Hungary's Wine College has been popping some corks. It has just been accredited as an international examination centre by the London-based Wine and Spirit Education Trust. Radio Budapest spoke to Gabriella Meszaros - a diploma holder at the trust, about Hungarian wine and viticulture.
"The Wine College of Budapest has been teaching wine tasting for over ten years, so we were the first institution to offer this kind of education in wine. We have since grown further in the knowledge of wine and spirits and we aim to be the leading educating body in this field. There is no other such organisation or school in Hungary; the closest are in Austria and then Greece. So we really hope to be in contact not only with the neighbouring countries but also those a little further away."
Who can be your 'students' and what exactly do you teach them?
"We teach Hungarian winemaking, wine regions, and grape varieties, of course, but here we focus on international grape varieties and wine commerce. So we deal with various people; those in the field of hotel gastronomy but consumers as well. There are many people who are not dealing with wine professionally but are deeply interested in this field."
Do you have any international plans in terms of turning the college into a Central European training centre?
"Yes, we would like to be a real Central European centre but we would firstly be pleased to have a good basis here in Hungary for Hungarian students. But we already had students from neighbouring countries like Romania and Slovakia. Hopefully we will have students from other countries as well. Courses have been in Hungarian but we are about to have classes in English as well."
As I understand, students get an international diploma that is recognised all over the world when they complete the course...
"Yes. We are one of the over 900 approved places that provide the programme and the diplomas or awards given by the WSET [Wine and Spirit Education Trust] are accepted all over the world."
"Hugh Johnson [British wine connoisseur] said several times that beside France and Germany, Hungary has the third biggest tradition in wine making and wine growing in the world. This means that the geographical and geological potential of the Caspian basin is much better than the real sources nowadays. So we hope that our school will also help our wine makers have a better reputation. I think most people outside of Hungary know Tokaj and probably Bikaver but they do not know that the quality of these wines has changed in the last few years and the changes are really huge. So the quality forty years ago is not the same as the quality we have had in the last ten years. So, the potential is in the field, in the soil, the climate, and in the talent of our wine makers."
So, the whole wine making industry has changed a lot...
"Yes. Sometimes we say that if other parts of the industry and economy were to change and develop just as quickly as the wine-making industry has, Hungary would be in a much better position."