Proud of wine tradition
The Vinest Network brings together three small wine growing regions from the Vas County in Western Hungary: Kőszeg, Vaskeresztes and Oszkó. The first two fall under the wine district of Sopron that runs along the Austro Hungarian border, whereas the second lies further south in the Balaton wine area.
The town of Kőszeg, situated at the foot of the Alps, has a typical sub-Alpine microclimate and a hard and clayey terroir. These two elements combine to produce full-bodied wines that are rich in acids and tannins.
The village of Vaskeresztes, on the other hand, is located in the Pinka river plain at the western tip of the Vas (Iron) hill that straddles the border between Hungary and Southern Burgenland in Austria. Here the climate is milder (average temperature: 9° C) and slightly humid (annual rainfall: 700- 750 mm).
Compared to these regions, the village of Oszkó is a relatively unknown wine-producing area, but, nevertheless, viticulture is an essential element of local life and every family has its own vineyard and typical thatched, oak log wine press. The climate is drier here too and the soil is more suitable for white wines.
Vas County is one of the oldest wine-growing regions in Hungary. Some say that the Romans introduced the art to this area, others that it began even earlier with the Celts. Certainly by the 3 rd century AD, especially in the Pannonia hills, wine production had become very well established and numerous artifacts have been found to back this up.
The first written record of wine production in the Vas County dates back to 1279 where it is mentioned in the ledgers of the Kőszegi counts. Records also exist of the so-called “Hauers” or Hoe wielders, Bavarian settlers who came here in the 13C specifically to work in the vineyards. Certainly the area is extremely proud of its wine-growing traditions and one of Kőszeg's most treasured possessions is the famous “Book of Grape Harvests.” This unique record of local wine production, containing detailed descriptions and drawings, first appeared in 1740 and has been republished every year since on St George's Day.
Kőszeg and Vaskeresztes are particularly well known for the Kékfrankos, or Blaufränkisch grape variety and consequently their masterpieces tend to be strong dark red wines such as Zweigelt and Blauburger. However, they also produce some splendid Merlots, Cabernet Savignons and Pinot Noirs, as well as a number of lesser known gems such as the light, Hungarian red, “Kadarka” and the inimitable “Cserszegi Spicy”.
The Oszkó wineries, on the other hand, prefer ungrafted vines and grape varieties such as the Othello, Noha, and Isabella, which are unfortunately often grown for personal consumption only. White grapes are popular here, and a number of typical Hungarian wines can be found including Szürkebarát (similar to an Auvergnat gris), Hárslevelu (a full-bodied white with a linden-honey fragrance), Irsai Olivér (a fine, aromatic white) and Királyleányka (the “Royal Princess” of whites).
A visit to Vas County is a must for any wine enthusiast, not only for the splendid and often rare wines, but also for the atmosphere of a tradition that dates back centuries. Wine here is everything, from the quaint thatched wine presses that dot the countryside around Oszkó, to the Wine Museum and Gallery in the picturesque town of Kőszeg. A perfect way to visit to the vineyards is along the Kőszeg-Vashegy Wine Road where no one can resist stopping off in a traditional wine cellar and sampling some of the local vintages. While enjoying these delights visitors can also appreciate the truly superb scenery of the Kőszeg hills, the Írottko Natural Park and the Pinka valley, the quaint villages around Oszkó and the majestic grandeur of the Kőszeg castle. Don't forget the numerous wine festivals held here, either, especially the annual Kőszeg Grape Harvest celebrations, with its splendid wines and truly unique atmosphere.