04 January 2024 / Ádám Geri / Photos: Bulcsú Böröczky Copy actual URL Facebook share Twitter share

Hungarian wine bottle guide: can you tell the quality of a wine by the shape of the bottle?

What does the Egri Bikavér bottle look like? What kind of wine can end up in the Szekszárd bottle? Why is the Aszú bottle half a litre? These are some of the questions answered in the winesofhungary.hu’s brief “bottle guide”.

The distinctive Tokaji Aszú bottle can be identified by many wine lovers. However, it’s less well known that in recent years, many other wine regions have created their own, specially designed wine bottles. This has been done both for quality assurance purposes and to express the uniqueness of their wine regions. We have listed the bespoke Hungarian wine bottles currently on the market.

Tokaj sweet wine bottle (0.5 litre)

The half-litre Tokaj bottle, which may only hold Tokaji Szamorodni, Aszú and Eszencia is now very strictly regulated. “A straight cylindrical-bodied, long-necked, colourless glass bottle with the following dimensions. Cylindrical section height/total height: 1:2.7; total height/base diameter: 3.6:1. The bottle may be stamped with a seal of its own material, which may include the name Tokaj/Tokaji, the brand name of the wine producer, the company logo or other information,” states the Tokaj product description. This wasn’t always the case, for a long time, you could bottle Tokaji Aszú in any colour and shape of bottle (sometimes even in a medicine bottle). The volume and shape were consolidated at the end of the 19th century. There were probably two reasons why the half-litre bottle became the best-selling bottle. Firstly, Tokaj wine was already expensive at that time. In addition, preservation methods were rudimentary, so it was advisable to consume the wine immediately after opening, which was more likely to happen with the half-litre bottle. The bottle even changed in the 20th century, although less so regarding the distinctive cylindrical body and long neck. The once obligatory “Tokaj” inscription (and the accompanying noble coat of arms identifying the producer, etc), embossed on the bottle, is now optional due to the emergence of wine labels.


Tokaj dry wine bottle (0.75 litre)

In the 2000s, graphic designer Géza Ipacs came up with the idea of creating a dry wine bottle, the standard 0.75-litre big brother of the classic half-litre Tokaj bottle. “I decided to put aside all my creative vanity and simply enlarge the Tokaj sweet wine bottle. I was the most surprised by the result, as it was not a mutation, rather a bottle shape with its own unmistakable personality,” the creator of the idea said later. However, as the original design is protected, its complete identity could not be transferred: therefore, for example, a colourless bottle was out of the question. The 0.75-litre Tokaj bottle made its debut in 2012 and is now increasingly used in the wine region for dry wines.


Szekszárd bottle (0.75 litre)

In 2015, after three years of preparatory work, the first wines were bottled in the Szekszárd bottle, specially designed for the wine region. The initiative originated from the Szekszárd Winegrowers’ Guild, an association of Szekszárd winemakers producing quality bottled wines, and was implemented in cooperation with the Orosházi Glass Factory. “It plays a serious role in the appearance and image of the wine region, because consumers can see that something has happened once again in Szekszárd, that there is cooperation,” said Szekszárd winemaker Zoltán Heimann Sr shortly after its presentation. The design is based on the Burgundy bottle, a standard bottle for red wines, but the result is longer and more extravagant than the standard bottle, and the Szekszárd inscription makes it clear that this is the region’s own. Only varieties and types of wine that play an important role in the wine region can use it. This means Kadarka, Kékfrankos and Bikavér wines that have been approved by a committee of twelve local winemakers. The basic requirement for these wines that need to pass a blind tasting panel is that they must be faultless, represent the varietal character or wine style and reflect the character of the wine region and the local terroir.


Egri Bikavér bottle (0.75 litre)

The best-known wine of the Eger wine region, Egri Bikavér, got its own bottle in 2021. A shape that was used in the 1930s but has since been forgotten was reimagined to meet modern-day requirements. The bottle bears the inscription “1552 Eger”, which commemorates one of the most important events in the city’s history, the siege successfully repulsed by István Dobó and the castle defenders. Wines that have been classified in the wine region’s two highest categories, i.e. Superior and Grand Superior, are automatically entitled to use the Egri Bikavér bottle. Classicus wines must also pass an independent tasting to be granted permission.


Who benefits from this?

“It’s rare for somebody to be looking specifically for a wine in the Szekszárd bottle for example or that one of the special Hungarian bottles catches their eye. The reverse is more common, i.e. that we also help the buyer. For example, we can say that this guarantees a certain level of quality, as the wine region strictly regulates what can go into a bottle. In my experience, this has a positive effect on the customer’s decision,” a representative of Bortársaság, one of Hungary’s leading wine merchants, told winesofhungary.com.

Be that as it may, this is clearly the direction the wine world is going in. Wine merchants and supermarkets have an amazing selection of wines to choose from. If you don’t have clear ideas, your first impression is shaped by the bottle and the label. It makes sense that all wineries and wine regions are trying to stand out at this point. Tokaj, Szekszárd and Eger have already made their move and other wine regions are likely to follow suit.



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