Category Archives: Eger

It’s spring and Eger is calling

eger_tavasz_2_foto Busák Attila

Events in March

Eger is abuzz with cultural and gastronomic events. It also has a rich heritage which can be seen in its architecture and is, of course, the centre of one of Hungary’s most renowned wine regions. A wealth of gastronomic and music events as well as various festivals await visitors this spring.

Members of the Eger Wine Workshop are also hosting a number of interesting events: wine tastings, cellar visits, wine dinners and even markets.

14 March – Tóth Ferenc Winery – Wine and chocolate tasting

This evening will appeal to the chocolate lovers among us: eight different types of chocolate will be paired with eight different wines in the interest of finding the ideal synergy. What might tickle your fancy: the 2015 Kadarka matched with São Tomé dark chocolate, black sesame seed and lyophilised raspberries or the 2011 Cabernet Franc matched with Mexican dark chocolate, smoked salt and caramelised almonds?

The evening will be hosted by Katalin Tóth, manager of the Tóth Ferenc Winery, Viktória Szeleczky Takács, founder and creative artist of Fabric Csokoládé and Adél Bernáth-Ulcz, an expert at CsokiLaBor.

15 March – Launch of Egri Csillag

Egri Csillag became an overnight success a few years ago and turned into one of Eger’s favourite brands. This white blend can either be a light, fruity everyday wine or a substantial, oak-aged wine. The Hungarian National Holiday marks the day each year when visitors can taste the new Egri Csillag vintage from almost twenty wineries, participate in the traditional castle knights procession, enjoy concerts and continue celebrating into the night.

eger_tavasz_3_foto Busák Attila

20 March – Gál Tibor Fúzió – Fúzió Wednesday | Béla Vincze’s world

This evening event at Gál Tibor’s Fúzió explores the world and career of Béla Vincze, not just through his own wines but also through other things which come from different wineries but are connected to his stories. So guests can taste wines from other Hungarian and foreign producers. The event will be hosted by Veronika Gál.

21 March – Wine&Tech meetup Eger

How does the viticulturist-oenologist profession relate to modern technological inventions? What’s available and what should you consider for small or large wineries? The panel of guests will explain how different equipment is used in local vineyards and cellars. SmartVineyard will introduce their Vineguard device and startup Vinometer will introduce their wine-tasting app for smart phones. Young Eger winemakers will analyse the current Wine&Tech scene during a roundtable discussion.

23 March – Gál Tibor Fúzió – Slow Market

Slow Market is the modern day equivalent of a traditional fair. It gives visitors the chance to meet producers, artists and winemakers, chat with them and browse, taste and buy products, all in the spirit of Slow Living, i.e. calmly and at their own pace. This is a free monthly event offering natural, fresh, special delicacies, original folk and contemporary art and, of course, an exhilarating spring atmosphere

30-31 March – Hungarikum Picnic in Szépasszony Valley

Eger Bikavér has been declared a “hungarikum”, and Szépasszony Valley is the favourite meeting point for wine lovers visiting Eger. As in previous years, Eger has once again invited all the “hungarikums” to join in a common festival, so that they can showcase the best culinary products that Hungary has to offer in one place – Hungary’s largest and perhaps best-known historical row of cellars. As well as food and wine, there will also be concerts, folk art and entertainment for the kids.

For more information, please visit the Egri Bor Most Facebook page: http://www.facebook.com/egribormost/

* based on a press release from Wineglass Communication, photos by Attila Busák

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Bikavér – a work in progress

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Every year, the winemakers of Szekszárd and Eger present their Bikavérs in a joint tasting in Budapest. This year saw its sixth edition with winemakers from both regions presenting their current and, in some cases older, vintages of this regional speciality. The two regions are working together to promote this most Hungarian brand and the Bikavér Párbaj is a good opportunity to taste wines from the two regions side by side.

What is Bikavér anyway?

Now, if you’re not from Hungary, your first question might be ’What is Bikavér anyway?’ And how can it be the regional speciality of two distinct wine regions which are not even located next to each other?

Both regions lay claim to the term Bikavér for their full-bodied, fiery red blends based on Kékfrankos (aka Blaufränkisch). Naturally, they argue, hopefully good naturedly nowadays, about who used the name first.

