Hungary is known for its wines, rightfully so, but the challenge of choosing the perfect bottle to uncork can also prove daunting even for the more experienced wine lovers. Péter Blazsovszky, a sommelier of the Michelin star-winning restaurant called Babel, has put together a handy guide for picking the best wines to go along with the traditional Hungarian meals eaten over Easter.
As he writes in his article, published on Index.hu, Good Friday is a day of fasting for the devout Christians of Hungary who can only eat 3 meals that day, only one of which can be filling. Not surprisingly, alcohol is also forbidden. However, for the non-religious, he recommends a dish of fried zander or Volga pikeperch, garnished with salad and accompanied by some pinot grigio (look for the name “Szürkebarát”) or Riesling (Hungarianised as “rizling”).
Catfish with paprika (“harcsapaprikás”) is also a common dish, which is perfectly complemented by a glass of Kadarka or Kadarka siller, from the wineries of Szekszárd, Villány, or the Kunság (a part of the Great Hungarian Plain).
For those who would prefer something light and fruity, he recommends a bottle of Portugieser, produced near Villány. (If you would like to find out more about the Hungarian wine regions, click HERE.)
On Holy Saturday, the tradition is to eat ham, horseradish, and a pastry called kalács (kalach), which is normally sweet but is prepared with salt for the occasion, as it is said to contain Christ’s tears. According to Blazsovszky, any bottle of Welschriesling (called olaszrizling in Hungarian) will be a great fit, as long as it comes from the wineries located to the north of Lake Balaton.
On Easter Sunday, Hungarian families typically prepare a dish of lamb shank, which can be done in many ways, making it difficult to pick a wine to go with each and every one of them, but Blazsovszky still offers a solution: a bottle of Furmint from Tokaj-Hegyalja (the same place where the world-renowned Aszú is grown and bottled).
And, of course, there is also the classic choice of pinot noir, which may come from the wine-making regions of Etyek, Pannonhalma, or Eger.
Easter Monday is more characterised by the tradition of pouring water over girls than by any dish in particular, but anything fried in breadcrumbs is always a popular choice, along with some sweets. On this day, the well-known Hungarian spirit, pálinka, is often consumed, but if someone would rather stick to wines, Blazsovszky recommends having some fröccs, the quintessentially Hungarian mixture of wine and carbonated soda water.