Story originally published on the Getting Hungary Tumblr blog in July, 2017
After working up an appetite spending the afternoon at the Széchenyi Thermal Baths following the Beer Spa, I was invited by my friend Gabor Banfalvi to a wine tasting and dinner at his company’s establishment, the Tasting Table. He and his American wife, Carolyn, whom I met at her book signing in New York for Food & Wine Budapest, own a company called Taste Hungary. It started out as a tour company when someone asked them for help in arranging a simple tour of a food-related location, and they soon grew their business into a number of food and wine tours, high-end tours (like spa and winery tours), and custom tours, which I worked on with them in 2014. (I brought a group of Agricultural Business students to Hungary to learn about the agriculture, viticulture and culinary businesses and policies).
Taste Hungary opened their Tasting Table location behind the National Museum (on Brody Sandor utca) where they offer biweekly Thursday night wine tasting dinners, and sell wines, gift paprika, books on wine and food in Hungary, and offer wine tastings to guests on their food tours at the culmination of the day. The room is in a lower-level room with vaulted brick ceilings reminiscent of a wine cellar, and the windows are close to the ceiling at sidewalk level. Simple, clean wooden tables and chairs fill the room with the modern kitchen and pouring table at the front of the room near the entrance.
The dinner this week featured wines from the Csopak region on the northern shore of Lake Balaton. It is a region of small family run wineries, mostly, and their special varietals are Olaszrizling (which translates to Italian riesling, but is actually Welsh Reisling varietal), Furmint (a dry wine made with the same grapes used in world-renown Tokaji dessert wines)–both of which are white wines–and Kékfrankos, the most widespread red wine in the area, which is also produced in neighboring Austria as Blau Frankisch. We learned about the terroir of the region and the difference between Csopaki and Tokaji Furmints. We got to taste the wines and enjoy them with peach soup, trout with mushrooms and spinach, and a summer fruit clafouty dessert. I shared my table with U.S. Embassy staffers–one couple outgoing and one incoming. Each week is a different theme, and the meals are designed around the wines, being cooked as the guests are arriving.
Taste Hungary will open a retail wine shop across the street from their Tasting Table location, and Gabor is investigating possibilities for opening another retail shop in Washington, D.C. With the international community, embassies, and visitors to that area, a Hungarian wine shop would be most likely to succeed, as they probably know more about these varietals than most Americans, who are not as knowledgeable or interested in Hungarian wines yet.
If in Budapest, for an introduction to and lesson on quality wines from the country’s 22 regions (and craft beers), as well as a small but interesting selection of wines and food products to buy, check out the Tasting Room, in walking distance to the Astoria station on the M2 Metro line. http://tastingtablebudapest.com/