Today let’s talk about something close to every Budapest Boulevardier’s heart. Bubbly! Fizz! Bottled effervescence! Or as they call it here - Peszgő. That ladies and gentlemen is the Hungarian word for ‘sparkling’, as in bubbly, as in sparkling wine. Those two little dashes on top of the Ő give it an accent. A long Hungarian umlaut (double acute) accent to be precise, but let’s not get too technical. All you need to know is that it’s pronounced peshgoow. Hungary has been making peszgő (sparkling wines) since the 1820s. It seems logical after centuries of making Tokaj, a golden wine of a slightly different character, but also a wine that seems to go naturally with any kind of celebration.
During the dreary soviet days Pezsgő production trailed off, but it has come back with a vengeance in the last 20 years. Bravo! Or should I say, Bravő! Hungarian Charmat method wines, mostly using Chardonnay, Pinot noir and Riesling grapes dominate the scene. Most Pezsgő is produced nowadays in the Budai Mountains near Budapest. New Methode wines are emerging, as is the more frequent use of more native grapes, such as Olaszrizling. Of course, there are Hungarian sparkling wines and Hungarian sparkling wines. Here are my top three picks to ring in the New Year in Hungarian sparkly style:
- Louis François & Co. Brut Nature This methode traditionelle from the Törley family, who have been supplying noble and royal households for many a decade, is characterised by its subtle aroma, fine bouquet and zesty flavour.
- Chateau Vincent Tokaji Hárslevelű extra dry An almost ethereal sparkling wine with a fruity aroma suggestive of apple and quince, and a long and pleasant after taste
- Last, but definitely not least, is the popular and most widely available of the sparklers, Hungária Extra Dry, also from the Törley family. This extra dry sparkling wine is made employing the so-called Méthode Traditionelle, where the wines both ferment and mature in the same bottles. In this the grapes are 100% Chardonnay, guaranteeing that every note is upbeat.
Taste these three bubblies and it could be the beginning of a beautiful friendship. Not only that, but you can enjoy being ahead of the curve. That’s because after too long in the shadows, Hungarian wines are just beginning to again enjoy their rightful place in the sun. Egészségedre (Eggy-shegah-dre) Cheers!
Scott Alexander Young is a Writer and Character Actor living in Budapest. His children's book The Wild Cats of Piran (Chronicle One) is available on Amazon.