Eger – Bikavér and beyond!
Eger is one of the best known wine regions of Hungary.
Mainly for their Egri Bikavér, or “Bull’s Blood”, but there is so much more to Eger, as shown a couple a weeks ago at the Hungarian Embassy.
Eger sits on a similar latitude to Burgundy and you are not completely off by linking the best reds of Eger to a “Burgundian” style, if any such ever existed. The region enjoys a cool, continental climate due to the protection offered by the Bükk and Mátra mountains.
Most vineyards sit at 160-180 meters a.s.l. with Nagy-Eged hill being a major exception, as its peak is at 536 meters, making it the highest winegrowing spot in Hungary.
The tasting in Copenhagen showed us the true diversity of the wine region of Eger and I am just presenting a few highlights from the tasting:
Eger has plenty of white wines. I was rather impressed by Gál Tibor 2019 Egri Csillag. Egri Csillag is the white peer of the red Egri Bikavér. A minimum of 4 varieties, each no less than 5%. The 2019 showed apply notes, lemon and lime, floral and mineral notes as well as a phenolic bitterness.
Kadarka used to be a major player amongst the red varieties in Eger, but only small amounts remain today. We tasted two very different versions with my favourite being the 2015 Gróf Buttler Egri Kadarka Superior from the limestone/clay soils at Nagy-Eged hill, where most of Eger would be rhiolyte tuff.
Spontaneous fermented and 18 months in used 1000 liters barrels. Lovely, pale, developed colour. Stewed fruit character of strawberry, raspberry, apricut and plum as well as that beautiful Kadarka spicyness. The lovely acidity is generously provided by the Nagy-Eged.
Like the Kadarkas the two Kékfrankos were very different. Both from 2016, it is easier to compare them. Two different vineyards and two different approaches to the use of barrels. Bolyki’s from Kistibrik showed dark cherry and black plum, pepper, dark chocolate and a whiff of bacon. Fresh acidity and fruit driven with a very moderate alcohol level. Tannins need a little more time in the bottle to integrate. Tóth Ferenc’s from Tornyos was fuller and less herbaceous with ripe fruit such as dark cherry, roasted nuts and coffee. Some might say more multi layered and rounder. The usage of new oak shows.
Egri Bikavér is to me the true Eger. The historic Eger. Today, it comes in three categories:
– Grand Superior
Today, Kékfrankos must be the dominant variety (30-65%), where back in the day, Kadarka used to play first fiddle. Like the Csillag: At least 4 varieties, none less than 5%.
Key difference makers are maceration and the time in oak. Classicus is at least 8 days of macerations and 6 months with Superior and Grand Superior seing at least 15 days of maceration and 12 months.
Those, who know me, know my long time love for Gál Tibor and his 2016 Egri Bikavér Grand Superior Sikhégy was beautiful. Ripe, stewed fruit, pepper, roasted nuts, chocolate, tobacco, sweet spices. So complex and balanced and such concentration.
No rule without exception. And the exception was the 2013 Gróf Butler Egri Bikavér Grans Superior, as there was no Kékfrankos, despite it being mandatory! And it would have been, had Gróf Butler not made a Bikavér without Kékfrankos prior to the new legislation. It has to be a single vineyard (Here, Nagy-Eged) and if any changes are made to the vineyard, they have to adapt to the current rules. But, it was interesting to taste a Bikavér oozing from blackcurrants.
A truly unique experience was tasting an Egri Turán from Attila Winery. Turán remains such a primadonna. Super aromatic and for that often used in small amounts in blends, but Attila’s version was less so. Stewed plum and blackberry, a bit raisiny, liquorice. Only medium to medium (-) body and only 12% of alcohol. Quite a different approach from examples from e.g. Enikö Luka or Gallay.
Late harvested Hárslevelű form Eger! Who would have thought! But Bolyki makes a beautiful version from Középbérc. Barrel fermented with selected yeasts. 6 months in partially new oak. Showing peach, citrus (lemoncurd), very ripe fruit (think quince). Super balanced with great intensity and some complexity. Should pair very well with foie gras.