On my first day in Budapest (Hungary), where I flew to shoot pictures in several locations in the industrial suburbs, I managed to experience a good introduction to hungarian wines : Borfalu , the "wine village", is a festive yearly event started 6 years ago by Huba Szeremley ( a vigneron in Badacsony) and a friend .
The wine village is organized like a roman army camp, with three rows of stands under open tents, large alleys between them , and a large square in its center, with a stage and a hundred or more tables and benches to enjoy both the open air barbecue food and the successive shows . Dozens of wineries from around Hungary are present and people come here for the wine , the entertainment, and for the cheerful snob-free ambiance . Hungary has 20 different wine regions , where individual estates and various organisations work to improve the quality and preserve the specificities of the different terroirs .
I arrived in Budapest in the middle of the day, a shuttle deposited me at the hostel, I took a shower and then walked to Deak Ter subway station, bought me a public transport pass and went straight to Hosok Tere (Heroes' square) where Borfalu was taking place . I had been in Hungary twice before, once on a bicycle trip across eastern Europe and last time on my motorcycle , but the language was still a barrier . Not the slightest resemblance with any of the languages I know . Happily , many young people speak english
, and I could speak german with the older generation (did not dare to try my russian here...) .
The wine tastings here are in general differently organized than in France : In France you pay an entry fee and then taste all the wines you want for free . Here you buy your ticket at the gate, receive with it a few vouchers ( 5 here ), a glass, and you will have to give several vouchers ( and buy some more inside, 50 Forints-0,22 Euro each ) for each wine you taste , going , let's say from 2 to 10 depending of the wine . Also, you are not poured just a little wine to taste , but a full glass, wich narrows somehow the number of wines you will try ( no spitting here ) . But for hungarians , wine is a feast and full glasses are a natural thing : you are here to feel well , enjoy the music, the food , and the friends . The gathering is at the same time a non-intimidating popular entertainment and a serious wine fair with many of the top tier estates in term of quality . Plus, this is not too big a wine fair, you can walk around the alleys in a few minutes . I tasted here my first Eger's bull's blood of this trip, along with other fine Tokajis . Even though I had
got some contacts through emails prior to this trip, I met some interesting people there, and got some leads for some of the visits I made in the wine regions the following days .
One of my first goals in Borfalu was to meet Huba Szeremley, with the secretary of whom I had exchanged a few emails . I wanted to speak to this winemaker/owner who is an outstanding personality in Hungary . My first day in Hungary was a success in that regard : I could interview him this very day in spite of his busy schedules, and could make the first steps for a visit in the estate the following week . This was enough for me to consider that the hungarian wine gods and angels had taken me under their umbrella...
The entertainment side of Borfalu is rich : Apart from wine forums and debates, great folkloric parades, choirs , along the lanes and on the main stage and secondary stages, with dancers, musicians, horse-mounted austro-hungarian hussars...Also classical music orchestras wich made me feel how strong were the cultural traits shared with Austria, how deep the ties between Budapest and Vienna . There was at time this new year Vienna concert feel in the music and dances on the central stage . I was beginning to discover how sad the partition of the austro-hungarian empire had been for Hungary, wich lost two thirds of its historic territory in the process . And at the same time I could see that somehow this rich culture survived the 3 disasters of the 20th century : the partition , world war 2, and socialism , even if the latter was close to destroy completely the wine part of this culture...
Even when you just sit and just wait, something around may jump at you and make you learn something. I was waiting for someone on a bench near Szeremley's stand, when these blond kids jostled in front of me and handed me a copy of the hungarian edition of Decanter. I took that picture and leafed through the glossy magazine , surprised and interested by the pictures. There is no french version of Decanter, but Hungary has one. It says a lot about hungarians eagerness for everything related to wines. 15 minutes later, I realized that the mother of these nice kids was Agnes Nemeth, the editorial director of the magazine , and that she was sitting right behind me with advertisement chief Bernadett Poos ... We had a little talk , she told me Decanter Hungary would have its first anniversary in october this year , and that she worked with different journalists for the articles . I don't read hungarian , but the pictures are great , there are articles about Hungarian wines and estates and also wines from other countries , plus a "Duchemin" survey (named from the Louis de Funes character in a comedy about restaurant-guides inspectors) about a different restaurant each month.
Once , I was walking near a side stage when I thought I was beginning to understand hungarian... A moustached man was standing there in front of an magnetized audience . I stopped , listened and was cheered by the
visible humour and pleasure which emanated by this one man show : The man was obviously explaining how to enjoy , compare , pair the wines , with successive jokes and anectotes wich reverbarated in the audience through laughs and comments . A few words get my attention : Syrah ... he mimics something to express the personality of the grape variety , then, an other word : Cabernet Sauvignon ! His mimic embodies perfectly the strong , tannic variety . Then , Sauvignon , he says , and he starts a sort of strange jerky dance to picture the character of Sauvignon...Have you ever been hypnotized by a speech or show in a language you had no knowledge about ? That's what I felt . Then he says a few more jokes . Now , seems he speaks about wine pairing , he and the assistance get another wine in their glass , plus some cheese ..... Roquefort.... Frantsia... Montpellier.... I am sure I understant hungarian now... Penizillin.... Roquefort.... Aromat.... Gordonzola.... Frantzia.... Bleu d'Auvergne.... Fourme d'Ambert .
All this seemingly wine pairing exposé is made with utter passion and virtuosity . I swear that even if you don't understand hungarian , just listen to him a hour and you will be thrilled by the passion and emotions of wine...Now , some wine regions far from here.... Bourgogne... Chambertain.... cuvée..... musikal..... fantastikus!..... pâte persillée.... He holds a piece of cheese , his voice tones down , suddenly sensual and vibrant as if about to unveil the Graal.... Some white wine is served to him and the audience. Silence as he religiously smells , swirls and tastes the wine . At the end of his hour-long course , enthusiastic applause in the audience, wich asks for more. I asked for his name . Some one said to me he was very well known in Hungary and wrote me his name : Dr Andras Goizmadia, but the guy did not write clearly and I am not sure of the spelling . He is one of the many persons that made this Borfalu an unforgettable experience .
At the end of my stay in Hungary, I bought a few bottles in a store named "In Vino Veritas" located at Dohany u. 58-62 . You can look at their website and check their wines on the 51 pages of their Hungarian-wines section . 1000 Forints make about 3,6 Euro or 6,16 USD (edited september 2011) .