Hungary has 22 different wine regions and two of them, Tokaj and Sopron, are World Heritage Sites. The big draw in the south is the Villány to Siklós wine route, the first to be set up in the country in 1944.
On the recommendation of the incredibly helpful Fanny at the Pecs tourist information centre, we stayed in her pretty village of Villánykövesd and cycled the short distance to Villány.
The village is one long street of low slung and single storey wine cellars, backed onto by large wineries with the vineyards stretching up along the hillsides. We cycled in the hot late afternoon sun amongst the vines and commented on their varying standards of care, some being very untrained and unkempt-looking. Small whitewashed buildings, all locked up, but with electricity installed dotted the way.
With appetites whetted we ventured into one of the few open vinoteks in the village for a tasting. It was a charming wooden bar with equally charming owner Olivia, who showed us down into the chilly narrow cellar where the temperature was a cool 13 degrees. Here we discovered the Hungarian way of wine tasting is not the same as the French.
Instead of a small sampling of each variety, you are expected to purchase a full glass! We gambled on a Cabernet Blanc and Olazriesling, both of which were fragrant, light and refreshing after the 32 degrees heat outside.
Mindful of the cycle back we kept to the one glass but would have struggled to find another as the village seemed closed to business.
Instead we pedalled back to Villánykövesd which although far prettier that Villány, sees fewer visitors as it is not strictly on the wine route. It is unique in that it has three tiers of wine cellars sitting above each other on a split-level terrace that zig-zags along a lane above a small stream.
Like Villány, the vinoteks were largely shut but at the very top of town, we found ‘Blum’ with its suitably blue and white coloured livery and tables and chairs open on the terrace with gorgeous valley views. Again, we were expected to order a tasting by the glass so plumped for a Cabernet Franc and a Merlot which were both full, round and peppery.
Nearby, a table of two couples tucked into three large jugs of white, rose and red wine together with roasted meats, potatoes and red cabbage. It was quite a feast! Fanny told us we must try the interesting local snack of fresh white bread smothered in a garlicky butter, perhaps dripping, and topped with slices of red onion. It was very salty and very small, which was probably a good thing! Being a Friday evening we were surprised at how quiet the village was, but it gave us a peaceful night.
In the morning, both Villánykövesd and Villány were hives of activity, with cellars and vinoteks that we hadn’t even noticed the day before, opening up for business. Driving through we passed tour coaches from Croatia heading in so clearly the day was going to be a bustling one. We wished both villages well. Egészségedre!