From its early, pre-Soviet invasion history, Hungary has been producing world class, highly individual wines, often from native grape varieties. Under the grim Soviet period, when monolithic state-run wineries and vineyards were the norm, almost all quality control or individualism was flung out of the window. Now, in the 21st century, Hungary has emerged as a world class source of top wines again, with many younger winemakers emerging to take over estates and devlop Hungary's wine industry using investment and a bid for export sales. Hungary has many, many regions synonymous with wine, over 24 in total, with a cluster around Lake Balaton, one of Europes largest inland lakes, whose cool waters and microclimate temper the heat of the continental summers in the surrounding vineyards.
Hungary is known, first and foremost, for the sweet and long-lived Tokay wine, made from the local Furmint, Harslevu and Muscat Ottonel grapes grown in the North East of the country near the Ukraine border. Famed for its association with the Tsars of Russia and its propensity to age due to incredibly high sugar and acid concentrations, Tokay is arguably one of the Worlds greatest dessert wines, espcially at the 5 Puttonyos or above level (a Puttonyo was the 'bucket' used to dry the botrytised grapes in following the harvest, the resultant sugar rich 'ooze' called Essencia, was then added to vats of fermenting wine). Other notable wines are made across all other regions, with Furmint being the most notable of the whites, making dry, slightly flinty wines that display a remarkable freshness. Red wines are made throughout Hungary, with the local Kekfrankos grape being most notable, supported by Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot and Pinot Noir.