What’s in a name?

Eger have an appealing tale about how their wine got its name based on a story in which defenders of its citadel drank up the citadel’s red wine stores when they feared they were about to be overrun by the Turks. Legend has it that the soldiers were so emboldened by the wine, i.e. drunk, that they fought with surprising aggression and saw off the Turks, who reported that the Hungarians had been mixing bull’s blood with their wine to give them courage. Bikavér is the Hungarian for bull’s blood – the name that the wine was marketed with in English-speaking countries in the past.

Szeskszárd’s story is a little less romantic, simply that János Garai, an eminent Hungarian poet praised the colour of Szekszárd’s red wine in one of his verses, likening it to bull’s blood.

So, both regions still use the name for their red blends. It’s a blend based on Kékfrankos (minimum 40% in Szekszárd, and between 30 and 60% in Eger). Szekszárd also requires minimum 5% Kadarka. The rest of the blend in both regions is then made up of a combination of other permitted black varieties. This tends to be a bit more rational and restricted in Szekszárd, the smaller of the two regions, and is generally Bordeaux varieties, such as Merlot, Cabernet Franc and Cabernet Sauvignon. The Heimann winery also add a dash of Sagrantino to theirs! Eger, however, has a huge range of permitted varieties and hence Bikavér here could contain Cabernet Sauvignon, Pinot Noir, Blauburger, Turan, Syrah and Menoir, to name but a few.

A kaleidoscope of styles

As you can imagine, this does not lead to a particularly uniform image of the style, especially when you then add in the various quality levels defined in each region. Eger has three – klassikus, superior and grand superior – whereas Szekszárd has two – standard and reserve. Let’s not even mention the sea of substandard, bottom-shelf wine pumped out by many large producers, still churning out the same poor quality wine that got Bull’s Blood a bad name in past decades.

In search of a style

Prominent wine journalists, educators and other experts meet each year prior to the tasting in a panel chaired by Gabriella Mészaros to discuss an aspect relating to Bikavér or one of the wine regions. In the past, we’ve considered how well modern Bikavérs are ageing, styles of Kadarka and rosé. This year, we looked at eight wines from the 2016 vintage (a cool year with lots of rain, but a consistent summer without any severe heatwaves), four from each wine region, to see how much progress is being made with consistency in terms of quality and style.

One of the main issues of our session was brand-building and the fact that to build a brand, you need both reliable quality and consistency. The situation regarding consistency is improving with winemakers tasting together more often. This is naturally easier in Szekszárd where there are fewer winemakers, fewer hectares and fewer varieties, making finding a direction somewhat easier than in Eger. Eger also has a bigger issue with quality as it is home to large producers, some relics of the Communist era, who are responsible for churning out the cheap, poor-quality plonk referred to above. This also creates a problem for the brand as it stretches from bottom-shelf quality up to prestitious, well-crafted wines commanding high prices. Could the lower quality wines be somehow rebranded, e.g. to Óvörös, if some kind of purity and reliability could be guaranteed, posits Gabriella.

Changes for the better

The style of the wines is clearly changing from the tannic, oak bombs of the past, to fruitier, more elegant styles. This is helped by the fact that consumers are also becoming more discerning and their tastes are changing. While there are of course some who still seek the tannin rush, and a number of winemakers who cater to this, more people are looking for fruit-forward wines with some finesse. Progress has clearly been made in this area.

Terroir wine?

Another question which arose was whether Bikavér should be linked to terroir. Of course, there is already clearly a difference in style between the two regions. Egri Bikavérs are generally creamier, more tannic and more structured, despite lying further north. Szekszárdi Bikavérs are typically softer, more textured and leaner thanks to its loess soils and warm. dry summers. Beyond this, vineyard-selected wines come into play too, with three of the wines tasted coming from specified vineyards.

The wines

Our first pair of standard Bikavérs demonstrated the fact that the wines are becoming less oaky and more fruit forward, with a greater focus on good acidity. However, they were very different indeed, with Tibor Gál’s TITI clearly showing its Pinot Noir component. The Takler Bikavér was far more elegant and less heavy-handed with oak than in the past.

