Finding the Veritas Winebar was a piece of serendipity. We had received a recommendation from Mónica, who had given us a tour of the Corinthian Hotel, for a wine bar near St Stephen’s Basilica. We strolled out there around noon on Saturday, only to find that it was closed for several more hours. We went into a nearby cafe, The Bazilika Café and Restaurant. It was an unremarkable place whose wines by the glass were limited to one each of white, red, rose, and sparkling. However, the menu listing the wines by the bottle caught my eye. Each wine had a photo of the bottle, with a brief description of the wine in Hungarian and something resembling English. The red wine offered by the glass was Bull’s Blood and the description was:
Deeper ruby-colored, on the nose the well-known red fruits can be smelt, a hint of cherry and raspberry. In the background, the discreet spicy of the varieties and a woody character from the barrel maturation can be felt. The sip is delectable, medium bodied and rich in juicy fruits. All this is loose, enjoyable, but seriously.
The format of this menu was identical to that at the restaurant at which we had eaten on our first night. I also recognized the logo on the menu. The tasting notes are useful when faced with a list of wines with which I was not familiar. I read the back cover, which had contact details for the company that had provided the menu. A quick check with Google and I found that Veritas had several shops in the city, and crucially a wine-bar that was between us and our hotel. I checked the hours and it was open. Amber and I headed off so that we could do our important work of learning about Hungarian wines.
The interior of Veritas Winebar is contemporary chic, but not at the expense of comfortable seating. The bar was empty when we arrived and we sat on sofas in the window, so that Amber would have good light for bottle shots.
My first glass was an Olaszrizling. The name means Italian Riesling in Hungarian, but it is not related to Riesling, the well-known staple of German white wines. Specifically, it was Bujdosó Balatonboglár BalatonBor 2016. Made from grapes grown around Lake Balaton, an area associated with wine since Romans planted vines in the first century AD. The wine retails for about $5.52 (1400 HUF). The wine was a light straw colour. The nose was rich with ripe pear backed by a citrus kick. Taking a sip the first impression was from the high acidity, but as it lingered in the mouth, a delightful complexity emerged with flavours of apple, cream, and lime.
It is worth noting that the Veritas Winebar, in common with most of the other places at which we tasted white wine, served it at a good temperature, not so chilled, that the complexity of the wine was lost in an ice-cold mouthful. The size of the pour was 100ml, which is a small measure, but well suited for tasting, as you can try a larger variety of wines than if each glass had 150ml or 175ml. The tasting experience was also enhanced by large good quality glasses, another common trait we observed in our time in Budapest.
Amber decided she would focus on red wines. Her first taste was of the 2013 Tüzkö Merlot. The nose was an intense blast of fruit; reminiscent of a California Merlot. The flavours were more restrained; plum and dusty tannins. The finish was long and the wine was a delight. The price point at about $7 was definitely not reflected in the quality of this wine.
My next taste was of a variety of which I became quite fond during our trip to Budapest – Furmint. This grape is associated with the Tokaji region where it is used to make dry white wine, like the one I tasted here and the famous dessert wine that bears the Tokaji name. This example was the 2016 Pajzos Tokaji Furmint which sells for about $8.75. The wine was a pale colour. The nose reminded me of green apples. The high acidity was typical of the variety and is one of the reasons it is so well suited for dessert wines; where the winemaker needs a balance for the sweetness. The flavour profile was complex; honey, apple, lemon, perhaps a touch of pineapple, all wrapped up in rich floral overtones.
Whilst we tasted these Hungarian wines we had selected a cheese plate from a short, but a very appealing list of food options. The cheese was every bit as tasty as the pictures suggest. The tendency for Hungarian wine to exhibit crisp acidity made our selections pair well with the cheese.
Amber’s second selection was a 2015 Takler Cabernet Sauvignon from the Szekszard region, which lies in the South of the country. It was surprisingly light of body, with low tannins. It was easy to drink, with good fruit characteristics, but lacked excitement.
Our server, Korinna, then brought us a taste of an unusual wine that she thought we would appreciate; a Cabernet Franc. You might think that there is nothing out of the ordinary after all this is a grape that is frequently used in single varietal wines in the US. What made this Cab Franc stand out was that it was a white wine. Very pale in colour, the nose was a striking mix of floral and spice. Amber remarked that it reminded her of Summer in the Mediterranean. The wine exhibited medium acidity and was an unusual blend of honey, vanilla, lemon, and jasmine. The free taste was appreciated and paid dividends, as after we had finished tasting wines we went to the store next door to Veritas Winebar and purchased two bottles of the 2016 Ipacs Szabó Fehér Franc; one of which we are taking back to the US for Lori of Dracaena Wines, as she makes an excellent Cabernet Franc in Paso Robles.
My final wine of the afternoon was the Csordás Fodor Juhfark from the Somló region, Hungary’s smallest wine region. The label spells the region as Somlói and the Nagy prefix means large of great, a confusion which I was not able to resolve even with the help of Google. Juhfark is a grape associated with the Somló region and its name means sheep’s tail; a reference to the shape of the clusters in which the grape grows. The wine had a golden colour, with a lush nose of honeysuckle and nuts. Taking a sip I found high acidity with flavours of apple, stone-fruit, smoke, and an underlying salinity. The finish was lemon, not reflecting the complexity of the initial taste. This was another excellent wine.
The Veritas Winebar offers sixty wines by the glass. Amber and I barely managed to try a tenth of the selection. The atmosphere, service, and food are excellent. We highly recommend the wine bar if you are in Budapest as a perfect place to explore Hungarian wines.