Unlike beer, wine has been essential all throughout Hungary's history with almost all parts of the country producing its own. Best-known is Tokaj, once a favorite of emperors and presidents, but there are a total of 22 wine regions across Hungary today. You can try a wide range of local options at the wine bars below, both whites and reds, and traditional and natural wines. Keep a special eye out for those made from native Hungarian grapes such as furmint, hárslevelű, and juhfark (white), and kékfrankos and kadarka (red).
It took a while for Hungary to hop on the natural wine train, but this global trend is now charging full steam ahead, especially among younger winemakers and consumers. The definition is hazy, but natural wines refer to wines made with little intervention, for example without selected yeasts and with only a minimal amount of sulfites. Marlou, a pioneer of the genre in Budapest, has an excellent selection of Hungarian labels, some from the famous Tokaj region, as well as French wines (the owner, Jean-Julien Ricard, is French).
The hip, high-ceilinged space hides behind the Budapest Opera – more than a century ago, this side street was known for its high-traffic brothels – and features bare bricks, neon lights, and a wall blanketed in wines. The daily selections include everything from orange to natural to sparkling wines and there’s a slim food menu with nibbles. My only issue is the price points, which at €6-10 per glass render these wines inaccessible to many.