The second pair from Szent Gaál and Nimrod Kovács (Rhapsody) were demonstrably more oaky. The lesson here being how the quality of the oak and its integration can come to dominate the wine if there is insufficient fruit behind it or the oak is of poor quality. The fruit in the Szent Gaál wine was unfortunately masked by the grippy tannins of the oak, whereas the fruit concentration of the Rhapsody was able to stand up to the clearly high-quality oak.

The third pair clearly showed how important terroir is for Bikavér with the Péter Vida’s Szekszárdi Bikavér demonstrating the soft, lean elegance of Szekszárd and St Andrea’s Hangács vineyard-selection (Egri Bikavér Superior) showing what Eger, and in particular the Hangács vineyard, is capable in terms of concentration and creaminess.

The final pair was a good illustration of what top Bikavérs aspire to. The Sebestyén Csilla and Csaba Ivan Völgy Szekszárdi Bikavér went head to head with the St Andrea Merengő Egri Bikavér Grand Superior. The Sebestyén Bikavér was felt to come close to representing a Bikavér benchmark – with ripe, spicy fruit, elegance, vibrancy, balance, complexity and great length. The Merengő, on the other hand, was a clear representation that Eger wines generally take longer to be approachable than those from Szekszárd. It also demonstrated the difference between the Hangács and Merengő vineyards, in that the Merengő wines tend to need more time before their optimal drinking window.

The tasting bore out much of what we had discussed at the beginning – that the wines are generally improving in quality and something resembling a style is now beginning to emerge, especially in Szekszárd, that showcases this Kékfrankos-based blend. The wines are becoming more elegant and better-quality oak is being used more intelligently. However, Bikavér is still far away from having a clear enough style and consistent quality (which I saw later in the grand tasting in particular) for it to be considered a brand in its own right, especially internationally.

Bikavér is still very much a work in progress, but progress is being made.

If you’re interested in finding out more about Bikavér’s past, present and future, you can read about it in my WineSofa article from two years ago, based on the 2016 discussions.

Women winemakers out in force on International Women’s Day

The weaker sex? Certainly not!

Tomorrow, 8 March, is International Women’s Day, and in celebration of all women, 32 Hungarian women winemakers from 12 wine regions will present 104 wines to visitors of the Gyengébb? Nem! Cherchez la Femme wine show at the Sofitel Budapest Chain Bridge.

This is the second time that the event has been organised by Edit Szabó of Borsmenta. The idea grew out of her book Gyengébb? Nem! Roughly translated, this means ’The weaker sex? No!’ It relates the stories of 26 women winemakers in Hungary and how they cope in a traditionally male-dominated industry, hence the title.

The winemakers will bring along some of their brand new novelties for curious wine lovers. For example, Katalin Toth will present their 2018 Kadarka Siller, Andrea Gere their 2017 Fekete Járdovány and Syrah, Júlia Dóra Molnár from Csendes Dűlő their 2017 premium Kéknyelű and Éva Gálné Dignisz will show their hot-off-the-press fizz. There’ll also be a couple of pet nats to try from the Szőlő Pincészet and the Heimann Családi Pincészet.

A gentleman, however, will look after the food! Alain Losbar, the Sofitel’s head chef will osztrigaensure nobody goes hungry and will delight your taste buds with fresh oysters, ham, cheeses and other French delicacies.

If you’re inspired to travel to the enchanting wine regions the ladies come from, or even beyond, three more ladies, from Wine A’more travel, are on hand to help you fulfil your inspirations with their offer of wine trips and tastings.

All in a good cause

Another reason to come along is the fact that the ladies have waived their fees for the event and thus half a million forints (around €1,600) has already been raised for charity. This total is sure to grow as visitors can also add their contributions in the collection boxes at the event. The monies collected will go to the Anyaoltalmazó Foundation, which helps 75-80 women and children in distress all around the country every year.

Chocolate and cheese-pairing masterclasses

Those who are interested in learning more about what wines to pair with various cheeses and chocolate can also attend two masterclasses. Tickets are available for these at 3,000 forints.

So, if you’ve nothing planned for tomorrow evening, head to the Sofitel to celebrate Women’s Day with a remarkably talented group of women!

