The charming, sleepy town of Etyek, which lies just some 30km west of the capital, is not only a winemaking town, but also a filmmaking one. It isn’t a winery that you’re likely to spot first coming up in the distance as you approach from Budapest, but rather the gigantic Sándor Korda Film Park. With its remarkably convincing paper mache film sets depicting the medieval Italy of the Borgias, among other locations, and its enormous indoor studios in which part of Bladerunner 2049 was shot, ‘Etyekwood’ may seem an odd place to introduce a wine region. However, it is from there that you can see a cross-section of the white calcareous soil that dominates the Etyek-Buda regions and its wines and get a feel of the rolling countryside.
Another key vantage point, where several of the leading wineries are located, is Öreghegy. While up here, look out for the tall communal press, located next to the Báthori dűlő (vineyard), which is named after Tibor Báthori, who was voted only the second Winemaker of the Year by the Hungarian Wine Academy, back in 1992. A memorial plaque to him on the vineyard itself notes that ‘he channelled the birdsong into wine’.
There’s usually a strong breeze blowing in Etyek and add on the white calcareous soil, which is mixed with loess and chernozem, then the conditions are ripe for making vibrant (mainly white) wines with tongue tingling, almost electric acidity and fresh aromas. It comes as no surprise that the Etyek-Buda region has a strong sparkling wine tradition. Törley makes a huge amount of sparkling wine from Etyek-Buda, while smaller producers are gradually adding sparklers to their range, some of which are made in the traditional method.
When it comes to the still stuff, Etyek has long been associated with Sauvignon Blanc, even though Chardonnay appears to be beginning to eclipse its fellow French varietal as the flagship grape with some taut and focussed expressions of the French grape. Nevertheless, it would be great to see more of the Austrian Grüner Veltliner grape (Zöldveltelini in Hungarian), not only because it can almost be considered local but also due to the varietally pure citrusy and peppery notes, as well as the balance between freshness and intensity that can come through here. In the red corner, it is Pinot Noir that thrives in Etyek’s terroir and Etyeki Kúria’s is one of the best, if not the best examples of the grape in Hungary.
Swabian German settlers started winemaking in Etyek, or Edeck to give it its Germanic name which still is still signposted next to its Hungarian equivalent as you enter the town, but the German population was expelled in the wake of World War II. Their legacy is still there to see with some fine old presses dotted around, and old stone cellar rows such as Kecskegödör and the circular Körpince.
Etyek will be one of the excursions of the that will be part of the 10th International Wine Tourism Conference (IWINETC), which will be held April 10-11 in Budapest.
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), Winesofa.eu, 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.