek-Buda. The Etyek-based grower Tibor Bátori became one of the first new-era private growers in the country to release a bottled product, setting a national benchmark in the small winery/top wine genre with his Oreghegyi Chardonnay and Sauvignon Blanc.
The old grape of Etyek was Schlamper, a German variety unsuitable for making quality wine, while black Kadarka probably dominated in the Buda district. The modern Etyek-Buda is a quintessential white wine region, with Olaszrizling and Chardonnay. Zold Veltelini, Szurkebarat, Sauvignon Blanc, and Rizlingszilvani can each claim an area of 50 to 100 hectares. Like other white wine producing regions in Hungary, Etyek-Buda seems to suffer under the stifling dominion of the Olaszrizling variety, which keeps in check the finer grapes—such as Chardonnay and Sauvignon Blanc—that have done the most in recent times to enhance the region’s good name.
Although red wines are still the exception in the region, Hungarovin’s estate in Pazmand has come out with a few Pinot Noir and Cabernet wines of note. These wines, together with those about to be released by the Pazmand Kuria, look set to revive a local tradition, whereby the red wine of the village of Nadap next door commanded respect far and wide in the 16th century.
The soils of Etyek-Buda are not cut out for firm wines of great character, but are certainly capable of imparting vibrant acidity. This is one reason why Etyek is the best source of grapes for sparkling wine production in Hungary. Apart from base wines for sparkling, Etyek’s wine style follows western trends for elegant, cold-fermented dry wines without too much body.
Although not strictly part of the region, Budafok deserves another mention for its wine-related monuments of architecture. The extensive cellars here were carved in porous limestone between the 18th and 20th centuries; they are yet to be surveyed in their entirety.
Cellars carved in the same limestone are still a landmark in Etyek, although their number has diminished from 560 before World War II to 150 today. The finest cellars here were built in the Kecskegodor (“Goat’s Pit”), on the Ujhegy and Oreghegy Hills, as well as near the village center in an amphitheater layout. The cellar row of the nearby village of Paty, although of lesser architectural distinction, is well worth a visit.
Area: 1480 hectares.
Climate: windy, a lot of sunshine, little precipitation.
Vine varieties, wines: Chardonnay, Italian Riesling, Rhine Riesling, Pinot Blanc, Sauvignon Blanc – elegant, dry, definitely acidic, light wines with fine fragrance.
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)