When: 8 March 16:00-21:30

Where: Sofitel Budapest Chain Bridge

Tickets: 7,000 HUF until midnight tonight, then 8,500 HUF on the door.

Advance tickets available online at: https://tixa.hu/CherchezLaFemme_avagygyengebb_nem?fbclid=IwAR1TaPt8VS6YXDgOuK48plDC0vgIIIKwB5Im406Hg_wDWZq8B9y5ObhEKQc

The price includes wines, nibbles on the winemakers’ tables and water.

Facebook page: https://www.facebook.com/events/2362393133989988/

Participating winemakers:

ANGELIKA ÁRVAY (Árvay Családi Pincészet), ZSUZSANNA BABARCZI (Babarczi Szőlőbirtok és Pince), KATA BADICS (Homoky Pincészet), EDIT BAI (Dereszla Pincészet), NÓRA BARACSKAI (Etyeki Kúria Borgazdaság), SAROLTA BÁRDOS (Tokaj Nobilis), STÉPHANIE BERECZ (Kikelet Pince), BOGLÁRKA BÖJT (Bortársaság), DOROTTYA BUSSAY (Bussay Pincészet), KRISZTINA CSETVEI (Csetvei Pince), MÓNIKA DEBRECZENI (Vylyan Pincészet), BERNADETT DUNAI (Dubicz Pincészet) TÍMEA ÉLESS (Szóló Pincészet), ÉVA GÁLNÉ DIGNISZ (Gál Szőlőbirtok és Pincészet), ANDREA GERE (Gere Attila Pincészete), SUSANN HANAUER, (Wassmann Pince), ÁGNES HEIMANN (Heimann Családi Birtok), ZITA KOVÁCS (Kovács és Lánya Borászat), ZSÓFI LAPOSA (Laposa Birtok), LILLA LATORCZAI-RÁCZ, ENIKŐ LUKA (Luka Pince), ANITA MAGYAR (Hangavári Pincészet), GABRIELLA MÉSZÁROS  (Préselő Pincészet), JÚLIA DÓRA MOLNÁR (Csendes Dűlő Szőlőbirtok), BEÁTA NYÚLNÉ PÜHRA (Nyakas Pincészet), FRUZSINA OSVÁTH (Sauska Borászat), ERIKA RÁCZ (Sanzon Tokaj), JELENA SZAVERCSENKO, (Kern Bor- és Pezsgőház), KATALIN TÓTH (Tóth Ferenc Pincészet), VIVIEN UJVÁRI (Ujvári + Barta Pince), MÁRTA WILLE-BAUMKAUFF (Tokaj Pendits), KATA ZSIRAI (Zsirai Pincészet)

Photos courtesy of Borsmenta, Ferenc Dancsecs and Gábor Vető

 

The Winemakers’ Winemaker

In 2007, Pál Rokúsfalvy organised the Borászok Borásza – the Winemakers’ Winemaker – for the first time. He set up the award as he felt there should be an award where the winemakers themselves, the people who are actually behind the wines, have a say in who is Winemaker of the Year. Much progress has been made in the Hungarian winemaking world since the change of regime in 1989 and Hungarian winemakers are increasingly turning out wines that can compete with the best in the world. What better way to celebrate this than a competition which reflects their attitudes.

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The Carpathian Basin’s fifty best winemakers

Each year, winemakers nominate the Carpathian Basin’s top winemakers themselves. These fifty winemakers meet for a tasting circle, they then vote to decide on a shortlist of five, and finally another round of votes leads to the overall winner. This year, the tasting circle was also followed by an open tasting where selected guests and a limited number of the general public could taste the wines of the fifty nominees and the previous ten winners. An exclusive tasting indeed, held at the Larus Restaurant in Buda. This gave me the chance to find out a bit more about this award and, of course, to taste some of the wines of the top winemakers of the region, as selected by the winemakers themselves.

The Winemakers’ Friend

The Vinum Praemium Foundation was set up in 2009 to manage the organisation of the competition and since 2012, they have not only selected the top winemaker, but also a so-called Winemakers’ friend, which last year was awarded to British Master of Wine, Caroline Gilby MW. This prize goes to someone who has made particular contributions to the promotion and development of Hungarian wine. Previous winners of the award are Dr András Csizmadia, Helga Gál, László Alkonyi, Dr Gabriella Mészáros and Mária Borbás.

