Sexy Kadarka, Kékfrankos and Bikavér trio served up by Szekszárd

Once considered a cheap and cheerful but less polished alternative to its more coveted southern neighbour of Villány, Szekszárd has confidently set sail off on its own course with its increasingly sophisticated and complex reds. Long loved by consumers for its excellent value for money, Szekszárd’s vintners are now also succeeding in making more varietally pure Kékfrankos and Kadarka, which also play a key role in the region’s flagship Bikavér blend.

Szekszárd is wisely focussing on a three-pronged approach of single varietal Kadarka (including exploring different clones) and Kékfrankos, and the Bikavér blend, which come in their own Burgundy style bottles. The way the word Szekszárd is embossed under the neck of the bottle a la Châteauneuf-du-Pape is a nice reference to the spice of the Rhône, which is also a feature of Szekszárd reds.

Szekszárd is the Hungarian epicentre of the Kadarka grape (the same grape as Bulgaria’s Gamza) which came to Hungary from the Balkans, supposedly brought by Serbs fleeing Ottoman invaders. However, for so long its wine has all too often either been watery and insipid on the one hand, or overdone and covered in an oaky, overripe and tannic cloak and trying to be something it’s not, on the other. Now plenty deliciously spicy and playfully light Kadarkas are coming through, typically exuding a distinctive rose hip note.

Bikavér is typically based on a Kékfrankos backbone and is fleshed out with international varieties, especially the Bordeaux grapes, and enables such grapes to play an important role without hogging the local limelight. The finishing touch is the spice and aromatics added by a few percent of Kadarka. A few percent is all that’s needed or else its pronounced aromas can start to take over, something not desired in a wine in which the aim is for no grape to dominate.

Incidentally, Bikavér is not often referred to by its English form of Bull’s Blood any more, due to the wine’s not entirely former association with the bottom shelf of supermarkets. Szekszárd and Eger lock horns over which region coined the term Bikavér first but while the northern Hungarian region of Eger battles with different levels of quality, Szekszárdi tends to be a higher end wine. In Eger, where the Kadarka grape was grubbed up during communism in favour of higher yielding varieties as opposed to Szekszárd where it survived, winemakers are increasingly planting Kadarka to add it to their Bikavér blends.

Szekszárd is strongly associated with its loess soils and as such is sometimes wrongly dismissed as incapable of making truly great wine. It should not be forgotten that some excellent wines come from loess. These include Wagram and parts of Wachau and Kremstal in Austria, where it is prized for its ability to make fuller Grüner Veltliner; many top German vineyards; and eastern Washington, USA. Indeed, some of Tokaj’s and Hungary most elegant wine comes from loess-dominated vineyards. However, there’s other soil and rock types lurking under the loess in Szekszárd with lots of red clay and chunks of limestone in the Szekszárdian mix, with the red clay (terra rossa) clearly visible and poking through as you drive around this undulating region.

Szekszárd will be one of excursions that will be part of the 10th International Wine Tourism Conference (IWINETC), which will be held April 10-11 in Budapest in collaboration with Premium Sponsor, The Hungarian Tourism Agency.

Robert Smyth

Robert Smyth is a Budapest-based wine journalist, writer and communicator. He is the author of Hungarian Wine: A Tasting Trip to the New Old World (Blue Guides, 2015). He has been been covering wine for more than 15 years and writes on Hungarian and international wine for the Budapest Business Journal (BBJ),, VinCE Magazin and Wine Connoisseur,  among others. He’s also served as deputy editor of the Circle of Wine Writer’s Update and edited David Copp’s Wines of Hungary and contributed to the same author’s Tokaj: a companion for the bibulous traveller. He holds the WSET Diploma and Advanced certificates from London’s Wine and Spirit Education Trust, run tastings for Tasting Table and also guide tours for Taste Hungary. He regularly judges at Hungarian and international competitions and also translates wine text from Hungarian to English.

Photos: Zsófia Pályi, Balázs Szabó and Krisztina Kovács

Top 6 Reasons to Come to Budapest, Hungary for IWINETC

2018 sees the 10th edition of the International Wine Tourism Conference (IWINETC) travel to Budapest, Hungary where around 400 conference delegates are expected. With so many good reasons to attend, it’s hard to narrow down the long list of reasons to come to Hungary. Below are our top 6.

  • Be wowed by around 25 talks and round tables including sessions with Felicity Carter, Chief editor of Meininger’s Wine Business International, Paul Richer, Senior Partner at Genesys – application of technology to the travel, tourism and hospitality industries & back by popular demand, Judith Lewis, Search & Online Marketing Authority.
  • Discover new grape escape destinations from around the world at the exhibition area.
  • Taste great wines not only from Hungary but also from diverse wine producing countries such as Armenia, Bulgaria, Italy, Greece and Spain.
  • Make business connections at the B2B Wine Tourism Workshop.
  • Join the party at the IWINETC networking evening events, where Hungary showcases their wines, culture, music and cuisine.
  • Finally, discover Hungary as a grape escape destination by participating in one or all of the pre and post conference tours to Etyek, Eger and Tokaj.

