Archive for the ‘Hungary’ Category

Egri Bikavér purchased at Trader Joe's

Egri Bikavér purchased at Trader Joe's

I had never thought of a wine industry in Hungary until I spotted this label (bottled by Vitavin Co. and imported by International Import Export of Los Angeles) in Trader Joe’s one evening. Who knew? Driven by curiosity and this blog, I added a bottle of Egri Bikavér to my shopping cart. When a wine label has “Bull’s blood of Eger” on the label, I couldn’t possibly resist. My husband shook his head and laughed.

We opened it last night. It’s a light-bodied red, a bit of acid, but smooth, and a crimson color. I prefer my wine to have a little more body, with richer fruit. But I bet this wine–a better quaity one, at that–might complement a meal made with spicy Hungarian paprika. That may give me an excuse next winter. What I wanted more was to learn about this wine’s pedigree. On Google, I found much more than I expected–a veritable treasure trove. Fans of this wine have a Facebook page, with 78 members from all over the world as of today. (I’m not joining.)

The wine is from the Eger wine region, which is on the southern slopes of the Bükk Mountains, whose winemaking dates back to Roman times. Eger is a town surrounded by 17 villages. In July, the region holds the Festival of Egri Bikavér, a three-day event with some 15 restaurants and 26 wineries. Can’t get there then? You can attend other festivities: In September, Harvest Day and a wine show; December, St. John’s Day Blessing of the Wine and a wine salon; and many other events. (If you can read Hungarian, click here for the region’s web site.) Here’s a poem I came across in my search:

“If I smell fine wine, I walk in;
Shouldn’t I enter Eger?
If I bypassed this town,
God would detest me…” Sándor Petőfi
Bottles of Egri Bikavér

Bottles of Egri Bikavér

A doctoral thesis dissertation, titled “The Possibilities for the Quality of Development of Egri Bikavér,” by Gál Lajos, prepared at the Department of Enology, Budapest Cornivus University, notes that the origins of this wine are a bit murky. One source states the word bikavér was first associated with Eger around 1851.

The wine itself is a blend of several varietals including Kadarka, Kekfrankos (Blaufränkisch), Médoc Noir (Merlot), and Cabernet Sauvignon, according to Manage Your Cellar, who adds this bit of history/legend about its name:
At the time, the Eger fortress was under attack by the Turkish troops. To give themselves courage and strength, the defenders drank the local wine in large amount, spilling it all over their body. When the attackers saw the defenders covered with red wine, they thought that the men had been drinking the blood of bulls and they fled in terror.
Yet another source has this to say about the wine’s legendary origins:
Legend has it that during the siege of the Eger fortress in the mid 1500s, Hungarian soldiers fortified themselves with Bikaver found in the catacombs of the castle. Enabled with what appeared to be super-human strength, they were able to hold off the Turkish invaders that greatly outnumbered the Hungarian troops.”
But my search brought up this little gem–a group called the Egri Bikavér Ensemble, eight music students from Gdansk, Poland, who perform on the streets and at few indoor venues, armed with 40 wine bottles filled with varying amounts of water. They prefer certain bottles, according to the group’s web site. “Supposedly the best bottles are after Egri Bikavér, Tokay and the Rhine wines. All tones (bottles) have their special appointed places. So that nobody makes a mistake,” the author of the bio writes. The ensemble plays classical music with some contemporary tunes thrown in. In this video, they perform Bolero:

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