The 2019 contenders

The fifty winemakers in the running for the award this year are:

János Árvay (Árvay Pincészet), Károly Áts (Grand Tokaj), István Balassa (Balassa Bor). Géza Balla (Balla Géza Pincészet), Sarolta Bárdos (Tokaj Nobilis Szőlőbirtok), Károly Barta (Barta Pince), Jószef Bock (Bock Pincészet), Judit Bodó (Bott Pince), János Bolki (Bolyki Pincészet és Szőlőbirtok), Frigyes Bott (Bott Frigyes Borászat), Marcell Bukolyi (Bukolyi Marcell Wine Farm), Tamás Dúzsi (Dűzsi Tamás és Családja Pincészete), János Eszterbauer (Eszterbauer Borászat), Mihály Figula (Figula Wines), Tibor Gál Jr (Gál Tibor Pincészet), Attila Gere (Gere Attila Pincészete), Zoltán Heimann (Heimann Családi Birtok), Attila Homonna (Homonna Pincészet), József “Raspi” Horváth (Raspi Étterem és Borászat), István Szabó Ipacs (Vylyan Szőlőbirtok és Pincészet), Gábor Karner (Karner Gábor Kezműves Borászat), Gábor Kiss (Kiss Gábor Szőlőbirtok és Pincészete). Dániel Konyári (Konyári Pincészet), Tamás Kocács (St Donát Birtok), Bence Laposa (Laposa Pincészet), Géza Légli (Kislaki Bormanufaktúra), Zsolt Liptai (Pannonhalmi Apátsági Pincészet), Bálint Losonci (Losconci Pince), Enikő Luka (Luka Pincészet), Csaba Malatinszky (Malatinszky Kúria), Maurer Oszkár (Maurer Pincészet), Sándor Mérész (Etyeki Kúria), Lászlő Mészáros (Disznókő), Péter Molnár (Patricius Borház), László Nagy (Villa Tolnay), Gyula Pálffy (Pálffy Pince), Gábor Rakaczki (Sauska), Endre Szászi (Szászi Pince), Tamás Szecskő (Szeczkő Pince), István Szepsy Jr (Szent Tamás Pincészet), László Szilágyi (Gizella Pince), Ferenc Takler (Takler Pince), Zoltán Tarnóczi (Orsolya Pince), Vilmos Thummerer (Thummerer Pince), Ede Tiffán (Tiffán Ede és Zsolt Pincészete), György Várszegi (Kreinbacher Birtok), Ferenc Vesztergombi (Vesztergombi Pince), Péter Vida (Vida Családi Borbirtok) Franz Weninger (Weninger Pincészet) and Márta Wille-Baumkauff (Pendits Pincészet).

More than half of Hungary’s wine regions were represented, with winemakers from Tokaj, Villány, Eger, Szekszárd, Balatonfüred-Csopak, Sopron, Mátra, Badacsony, Pannonhalma, Balatonfelvidék, Somló, Balatonboglár and Etyek-Buda as well as winemakers from just across the borders from Szerémseg (Syrmia) in Serbia, Garam Mente (Hron) in Slovakia and Ménes (Minis) Romania.

So, if you’re less familiar with Hungarian wines or want to discover some new winemakers, if you pick wines from any of these wineries, you should rarely be disappointed.

Naturally, we shouldn’t forget its ten previous winners either: János Konyári, István Jásdi, András Bacsó, Dr László Bussay, Stephanie Berecz, József Szentesi, Imre Györgkovács, Ottó Légli, István Szepsy Sr, Dr György Lőrincz (St Andrea Szőlőbirtok és Pincészet) and Zoltán Demeter.

We wait with bated breath for the announcement of the shortlisted five winemakers, the overall winner and, of course, the Winemakers’ Friend 2019.

Jani’s fantastical world

bolyki borokJános Bolyki, one of the most personable winemakers in Eger, has launched new labels for his entire range of wine. They continue the light-hearted style of his previous labels. Fantastical creatures and objects grace the colourful hand-drawn labels designed once again by Géza Ipacs.

