CONSUMER PREFERENCES RESURRECTING HUNGARY’S NATIVE GRAPES
Hungary’s bulk-wine image has been shaken up by a drastic rise in the number of domestic adventurous wine drinkers in constant search of trying new unfamiliar wine products. This exploratory behavior characterized by an avoidance of boredom in consumers’ wine preferences translated into a focus on localism in Hungary. As such, this consumer trend pressed winemakers to identify and resurrect indigenous varieties, along with ancient methods of production. This labeled Hungary as a country with native grape diversity and a fascinating assortment of wine styles on the domestic market. The renaissance of long-lost grape varieties has also contributed to winemakers’ innovative ways to save grapes from extinction. With the nowadays ability to show the lineage of grapes through DNA profiling, lots of Hungarian heritage grapes have been resurrected with the help of highly skilled winemakers. However, this successful image of indigenous varieties remains at a niche status on the global wine market. Despite consumers’ preferences for ‘new-old’ wine bottlings, Hungarian native grapes have encountered challenges. Names like Kékfrankos, Leányka, Kéknyelű, Olaszrizling, Hárslevelű, Portugieser, Irsai Olivér, Királyleányka, Zengö just to name a few, are hard to pronounce, thus taking a back seat in the world’s indigenous stage because consumers do not want to show their lack of wine culture. As such, ease in the comfort of pronunciation is linked to immediate purchase and better wine quality perception, which puts Hungarian wineries’ heritage grapes at a disadvantage within the global indigenous grape movement. One solution for Hungarian producers would be to stay away from varietal labels and rather use place of origin labels. Moreover, label enrichment with a widely spoken international language could help these wines stand out on a retailer’s shelf or on a wine list, creating an instant intriguing reaction in consumers’ behavior, thus making them stand out from the pinot grigios, chardonnays and cabernet sauvignons of the world. Sommeliers also play an important role in the promotion of these forgotten grapes that represent both our past and future. Constant public exposure, wine tastings and recommendations could make a difference in the promotion of these exotic wine bottlings.