Alternative Wine Trails
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Edged in by the Danube to the east and the Drava River to the south, this corner of southern Hungary produces rich, complex reds from local varietals like kékfrankos, better known abroad by its German names of blaufränkisch (or lemberger), and sometimes referred to as eastern Europe's pinot noir. Versions produced by the Villány winemaker József Bock have a deep ruby-red appearance with lots of peppery spice on the nose, followed by spicy-sweet blackberry notes in the mouth.
Beyond Bock—who owns a popular bistro in Budapest—look for wines from Villány stars like Zoltán Polgár or Attila Gere, whose 2000 vintage Solus merlot allegedly bested Pomerol's Château Pétrus at a blind tasting in Vienna in 2004. Is southern Hungary really the equal of Bordeaux? Not exactly: If you can find one, a bottle of the best from Villány can retail for about $70…or about 5 percent of the price of a Pétrus in a good wine shop. Room prices aren't quite so low, but the area's many guest rooms—including those right at the Bock, Polgár and Gere wineries—are still a good deal cheaper than along more familiar wine trails in western Europe.