The 2018 and 10th edition of the International Wine Tourism Conference will take place in Budapest at the 5* Budapest Marriott Hotel on  the 10th and 11th April 2018 working closely with our premium sponsor, the Hungarian Tourism Agency (Directorate for Gastronomy and Wine Marketing) . It’s the perfect setting to gain knowledge, improve business connections, network and discover Hungarian wines and Hungary as a grape escape destination.

Early bird registration here>>


IWINETC Updates Logo & Brand Identity

The International Wine Tourism Conference (IWINETC), the world’s most recognizable brand for wine tourism professionals unveiled the evolution of its brand identity, a modernized and simplified update to its iconic red grape coloured logo and new look and feel for branded communications and experiences. Unlimited Graphic Design Services have made the new look phenomenal. It was announced today.

“IWINETC is one of those unique brands that is instantly recognizable around the wine and culinary tourism world,” said Anthony Swift, IWINETC Director. “In order to stand out in the new digital world, we want to modernize and elevate the brand in a design that is simple and elegant, yet unquestionably IWINETC.”

The 2018 edition and 10th anniversary of IWINETC will be held in Budapest and we are working closely with our premium sponsor, the Hungarian Tourism Agency (Directorate for Gastronomy and Wine Marketing) and local partners Wine a’ More Travel and Premium Incoming Hungary to bring conference delegates the best education, the best business opportunities, the best networking events and show the very best of Hungary as a grape escape destination.¨

The evolved brand identity will be rolled out to all IWINETC communications and conference related matters by the end of August 2017.

Top 5 things to do in Hungary for Food & Wine Lovers

Outstanding wines, stunning vineyard views, delicious culinary delights and steaming thermal natural spas are Hungary’s major attractions for food and wine lovers.

Visit stunning wine regions

Perhaps the best known wine and region in Hungary is Tokaj – a picturesque town of old buildings, nesting storks and wineries offering the famed honey gold sweet Tokaj. The road from Tokaj to the village of Mád offers stunning views and a wealth of family run wineries well worth popping into. Between Tokaj and Budapest is the Upper Hungary wine region. Baroque influenced Eger is the perfect base to discover bold reds known as Bull’s Blood produced in wineries dug inside old quarries.

Another spectacular grape escape in Hungary is Balaton. Lake Balaton or Hungary’s Sea is Europe’s largest lake (also Europe’s largest thermal lake) and it is largely flanked on all sides by wineries producing bold reds and crisp whites. Close by to the north-east is Somló, a single extinct volcano producing two of the many unpronounceable grape varieties in Hungary –  Hárslevelú and Juhfark.

Head South- East to the hilly wine region of Szekszárd. The premier grape here is Kadarka and red wines tend to be softer and less complex than in Eger and further south in Villány.

Close to the border of Hungary with Serbia is the Villány wine region with producers working with international grape varieties such as Cabernet Franc, Cabernet Sauvignon Merlot and Pinot Noir. An evening ramble along Baross Gábor utca is a great way to sample wines of the region and a trip to the cellars at nearby Villánykövesd is a sight not to miss – rows of wine cellars cut directly into the loess soil.

Tipple on Pálinka

Every wine region has it’s potent brew and Hungary is no exception. Pálinka is the name given to fruit flavoured brandy with alcohol content of anything between 40 and 70%. Taken both as an aperitif or as an after meal chaser. Another liqueur with a punch is the bitter Unicum which has a chocolate brown colour.

Eat like a Magyar

Dining in Hungary is not unlike dining in Georgia (venue for IWINETC 2014) – huge and heavy meaty meals big on flavour. But it is not all beef, pork, goose and chicken. Fish, such as Catfish, Pike and Carp caught in Lake Balaton make for a lighter alternative . Vegetarians should not be put off. Fresh salads and Hungary’s unique twice cooked vegetable dishes will more than satisfy. To finish, heavy desserts such as pastries, strudel or sponge cake are the norm. Pálinka to end with – probably the best way to get the digestive system working!

Chill out in a Thermal Bath

Thermal hot springs abound across Hungary. For centuries people have been bathing in the waters to treat specific complaints. The thermal baths  such as Rudas (pictured below) , Kiraly in Budapest and part of the Turkish bath in Eger are centuries old. Spa and wine tourism go hand in hand and are popular with wine lovers who, after a hard day of winery visits, tastings and huge lunches want to unwind and relax before it’s time for more wine and food at dinner.

