I am a wine lover. Actually, once open a time I wrote a novel about wines and honestly, I never had tasted a Villány wine before. That could sound contradictory but it’s not. As a Spanish guy I never heart about Villány before being personally engaged to Hungary. Indeed, besides Budapest, Hungary (Magyarország for Hungarians) is sadly a very unknown territory for Spanish people, even though it’s a member of the European Union and despite of the education level those people reached.
It’s very popular and trendy nowadays to spend a weekend in Budapest and therefore there are several low-cost flights connecting the most important cities in Spain with Budapest and even with Debrecen. But besides the Hungarian capital, the rest of the country is a blank page in our collective knowledge. Better like this, so we could enjoy even more discovering, wherever we came from, the regions of a surprising, accessible, easy-going, still cheap (why not to say that), friendly in many ways and every season beautiful country.
We arrived to Villány from Keszthely, in the western extreme of Lake Balaton. It was almost three hours driving and before arriving was worth to make and stopover in Pécs, a cosy town with some cute streets with all the services and plenty of bars and restaurants to taste the local stuff. The vibe there is nice, we entered in a bookstore, I love bookstores in Hungary, to buy a couple of comics to practice my still poor Hungarian. Outside started to rain and time seemed to be stopped along the full shelves. Pécs is not a touristic place, so when we went out hunting somewhere to seat down and have a meal, we figured out we were already out of lunch’s schedule so we arrived to Villány hungry and with a nice will of tasting. Dangerous combination there.
Villány is the most southern wine region famous it’s top reds and rosés. According to its geographic location has hot summers with long sunny days, followed by a mild winter. The climate there is sub-Mediterranean climate and they produced high quality full-bodied and aromatic spicy wines.
According to archaeological researches winemaking traditions in the region can be traced back to Pannonian Roman times. Probably, they have discovered the touristic potential more recently but they have succeeded to exploit it in a friendly funny way barely available at least in the most touristic wine regions in Spain.
You could expect to find there wine cellars, wine tastings, wine museums and nice restaurants, but they have created their own concept of a wine tasting village. Villány is a real village where locals live, they have their houses and their jobs but taking a stroll along the main streets, as a welcome inexpert visitor you will have the feeling that every house is a cellar, and inside every cellar there is a bar and behind the bar a kitchen providing nice local simple food to the tables in internal beautiful courtyards, where tourist from all around Hungary and neighbour countries join to eat, laugh and taste.
The old-style cute houses, attached to each other, forming traditional looking like streets, are the stops of a path that the visitor is more than happy to do it completely looking forward to stop and get in every open door to discover what’s in. Some wineries, like Bock or Gere, have their own accommodation. And some wineries have opened their own restaurants there. We have spent the night in Gere´s Diófa Panzió and it’s really worth to have the chance of sleeping just there, in a proper cellar accommodation, especially after a long chuckling tasting evening.
Portugieser is the main grape variety in Villány along with the three Bordeaux traditional varieties: Cabernet Sauvignon, Cabernet Franc and Merlot but Zweigelt, Kadarka and Pinot Noir are also present. According to that visitors are able to taste and buy many different types for all budgets and preferences. Villány as a touristic hub offers also nearly spots suitable to families, couples, groups of friends, backpackers and lonely travelers like the already mentioned town of Pécs, the thermal baths in Harkány, the medieval castle in Siklós and the church in Máriagyűd, a popular place of pilgrimage accessible in three-hour drive from Budapest taking M6 highway with a rental car or catching a bus that departs from Népliget bus terminal in four hours ride from the capital.