2021 November 10. / Ádám Geri

Budafok: Budapest's vineyard is really like nothing else around the world

A working wine district a few stops from the city centre, which you can visit on a weekday afternoon. Thanks to Budafok, Budapest has an attraction the likes of which very few world capitals can claim. There are young winemakers taking grassroots initiatives and a sparkling wine manufactory with a long tradition. The municipality is increasingly exploiting this potential.

In Budafok, in Budapest’s 22nd district, grapes are harvested every year from 4 hectares. The fruit is processed locally and used to make commercially available wine. Vienna is the only other European capital that has official viticulture and winemaking within its administrative borders.

A living wine district a few stops from the centre of Budapest

 

The 4 hectares of vines and the processing facility are part of the educational farm of the Soós István Secondary School of Viticulture and Food Industry. However, there are several other wineries in the city district that belong to the Etyek-Buda Wine District. This is not surprising as the Romans planted grapes here due to the favourable location and the area’s central position. To extract building materials, they dug the first cellars of the cellar system, which now totals 100 kilometres. The long golden age came to a close at the end of the 19th century with phylloxera destroying grapes. But due to the proximity of the existing cellars and Budapest (only added administratively in 1950), Budafok continued to be home to many wine businesses in some form.

Entrance of the Soós István Secondary School of Viticulture and Food Industry, known simply as "Soós" in winemaking circles

 

It is definitely worth starting with the biggest player historically, the sparkling wine cellar founded by József Törley in 1882. This is especially true because it is the first wine stop in the district coming from the centre of Budapest. Take the public transport services as far as Savoyai Jenő tér. The Törley Collection and Visitor Centre is a few minutes' walk from the stops, where you can roam around almost two centuries of history in Hungarian sparkling wine production in about an hour and a half. In the maturing cellar you can check out the champagnes that are produced today.

The imposing Törley Collection and Visitor Centre

 

Did you know? The largest wooden barrel in the Carpathian Basin, which was "built" in 1974, is located in Budafok, in the St. Stephen's Crown Cellar owned by Törley. The huge barrel holds 1,022 hectolitres (equivalent to 136,000 standard bottles), has a maximum diameter of 5.8 metres and a length of 6.1 metres. The 18-square-metre surface of the front part is decorated with the work of the Kossuth Prize-winning carver István Szabó. The cellar and the barrel can only be viewed on very special occasions.

Continuing south from Savoyai Jenő tér, you can find a whole row of cellars on Kossuth Lajos utca and then on Nagytétényi út. The vast majority of the cellars were excavated as part of limestone mining. They were then taken over by Budafok winemakers in the golden age. They now serve a different purpose, and only a few have retained their original function (Lics Winery, Záborszky Cellar), but these are well worth visiting. The line continues on the hill with the processing facility of the Garamvári Vineyard, the Várszegi Winery, the Katona Wine House, and with the already mentioned educational farm at the top. An odd-one-out is the modern sparkling wine manufactory of the Sauska Winery – which was established here in 2020 but has an old cellar – because it does not yet receive visitors. However, you can visit the other cellars, especially the newer ones: the Katona Wine House and the Várszegi Cellar organise tasting sessions and other colourful events almost every week.

Sparkling wine is still matured in the cellar system under Budafok

 

If you want to be absolutely sure, it’s a good idea to explore Budafok on the first Saturday of every month. Most local winemakers join the municipally-organised Cellar Tour event series and they also run some extra activities, including a cellar walk, a concert and a dinner. Visitors are taken from Városház tér to the hosts by free shuttle buses with room for 6-8 people. Anyone who misses the bus or wants to get some fresh air between two stops should walk the path on foot as the whole circle covers less than a few kilometres.

The most significant and by far the most famous wine event in the district is the Budafok Sparkling Wine and Wine Festival, which takes place on the first weekend of September. An interesting feature of this is that while you can still visit the cellars as normal, they all set up stands in the centre, on Savoyai Jenő tér, as well. In addition to the locals, invited guest winemakers and vendors set up stalls here offering food (as well as along Kossuth Lajos utca). The crowds meandering through the streets and courtyards (with live music in the background in several places) are reminiscent of the times when hundreds of hectares of vineyards were still cultivated in the area and the whole of Budafok was alive with singing during the harvest festival.

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