Author: dr. Gabriella Mészáros, Dániel Ercsey Photo: Árpád Pintér
Viticulture flourished in the Buda region for centuries; indeed, the red wines of this region were already renowned under the Árpád dynasty. Later, in the time of the Anjous and King Matthias, they gained even greater fame. The town of Etyek, which gives its name to the wine district, also attracted attention thanks to other endowments. The area was known as Buda’s vineyard, indeed even Hungarian Champagne. The latter name stuck after József Törley realised the potential of the area’s vineyards and their suitability for making sparkling wine. By 1899, it had become the Austro-Hungarian Monarchy’s largest supplier of sparkling wine, producing one million bottles a year.
Serbians arrived in the area, followed by a new wave of German settlers. Between 1720 and 1770, Germans families settled in Etyek, whose German name is Edecken, with agriculture then flourishing thanks to their hard work, and the proximity of the Danube solving any issues with transport. Records from 1736-41 listed 572 vineyard owners in Promontor (current-day Budafok), of which 309 had a German-sounding name, while 192 were Serbian and only 50 were Hungarian. These new settlers also brought new tastes; unlike their predecessors, they preferred white wine. During the 19th century, the citizens of Pest bought increasing numbers of vineyards and built hundreds of stone cellars in the countryside. A significant proportion of them are still in use today. At the time of the 1930 census, Etyek had 3,133 German and only 865 Hungarian-speaking residents. This ratio has changed drastically as a result of post-World War II evictions and re-settlements. The Körpince cellar complex, the Kecske-gödör, the Sóskúti cellar row and the press houses in the Etyek wine district are of significant historic interest. All three sites can be explored on foot.
The Serbians, Germans and Törley all left their mark on the wine district, while in the last few decades, reductive winemaking technology has given another impetus to the development of the wine district.
Geographically, the Etyek wine district stretches from the southern part of the Gerecse Hills to the Velence and Buda Hills. The wine district is basically divided into three major subdistricts: the Etyek area, which stretches from Csabdi through Bicske, Etyek and Vál to Martonvásár; the area from Pázmánd to Pákozd on the southern slopes of the Velence Hills; and the area between Tök and Budakeszi on the southwestern side of the Buda Hills.
The current vineyard area of 1,652 hectares is only about 30% of the wine district’s possible total production area. The wine district belongs administratively to three counties, Komárom, Pest and Fejér. Its area includes the 1st and 2nd class vineyards as per the vineyard cadastre of: a) Bicske, Csabdi, Etyek, Kajászó, Nadap, Pákozd, Pázmánd, Sukoró and Vál in the Etyek subdistrict; b) Budajenő, Budakeszi, Pilisborosjenő, Telki, Tök and Üröm in the Buda subdistrict.
The soil-forming rocks in the Etyek Hills are mainly loess and loess-like Quaternary sediments as well as sand, limestone, sandstone and, less commonly, dolomite. The wine district’s characteristic loam soil has developed on these young sandy slopes. Its high active lime content gives rise to the wine district’s characteristic so-called “calcareous wines”. Loess mixed with granite debris is common in the Velence Hills. The Buda zone is characterised by sand, loess-based chernozem over sandstone, chernozem over limestone and dolomite and alkaline brown forest soil, sometimes with significant active lime content.
The average annual temperature of 9.5-10.5°C is slightly below the national average. Whereas its annual precipitation of 400-800 mm is close to the national average. The wine district is blessed with frequent breezes, thus providing optimal growing conditions, with little risk of fungal damage and rare significant frost damage.
The Etyek-Buda wine district is primarily a white wine producing region. The largest area is planted to Chardonnay and Irsai Olivér, but Pinot Gris (Szürkebarát), Sauvignon Blanc, Olaszrizling, Zöldveltelini, Müller-Thurgau (Rizlingszilváni in Hungarian) and Riesling (Rajnai Rizling) are also produced in significant quantities. Although large quantities of black grapes have never been typical to the region, Pinot Noir is no longer produced only for sparkling base wine, and there is 117 hectares of it in total.
The wine district’s traditional varieties were Piros Szlankamenka, Mézesfehér, Ezerjó, Szerémi Zöld and Kövidinka. Etyek’s “oldest” grape variety is Schlamper, which is of German origin. However, this was not really suitable for making quality wines.
The soils of the Etyek-Buda wine district are not particularly conducive to the development of distinctive, very characterful wines; however, they result in particularly diverse and appealing acidity in the wines. Perhaps this is also why some of the best sparkling base wines are harvested around Etyek. The Etyek wine style is a faithful follower of the fashion for elegant, medium-bodied, dry, reductive wines.
The former reputation of the Velence wine region will perhaps be revived by recent bottlings in Pázmánd. Nadap red wines, which were famed far and wide in the 16th century, came from this region, whose terroir is also excellent for making sparkling base wine. Pinot Noir is one black grape that seems to thrive in the region, with the last four or five vintages producing some particularly convincing wines. Some of the best, most approachable and elegant Pinot Noirs in the whole of Hungary can be found here. A few years ago, some producers determined the style and identity they’d like the wine district to be associated with. This is based on the triad of Chardonnay, Sauvignon Blanc and Pinot Noir, with great quality being realised in both dry still wines and sparkling wines.