02 February 2024 / Dániel Ercsey / Translated by Sue Tolson DipWSET Copy actual URL Facebook share Twitter share

What wine should we drink on the ski slopes?

Firstly, where should we go skiing in Hungary? For example, I learned to ski in Dobogókő when I was four years old, but the ski lifts have rarely been operational there for years, largely due to the snow conditions in Hungary…

I know that most people prefer Austria when it comes to skiing, the Slovakian ski resorts that were so popular in the eighties are not really the same, while slopes in Transylvania are the favourite of hard-up university students. Although, the French Alps and Italian Dolomites are no longer out of reach either. However, I think it’s a pity to spend five hours in the car at the weekend when there’s snow here in Hungary, and if you’re going to ski here, then you should drink local wine where you are staying, right? We’ve put together six Hungarian ski resorts and their local wines, so that you don’t need to use a search engine… 

Photo: Ski Arena Vibe Park (https://siarena.hu/)

 

Pécs

 

Did you know that there is also a ski slope in Pécs? They have one of the oldest lifts in the country (a drag lift, only usable after training, otherwise it’s dangerous), no snow grooming machines and no snow guns, so it’s a bit extreme. However, if there is 50 cm of fresh snow, an intermediate skier can ski the north side of the Misina, and it’s perfectly enjoyable. Luckily for us, there are vineyards and wine in several places on the southern side of the Mecsek Hills, so you don’t need to worry about going thirsty after your sporting activities. The closest is clearly the city’s university winery, the Research Institute for Viticulture and Oenology of the University of Pécs, but there are also wineries in Hásságy, Helesfa and Hosszúhetény. And if you really want to taste the Pécs Wine District, you shouldn’t miss trying the Cirfandli grape variety, which can only be found here and in Gumpoldskirchen in Austria. It is used to make crisp white wine with elegant acidity, and in good years, it also makes excellent sweet wine, so if you come across the sweet version (late harvest), it is definitely worth trying.

Photo: Pécs ski slope (https://www.facebook.com/pecsi.sipalya)

 

Sátoraljaújhely

 

The Zemplén Adventure Park does not only consist of a zip wire, suspension bridge, chair lift and summer bobsleigh, it also boasts a ski slope. The hill which Rabbi Teitelbaum used to go up to see if the Messiah was coming, awaits you, as does the nearby Museum of the Hungarian Language, or even neighbouring Slovakia, which you can easily see across to even with the naked eye. As far as wine is concerned, we are at the north-eastern gateway to the Tokaj Wine Region, so although it’s not as good as the ski slopes actually being in Mád, it’s not a lost cause. There are a few cellars in the town, but the cellars of Sárospatak, Megyer Hill and Hercegkút are not far away either. The region’s emblematic grape variety is Furmint, its spice is Hárslevelű, but you also can’t go wrong with a light, off-dry Sárgamuskotály (Muscat). And if there’s a fire crackling in the fireplace, Tokaji Aszú makes the perfect accompaniment to winter evenings!

Photo: Zemplén Adventure Park (www.zemplenkalandpark.hu)

 

Bánkút

 

Long considered the zenith of skiing in Hungary, it seems to have lost its sparkle in recent decades. I remember standing at the top of the slope many times in the late nineties, in the bright sunlight, gazing at the craggy, snowy High Tatras looming on the horizon. Miskolc is close by, in fact it’s Miskolc’s local ski resort, so when snow falls, the slopes quickly get busy. As for wine, the Avas Hill in Miskolc is bursting with life again, and there is even a winemaker who produces wine from the Miskolc area, and what wines! He is the apostle of Cserszegi Fűszeres. Looking further afield, you can find wineries in every direction in the Bükk Hills, to the north in Vadna and Edelény in the Sajó Valley, to the east in Miskolc and Nyékládháza, and in two regions to the south, Tibolddaróc, Bogács and Cserépfalu, Szomoly, Noszvaj and of course Eger. It’s a wildcard ski resort as far as wines are concerned, as you can find everything here from light whites to full-bodied reds and from fresh rosés to noble sweet wines.

Photo: Bánkút (http://www.bankut.hu/)

 

Eplény

 

Today’s national star, the Eplény slopes are almost always open, thanks to their snow cannons. The only problem is if you get stuck in Veszprém on the way there and don’t even make it to the piste, as I have already done twice. If Bánkút is a wildcard from a wine perspective, then Eplény is the centre of the white wine universe! Csopak is only 30 kilometres away, Mór is 40 and Pannonhalma no more than 45, so its ski slopes lie at the intersection of Ezerjó, Riesling and Olaszrizling. Moreover, nearby Zirc boasts a local brewery and museums, plenty of marked hiking trails and, of course, Lake Balaton in winter, which is definitely worth a trip.

Photo: Ski Arena Vibe Park (https://siarena.hu/)

 

Visegrád

 

I could also have written about Dobogókő (in Budapest), but my experience is that the lifts are hardly ever working nowadays. However, they generally are in Visegrád, where there’s the Citadel, a view of the Danube and nearby Nagymaros, so there’s plenty to do besides skiing and drinking mulled wine. But when it comes to wine, there are rather blips than sure-fire solutions, but these blips are often better than the sure-fire tips from the big wine regions. On the one hand, Szentendre is close by, where grapes are cultivated once again on Kőhegy, and wine is even made from here, on the other, the Bogdányi Dinka grape variety is being grown again in Dunabogdány. Moreover, on the Esztergom side of the Pilis Hills, you can find Kesztölc, where legend has it that a local republic was proclaimed in 1956, and there are some cellars where you can taste some really good Zöldveltelini. It’s worth using our winery directory function!

Photo: Nagyvillám Ski Slope Visegrád (www.visegradsipalya.hu

 

Mátraszentistván

 

If Eplény is the Lamborghini, then Mátraszentistván is the Bentley. Guaranteed snow and groomed slopes, with a mountain hut, numerous hiking trails and attractions in the area, this is not far from Hungary’s second highest peak. And if that weren’t enough, the southern slopes of the Mátra are home to the country’s largest mountain wine region, with magnificent terroir such as Sárhegy between Gyöngyös and Abasár or the hills between Gyöngyöstarján and Gyöngyöspata. With volcanic bedrock, plenty of sunshine and everything to please both the eye and mouth, from light whites to full-bodied reds, this is also the hotbed of the Hungarian natural wine movement, so everyone from hipsters to conservative drinkers will find the right wine for them from the Mátra.

Photo: Ski Park Mátraszentistván (www.sipark.hu)

 

It is also important to mention that skiing, just like any other sport, does not mix well with excessive alcohol consumption. We shouldn’t gloss over the fact that it can be dangerous to ski sober, let alone drunk! The pleasure of wine is in the flavours and the company, not the alcohol, so make sure you drink in moderation.

 

Title photo: Ski Park Mátraszentistván (www.sipark.hu)

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