The Bolyki Pincészet labels have always been considered as a little eccentric, with names like Indián nyár (Indian Summer) or Hazug mókus (Insincere Squirrel), so the new labels continue in the same vein, but add a certain uniformity to the range, with characters and motifs being repeated across the labels. One reason for this is that the winery is cutting down its vast range of 24 wines of last year to focus on a core product line of eight wines. Plus rosé, says János as this always sells better than beer at his festival! The long-term plan is to have only five or six wines They are working increasingly with export, so it’s difficult to communicate so many wines. Their main focus is on Bikavér, as he says that this is what the market is looking for, but the range also includes Királyleanyka, Cabernet Franc, Csillag, Merlot and Sauvignon Blanc.

They came up with the roots for the new labels a couple of years ago when there was a circus wagon with animals at the winery, creating a fairy-tale environment for the kids. They decided to follow this direction but selected motifs that had worked in previous incarnations, so 70-80% of the motifs, such as squirrels, rabbits, hippos and zebras, are still the focal point of the colourful, somewhat surreal labels, and they all feature the quarry-like cellar in the background. The back labels weave playful tales and stories, with each wine having its own humorous story, yet linked somehow to the larger picture. He’ll be able to tell these to his kids too, as he and his wife are now expecting their fourth child. He wants the labels to say something about the winery, although he admits that you can only make labels like this if the context is serious, i.e. good wine.

The labels are being changed with the new vintage, so over the next year, Bolyki fans will be able to read the stories of the entire range, as well as taste the new vintage, of course.

bolyki_janos

János started making wine in 2003 and by 2006 was making enough to start to sell them commercially. His father was always very critical of his wines, never actually saying they were good, but, as János quipped, he was one of their biggest drinkers! He was soon winning awards and then invested in three interconnected cellars in Eger that had previously been a quarry. He lives from his winemaking, but also organises events, such as the popular three-day FesztEger rock festival at the end of May, where János also doubles as a DJ. If you can’t make the festival, then the quirky winery itself is also worth a visit!

*all photos above courtesy of Wineglass Communication

 

Battle of the Bull’s Bloods

Forget Spain or Portugal, a major bullfight took part in Budapest last week. The battle of the Bikavérs from Eger and Szekszárd.

Both regions produce a blend known as Bikavér in Hungary, in English ‘Bull’s Blood’. This is generally a full-bodied, relatively tannic wine, without too many rules about the composition of the blend, except that in Szekszárd it should consist of at least a total of 40% Kékfrankos and Kadarka combined.

They are, however, quite different wine regions. Szekszárd is located towards the south of Hungary, thus its wines are generally rather more full-bodied than those produced in Eger. Nevertheless, that is not to say that the Szekszárd will always be the more full-bodied. In many cases, the Eger versions can be just as big fruit and tannin bombs as the Szekszárd ones.

It was a kind of ‘battle of the couples’, with pairs of winemakers lined up next to each other – one from Szekszárd, one from Eger. Twenty-six wineries were represented – thirteen from Szekszárd, thirteen from Eger.

Generally the blends presented were Kékfrankos-based – typically 40-50% – with a smaller quantity of Kadarka – often 5%, rounded out with various other grape varieties, often international, e.g. Merlot, Cabernet Sauvignon and Pinot Noir. There did not seem to be a huge difference between the blends from the two wine regions.

Participants from Eger: Kovács Nimród Borászat, Gál Lajos Pincészete, Besenyei Borház, Gál Tibor, Juhász Testvérek Pincészete, Gróf Buttler Borászat, St Andrea Szőlőbirtok, Bolyki Pincészet, Thummerer Pincészet, Demeter Pincészet, Ostoros-Novaj Bor and Hagymási Pincészet.

Participants from Szekszárd: Takler Pince, Bodri Pincészet, Schieber Pincészet, Sebestyén Pince, Mészáros Borház, Heimann Családi Birtok, Fritz Borház, Merfelsz Pince, Vesztergombi Pince, Pratner Pince, Vida Családi Borbirtok, Eszterbauer Borászat and Bősz Adrián Pincészete.

So, what was the outcome? Well, actually, it was a tie, or a draw, if you like, according to the visitors to the sold out event, organised for the fourth time in Budapest.