The Eger wine region is located on the Southern slopes of the Bükk Mountains in the North-East of Hungary around the town of Eger. Wine production in this area reaches back more than 1,000 years. The region is famous for elegant reds, especially Egri Bikavér (Bulls Blood), that have an elegance and complexity that has drawn comparisons with Burgundy.
Climate: a characteristic feature of the climate is that spring comes relatively late and the climate is of a dry nature
Soil: Black coloured riolite, formed on the hill-sides and hill-slopes, mostly on Miocene-age riolite tufa, as well as clay slate and riolite, poor in lime, brown soils, clay-infused soil, brown forest soils, etc.
White grapes: Leányka, Királyleányka, Hárslevelű, Olaszrizling (Wälschriesling), Muskotály, Tramini, Szürkebarát (Pinot Gris) and Chardonnay
Red grapes: Kékfrankos, Blauburger, Merlot, Cabernet Sauvignon, Cabernet Franc and Pinot Noir
The Eger region lies mid-way between the capital city of Budapest and the Tokaji region.Eger is both the name of this region and of its provincial capital city. The city is a historically important centre, and a remains a very beautiful one. An 11th century castle, cathedral and various splendid churches combine with an historic 'old town' of narrow, winding streets, craft shops and restaurants.
Wine has been made in Eger for over 1,000 years, with some cellars over 400 years old. Indeed the wine cellars of the Eger region are fascinating in their own right, most of them carved from solid 'Tufa' rock, with some entire wineries hewn from Tufa cliff faces as a mass of subterranean tunnels and large caverns.
Undoubtedly Eger's most famous wine is Bikavér, or 'Bull's Blood', which takes its name from a 16th century legend: 2,000 Hungarian soldiers withstood a month-long siege of the fortress at Eger by 150,000 invading Turkish troops. As food ran out, wine cellars were opened for the Hungarian troops in the hope that wine would give them strength. On seeing the red wine-stained beards and armour of the troops, word spread amongst the invading Turks that they were drinking the blood of bulls to make them invincible. Soon the siege by the demoralised Turks was broken.
the grapes of Eger
Eger is the biggest wine region in Hungary, and of course Bull's Blood its most popular wine. A lot like Châteauneuf-du-Pape in the Rhône Valley, many grapes are permitted in Bull's Blood. Eleven varieties can be mixed freely, but regulations state that Bull's Blood must contain at least three different varieties, and no single variety can account for more than 50% of the blend. Permitted Bull's Blood grapes include Kékfrankos (synonymous with Austria's Blaufränkisch), Kadarka, Médoc Noir (Merlot) and Cabernet Sauvignon.
These varieties turn up in other Eger red wines, as do Syrah, Cabernet Franc, Portugieser, Zweigelt and Pinot Noir. For white wines, the popular Leányka is joined by Grüner Veltliner (known locally as Zöldveltelini), Irsai Oliver, Welschriesling and Tokaji's Furmint and Hárslevelu, making both sweet and dry styles.
The wines of Eger
Bull's Blood has both positive and negative connotations for Western wine drinkers. The cheap plonk of many a student party in the 70s and 80s, even that mass-produced stuff had a certain rough and ready appeal. But Eger too has been revitalised under private ownership since communism fell in 1989, and at least some of today's Bull's Blood makers are trying to produce something altogether more serious, both as Bull's Blood and as varietal and other blended wines.
These include producers like St Andrea Cellar, amongst whose range (left) is a Bull's Blood called Merengo, ambitiously pitched as an 'icon wine', selling for 40 Euros locally, and being offered 'en primeur'.
The rebuilding has started - We are proud of our past and would like to be proud of our future…
The secret of a good wine? You have to give him the due respect.
Simon József has worked in the wine business since 1977 and through his work for the Eger TSZ knows the secrets and particularities of each terrior of the Eger region. He established his own winery in 1992. The current size of his plantation is 60 ha, of which he owns 30 ha himself. He was awarded the recognition as Hungarian Winery of the Year 2003.
Simon Wines: Egri Bikavér 2009, Cabernet Sauvignon 2009