The 2018 and 10th edition of the International Wine Tourism Conference will take place in Budapest at the 5* Budapest Marriot Hotel on  the 10th and 11th April 2018. It’s the perfect setting to gain knowledge, improve business connections, network and discover Hungarian wines and Hungary as a grape escape destination.


IWINETC 2018 Early Bird Registration Open!

That’s right…you can now register to attend the International Wine Tourism Conference (IWINETC 2018), the leading global event for the wine and culinary tourism industry, taking place from the 10th  – 11th April on the flanks of the Danube in Hungary’s capital city, Budapest.

Register here and benefit from the early bird rate.

We have so much to offer this year and there are some exciting new enhancements too… all to be revealed soon! As well as networking face-to-face with over 300 wine and culinary tourism professionals from across the world, the IWINETC conference programme will be bursting with inspiration and ideas to help you enhance your career and transform your business.

Call for Speakers

If you would like to submit a proposal for the International Wine Tourism Conference. This should include a title and short abstract (max. 250 words) outlining the main aspects of your presentation and its relevance to the field of wine and/or culinary tourism. Submit a talk proposal here

Invited Buyer applications are open

The tailored programmes offered to agents earlier this year in Sicily received high praise for their focus on buyer’s needs and encouraged quality appointments with exhibitors and Workshop participants. For 2018, these programmes will offer buyers even more flexibility on their attendance and key education and networking opportunities relevant to their role and business.

Find out more about attending as a Buyer>> 

Find out about attending the B2B Workshop as a Wine Tourism Experience Provider>>

Exhibit at IWINETC & Show your grape escape destination to the World

For IWINETC 2018 there will an exhibition area for conference delegates to discover grape escape destination and wines from around the world. Participating as an exhibitor will ensure you reach the 300+ delegates expected to attend as well as connecting with tour operators and travel agents from around the world. Exhibitor info here>>

As the team work hard to make next year’s IWINETC the best yet, make sure you keep up to date with the latest news and important information. Why not join our LinkedIn group, follow us on Twitter or like our Facebook page.

We hope to see you at IWINETC 2018 Hungary for another successful year.

#SicilyisAwesome at #IWINETC17

#SicilyisAwesome at #IWINETC17! is the new social media campaign launched by conference organises Wine Pleasures.

Attendees are encouraged to join in on Twitter, Facebook and Instagram, have a bit of fun and post lots of photos of Sicily and selfies taken in Sicily and at IWINETC.

There will be some special surprises onsite for the most creative ideas! Join in #SicilyisAwesome at #IWINETC17 Tweet them to @IWINETC

Step up the Scalinata di Santa Maria del Monte and admire alluring ceramics

Being only a little over an hour away from the island’s second largest city Catania, the city of Caltagirone is the perfect city to spend on a day excursion. The city is nicknamed for being the “city of brightly painted ceramics” and you are sure to see them everywhere. There are many shops and stores to buy some fine crafted pottery or you can walk over to the ceramic steps to truly admire this form of art.

The city’s main attraction is the Scalinata di Santa Maria del Monte which means stairway of Saint Mary of the Mountain.This stairway which has 142 steps connects the old part of the town to the newer directly to the church which is also called Santa Maria of the Mountain. The tiles have both religious and natural designs and has also been decorated by the locals with flowers and candles.

In May during the third weekend the city holds a festival of flowers called Infiorata where citizens lay beds of flowers in intricate designs along the streets and the ceramic steps. Then again, in July the steps are once again lined with beautiful and vibrant flowers and luminous candles to honor the patron saint of the town, St. Peter.

The area of Caltagirone is also well known for the production of peaches, olive oil, and of course grapes. Grab a glass of wine and come admire the city of alluring pottery.

Where to stay? Try Il Casale delle Rose, a rural hotel close by.  Owner, Francesco is making some great wine so make sure you get to try his Don Michelangelo (Nerello Cappuccio 85%, and Syrah 15%) and try the culinary delights from the kitchen.

Which wineries to visit? Nearby there are three are wineries to consider visiting:

Judeka, Nanfo, and Daino

Gorge on Zafferana Etnea Honey during IWINETC

About 33 km north of Catania, and 160 km southeast of Palermo, busy bees thrive on the eastern coast of Sicily, on the slopes of Mount Etna.  Although the small village of Zafferana Etnea only houses 10,000 residents, the smaller residents, honey bees, outnumber these villagers 7,200:1. With these numbers, this area manages to collect some very appetizing and unique types of honey.  One can find vast diversity in flavors available, including: orange blossom, eucalyptus, and chestnut, just to name a few.

