Food, Food Artisans

Q&A With Gábor and Carolyn Bánfalvi

This Tuesday, June 24, 6pm, our friends Gábor and Carolyn Bánfalvi, owners of the premier Hungarian food tour company, Taste Hungary, will join us at Zingerman’s Roadhouse for an evening of Hungarian food, wine, and personal stories about life in this still emerging Eastern European country.
They recently took a few minutes to answer some questions about their business, Hungarian wines, and this Tuesday’s wine tasting. 

Tell us about your tour company, Taste Hungary. 

Our company specializes in personalized and authentic food and wine tours, mainly in Hungary. We offer several types of walking tours in Budapest, as well as full-day wine and food tours in other wine regions of Hungary and Austria. We love to introduce visitors to the local foods and wines which they would not find on their own, and to the people who create these foods and wines. This is still a relatively unknown region to American travelers, and we hope to make our tours experiences that our clients will remember for a lifetime.

Gábor Bánfalvi

Gábor Bánfalvi

What is it about Hungarian food and wine that you find compelling?

Before I began to write about Hungarian food, and then guided food and wine tours, I spent many years discovering it myself! What I love about Hungarian cuisine is that it perfectly combines simplicity and elegance. Even the dishes with the most complex flavors are created with the simplest ingredients and techniques. It’s a cuisine which has a large repertoire of dishes that is underrated and still little-known outside of the region.

How about a short introduction to Hungarian Wine? How is it unique?

Hungary has a very long and illustrious tradition of winemaking, but the industry was destroyed during Communism. It’s come along way over the past two decades, but there is still much work to be done. Tokaj wines are one thing that makes winemaking in Hungary unique. In the 18th century the Tokaj region became the world’s first delimited wine region, and its sweet wines were considered the best in the world and exported all over Europe.

Today, both the small family operations and the state-of-the-art foreign-owned wineries are once again producing excellent wines. However, their challenge is now finding a place in the market for them. While there are many other things that make winemaking in Hungary unique—such as the indigenous grapes and the different terroirs—keep in mind that the borders in this region of the world have changed so many times over the centuries. So winemaking in Hungary actually has more similarities with its neighbors than differences.

Can you recommend some wines that you feel capture the essence of Hungary?

Hungary produces a wide range of wines, from all of the major international varieties to some indigenous varieties that are only planted on a few acres. In Hungary there are 22 official wine regions, and there are many wonderful wines produced in the country—most of which are not available outside of the country. For me personally, the wines that capture the essence of Hungarian winemaking are: the crisp dry furmints from Tokaj, the luscious sweet wines from Tokaj, the mineralic whites made from the hárslevelű and juhfark from the tiny region of Somló, the aromatic whites from the Lake Balaton area, the smooth reds from Szekszárd, and the Cabernet franc from Villány.

Carolyn Bánfalvi

Carolyn Bánfalvi

Your tour company recently won a wine & spirits award. Can you tell us more?

Yes, we were so thrilled to have won in the category of Best Contribution to Wine & Spirits Tourism at Drinks Business Awards recently. The Drinks Business Awards are awarded annually by The Drinks Business magazine, a leading UK drinks trade publication, which recognizes companies from around the world in different categories. As a small family company, we were so honored to be recognized for our achievements and chosen among so many other worthy (and larger) companies from around the world. We think this award is also a recognition that now is the time for the Hungarian wine industry to make a stronger push at finding its place in the world markets.

What can our guests expect at the Hungarian Wine Tasting? 

The wine tasting will be a chance to get to know some of the most exciting wines and wine regions from Hungary. We will taste five different wines from different regions, which demonstrate the range of flavors and wine styles which are being produced in Hungary today. In addition to explaining the wines, Gábor will also tell stories about the history and culture of Hungarian wine, and the talk about the directions that winemakers are going in today.

Gábor and Carolyn will be busy while they’re visiting us! On Wednesday, June 25, they’re leading a Hungarian Home Cooking class at Zingerman’s BAKE!, and then on Thursday, June 26, they’re teaming up with Zingerman’s Deli Chef Rodger Bowser to create a Hungarian Feast at Zingerman’s Events on 4th.  These events are sold out, but you can add your name to the waiting list by following the reservation links. 

See you soon!