19 May 2024 / Borbála Kalmár / Translated by Vera Szűcs-Balás Copy actual URL Facebook share Twitter share

Board games, wine tours, a cellar maze: everything can happen in Budafok

"Do people today know the cellars and restaurants that will be renowned a hundred years from now? This is the question posed by the team behind Budafok Pincejárat, who are dedicated to showcasing the treasures of Budafok, Budapest’s wine district. They aim to present these gems to the public thoroughly while honoring the area's rich historical heritage."

In one of the most memorable scenes in Hungarian film history, Zoltán Latinovits dines on meat soup and marrow masterfully carved from a marrow bone in the film Sinbad. Of course, it is no coincidence that these few minutes have become iconic. The book for the film adaptation was written by Gyula Krúdy, who was known for his love of food. He recorded his culinary experiences in numerous writings, one of which describes the Kutyavilla restaurant in Budafok, which the writer visited during a period of romantic sorrow.

At the restaurant, a hundred years ago, he immediately found two good friends: Sándor Fenyő, the editor of Magyar Hírlap at the time, and the writer Sándor Bródy, who not only enjoyed good food but also liked to preach about wine. This unplanned encounter was likely a life-changing experience for these friends, culminating in a return to the capital on a horse-drawn carriage after a swim in the Danube. Idyllic, isn't it? Thanks to the bustling life of Budafok today, something similar could happen; only with new characters and modern transport.

 

Picnic in the courtyard of Törley Sparkling Wine Manufactory

 

The past living with us

 

Budafok, known as Promontor until 1886, has always played a significant role in the history of Hungarian viticulture and wine culture. According to a treaty dated 1712, German settlers began cultivating grapes in what is now known as Rózsavölgy (Rose Valley) in this district of the capital. They primarily planted blue grapes, mostly Kadarka.

During this time, the landscape was also being transformed: thanks to intensive mining work, the extensive system of cellars beneath Budafok took shape over many decades. Its exact length can only be estimated; the cellars wind for 80-120 km, mostly beneath family houses. We recently visited a section of these cellars, which is home to the Sauska Winery’s Budapest unit, among others. It was here in Budafok that Ignác Darányi founded the country's first School of Winemaking in 1901 (today István Soós Winemaking Technical School). Although many institutions now offer similar education, this school remains a landmark in Hungarian wine education. By this time, the Törley Sparkling Wine Manufactory, founded in 1882, was already established.

 

Adam Hanusz (Sauska) is happy to introduce visitors to the secrets of making sparkling wine 

 

In 1948, the development of wine culture in Budafok was interrupted by nationalization, but by the 1980s, it was one of the first to revive. In fact, in 1987, it was awarded the title of "City of Grapes and Wine," a distinction bestowed upon this district of the capital in Italy. In the early nineties, Vencel Garamvári founded his sparkling wine winery here, and soon after, more young winemakers, such as Katona Borház (Katona Wine House) and Várszegi Winery, established their wineries above the cellar maze.

The iconic buildings and timeless excellence of the once independent city are brought to life in the Bornegyed Anno board game, which is available for purchase in the district. So, it's worth taking any public transport to South Buda just for that, but the district offers much more than this alone.

 

The Katona Wine House is not only at home on Lake Balaton, their cellar in Budafok can also be visited

 

Sparkling life in Budafok

 

The capital's wine district is easily accessible by bus, tram, or even bicycle. If you visit on the first Saturday of the month, you can hop on one of the Budafok Cellar Shuttle buses, which circulate between the district's main wine, gastronomic, and historical sites.

The weekend experience goes beyond just transportation: on these days, the capital's wine district becomes a lively meeting place. The aforementioned wineries, among others, open their doors to the public and offer a colorful program of gastronomic delights, live music, and cellar tours. In good company and with fine wines, you can explore the historic cellar labyrinth, sip a glass of Törley's 150-year-old legacy, and taste Sauska's innovative creations.

You'll meet young and talented winemakers like Zsófi Katona and Viktor Várszegi, who, despite his youth, has built his winery with incredible diligence and self-reliance. Enjoy the impressive red wines of Szeleshát, one of the most renowned Szekszárd wineries, or even discover new wineries.

 

Viktor Várszegi used to learn the basics of winemaking at the Soós school, now he has his own cellar a few streets away

 

The Budafok Cellar Tour is not only a way to explore the present but also a chance to experience the past. You can visit the cave dwellings of the Bornegyed (Wine District), marvel at the beautiful buildings on historic Péter Pál Street, and learn about the district's rich cultural heritage. The tour also includes a visit to the first cellar school, the István Soós Winemaking Technical School, where many outstanding Hungarian winemakers, including Viktor Várszegi and Péter Vida Jr., have worked.

There are so many opportunities just a stone's throw away from downtown Budapest, and you don't even have to worry about who will take on the role of driver. Who knows, maybe after one of these visits, we'll discover a new favorite spot and even find the Kutyavilla restaurant of today, a place that will still be talked about a hundred years from now.

 

Cave House Memorial Museum

 

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