The highlight of a Villány trip is the winery visits: You get to meet passionate winemakers and taste excellent wines. I included below a list and a short profile of some of my favorites. The list reflects my own impressions based on visits and tastings, and also those of respected Hungarian sommeliers whose expertise I sought out. Naturally, it's subjective and in some cases incomplete (for example, if logistics prevented me from visiting a winery, that place wouldn't be included).
You'll find both sizable, corporate-owned wineries and small operations, but I’m partial to family wineries that convey a special sense of place. Finally, note that only wineries that accept visitors are featured.
A few things to keep in mind
Try booking a tasting as far in advance as possible since not all wineries are open or accept visitors all throughout the year.
If you’re at least somewhat knowledgeable about wines and curious to learn more, gently convey in your email that you’d love the head winemaker to lead the tasting (with family wineries this is often the default case).
A tasting costs around €10-15 per person. Hungarian visitors often end up buying several bottles afterward. For foreigners, logistics can complicate things, so consider leaving a generous tip if you don’t purchase any wine.
Tastings usually go for an hour, but they can last much longer than that. It’s prudent not to schedule more than two, maximum three, winery visits per day.
If you’re driving, or simply don’t feel like getting loaded at midday, use the spittoons provided. By smelling and swooshing the wine around your mouth, you’ll still be able to get a sense even without swallowing it.
Not all winemakers speak flawless English but most of them are conversational.
It can be pretty cold in the wine cellars even in the summer months, so be sure to bring a sweater with you.
Ipacs-Szabó Birtok (location; 1.8 hectares / 4.5 acres; [email protected]; +36 30 219 0291): For twenty years, István Ipacs Szabó was the head winemaker of Vylyan, one of the biggest in the region. In 2021, he decided to dedicate his full attention to his own small winery, which he’s been building for years. His vineyards spread across a south-facing plot near Siklós with stunning views. Here, Ipacs-Szabó himself takes care of everything: planting, cultivating, harvesting, winemaking. He grows only two grapes, cabernet franc, which he believes has found a true home in Villány, and the native kékfrankos (blaufränkisch). Some of the top Villány wines come out of his winery and he’s a treasure trove of information about the region.
Wassmann (location; 1.5 hectares / 3.7 acres; [email protected]): In 1997, winemaker Ralf Wassmann and his wife Susann Hanauer set out from Germany to follow their passion and make their own wines. Within less than a year, they owned a 0.1 hectare mini plot in Siklós and a dilapidated old building in the nearby village of Pécsdevecser, which has been their home ever since. They’re the first winemakers in Villány (and the second in all of Hungary) with a biodynamic certification and best known for their cabernet franc and kékfrankos (blaufränkisch), which are sold in top restaurants across the country. A wine tasting in the Wassmann’s backyard, in a 100-resident village, can feel like a travel back in time.
Malatinszky (location; 30 hectares / 75 acres; [email protected]; +36 72 493 042): As the sommelier of George Lang-era Gundel restaurant in post-communist Hungary, Csaba Malatinszky held, without a doubt, the most prestigious job within the field. Soon after, he struck out on his own, building a pristine winery in Villány and launching a Budapest-based wine retailer. Malatinszky targets the highest segment: his cabernet franc-forward wines command high prices and much of them end up abroad. In 2019, he opened a striking wine bar in a Villány side street, Maghari, stacked with his own bottles.
Bakonyi Péter (location; 5 hectares / 12 acres; [email protected]; +36 20 589 1770): Péter Bakonyi, a member of the next generation of Villány winemakers, is deeply knowledgeable about all things viticulture (try asking him about vine rootstocks or his customized vineyard tiller). Apart from cabernet franc, he grows grapes that are unusual in Villány, believing for example that hárslevelű, a native to Tokaj, and kékfrankos (blaufränkisch) make beautiful wines here. Bakonyi’s wines tend to be fruity and vibrant and with a lower alcohol and a less prominent use of oak barrels than is common in Villány.
Sauska (location; 100 hectares / 250 acres; [email protected]; +36 30 220 1339): With half a million bottles of annual production, Sauska is one of the major players in Villány. Hungarian-American owner, Krisztián Sauska, who was born near Villány, has built a state-of-the-art winery and a swanky restaurant (Sauska 48), employing a total of 80 people. Júlia Futó is in charge of the wines, which range from charming rosés to the notorious top-of-the-line blends made from cabernet sauvignon, cabernet franc, and merlot (they’re denoted by prime numbers, going from 13 to 5). Sauska isn’t cheap, but a meal or a wine tasting here is worth adding to the itinerary for a memorable Villány trip.
Tiffán’s (location; 20 hectares / 50 acres; [email protected]; +36 72 592 000): Zsolt Tiffán, who studied oenology in France and Germany, is the 11th generation in the Tiffán family to make wine. His grandfather, Ede Tiffán, was the first Winemaker of the Year in 1991 and a key figure in establishing the reputation of Villány in post-communist Hungary. Tiffan’s assortment falls into two categories: there are rosés and other fresh wines sold to supermarkets on the one hand, and long-aged, beautifully big reds on the other. The latter includes Carissimae, harvested fully from the revered Kopár vineyard. In good weather, their wine tastings take place on a snug outdoor terrace with the sweeping vineyards as the backdrop.
Vylyan (location; 120 hectares / 300 acres; [email protected]; +36 72 579 705): One of the major Villány wineries, Vylyan is best known for the views from its secluded winery building by Fekete-hill and its huge assortment of wines. Some of their wallet-friendly bottles are stacked on supermarket shelves across Hungary, while others — Mandolás, Duennium, Pillangó — belong to the best of the region.
My content is free and I never accept money in exchange for coverage. But this also means I have to rely on readers to maintain and grow the website. If you're enjoying this article, please consider supporting Offbeat.