In addition to honey, local companies passionate about bees offer a range of personal products, such as soap, lip balm, and face cream including royal jelly, as well as candies, spices, wines and liquors.

Zafferana honey production makes up over 20% of all Italian honey.  But, it’s not alone in Sicily. Whilst speaking of Sicilian honey, one must also take note of Sortino.  About an hour south of Catania, the bees are busy making some of the most delightful honey in Italy. Sortino, a town in the province of Syracuse, Sicily, is also top producer of honey citrus.  Celebrated for its properties and organoleptic characteristics, honey citrus is one of the most popular honey available today. Sicily has seen an increased production of citrus honey in the island’s southern citrus groves.  This area is known for mixed citrus honey with notes of orange, lemon and tangerine, rather than single variety honey.

So, while booking your 2 day conference ticket for the 2017 IWINETC, why not book an extra day or two and go indulge in some honey on one of the post conference tours on offer!  And, don’t forget to bring home your favorite bottle to sweeten and flavor yogurt, whipped cream and deserts, cream, mascarpone or ricotta.  Then, pair with your favorite wine! Experiment and have some culinary fun!  And, don’t forget to tell us which pairings are your favorite. Post them on our Facebook page, or on twitter @iwinetc.  Who can come up with the best pairing?

Gastronomy Tourism Sicily – Pistachio from Bronte

When you think about the autumn season you may picture crisp orange and golden yellow leaves falling from trees but if you travel to Etna’s western slopes during the month of October you might find yourself surrounded by green and purple.


Even though today in Italy, most of the pistachios are imported from Iran and Iraq; that was not always the case. Sicily, especially around Mt. Etna, has produced some of the finest quality pistachios in Europe. They were originally brought over from who are thought to be the Phoenicians and they are used in a variety of sweets and desserts.

The lava soil in the Bronte area of Sicily, being so close to Mount Etna, gives the pistachio a distinctive flavor much different than other varieties of pistachios even on the island of Sicily. The pistachios grown in this area are much longer and thinner than other varieties. They also have a sharp more unique flavor which is due to the different soil. Pistachios are all harvested by hand but separated by machine to split the shell from the nut. Then the nuts are set out to dry before being able to snack on.

Pistachios are key ingredients in Sicilian cooking and you will find them in both sweet and in savory dishes. Some of the most common dishes using pistachios are gelato and ice cream, as fillings in the special bread called panettone, and as toppings in various sweets such as baklava, cookies, chocolate, and in cannolis; which are another Sicilian specialty. Other than sweets, people use the “green gold” in pesto and as seasonings for meat and fish. A popular dish on the island is farfalle pistacchi e pancetta which is pasta and pancetta with a cream sauce made from pistachios.

In Bronte, which is the capital of pistachios, you can attend the Pistachio festival in early October. Set in the beautiful park of Mt. Etna you can enjoy many different dishes showcasing this prized nut. The festival draws in local artists who display their creations in markets where you can buy things like paintings, crafts, and street art. Local farmers also get to present their artisan goods like cheese, honey, and sweets. Be sure to try the pistachio pesto. Some people swear that it is better than it’s pine nut cousin’s version. Another typical treat during the festival is a pistachio cream which is like nutella but omitting the hazelnuts for the Sicilian nut.

In addition to the food and shops one can also sit back and hear traditional music during the two week festival. If you love history you can visit the Museo della Raccolta in Piazza Piave. It’s a museum showing the history of the machines and harvesting techniques of this particular crop. At only a hour drive away from the venue of the International Wine Tourism Conference, Exhibition and Workshop 2017 (Catania), Bronte is the perfect place to spend a day learning more about their pistachios and trying dishes and treats made from the green and purple nut. They are often regarded as Italian gastronomic excellence and it’s worth the time to find out why. Follow the hashtag #SicilyisAwesome 

Inspiring speakers confirmed for IWINETC 2017…

IWINETC 2017 is proud to present an engaging Conference Programme, packed full of inspirational education addressing business concerns and challenges and exploring all that’s up and coming in the wine and culinary tourism industry. Session topics include branding & marketing, wine tourism research, innovation, grape escape destinations, professional & staff development and wine tourism business development & strategy.

Hold fire on clicking the link below to view the preview programme. There’s more!

As well as an exhibition area and a wine tourism Workshop that guarantee face to face contact between exhibitors, wine tourism experience providers and delegates, there’s an array of networking opportunities to ensure delegates have the chance to build and create meaningful relationships essential to their business. AND delegates can extend their stay and track down the perfect vintage under the brooding presence of Mount Etna through a 2 day winery visit prog.

View the Preview  Conference Programme here>>

Register here>>

Register as an exhibitor here>>

Register as a wine tourism experience provider here>>