“The best wine of St. Andrea should be the Bikavér”

Áldás – Hangács – Merengő – Nagy-Eged-hegy Bikavérs

 

We started the conversation with György Lőrincz about the Bikavérs in the cellar, 20 metres below the ground and continued by the tables. We went through them all (tasted and talked about them), from the Áldás to the Nagy-Eged-hegy.

“Today, I’m a lot more open when making the Bikavérs. I use the Pinot Noir and the Kadarka a lot more bravely, because it’s become evident to me that they can also play a serious role in the case of Bikavér. This is going to be even truer with the 2016 vintage but this has already taken shape with the 2015 wines. They have extraordinary, breath-taking qualities, that’s what the wines have to reflect,” sums up György Lőrincz at the beginning.

 

“To show with them reveals that we are Eger wine producers” – Áldás

…says Gyuri about the estate Bikavér after a long pause to think. “It’s the wine made from several vineyards mixed together but all the plots are dominated by clayish, brown forest soil and tuff subsoil. We put the wines of eight varieties into Áldás: one-third is Kékfrankos, with almost as much Merlot and the rest is Cabernet Franc, Pinot Noir, Syrah, Cabernet Sauvignon, Kadarka and Turán. It was aged in oak barrels for 13 months, altogether 58,000 bottles were made from it.

What I like about it is that it’s delicious and complex. Áldás is the attainable Eger experience. By reaching a lot of people with it, we wish to give something nice, lovable, memorable, even at a young age – for me, this wine is about that. It’s such a value in our hands that shows what is good in Eger. The winery’s best wine – it should be the Bikavér at every level. I think, we’ve achieved this with the Áldás.

 

 

Hangács and Merengő: the styles differ, the quality is the same

The Hangács single vineyard Bikavér is born on the plot that gives it its name. Merengő is the wine of different vineyards, there’s a lot in it from the red varieties of the Paptag vineyard and from the Kékfrankos of the Ferenc-hegy vineyard. They are made with serious yield control (with a yield of between half and one kilo) and the partial use of new barrels, but only in good years. In the 2014 vintage, neither were made.

“The difference between them is more in style than in quality. The difference between them comes from the ripeness, the soil and the production. In the last 15 years, we’ve experienced what our vineyards can do… which grapes feel the best in certain plots, what’s worth keeping or planting.

Hangács Bikavér is the wine of the Hangács vineyard. The tuff subsoil and diverse top soil give exciting wines with rustic flavours and taut structure.

In the 2015 Hangács, alongside the Kékfrankos (30%), there’s more Cabernet Franc (28%) and less Merlot (18%) than in the Áldás, but there’s also Pinot Noir (14%) and a touch of Kadarka (10%) in it. We fermented it in open vats and tanks, aged it for 19 months in 5-hectolitre barrels. 6,700 bottles were made from it. A really small amount. 2015 gave us as much as that, the amount of Kékfrankos that grows in the vineyards greatly defines how much of it is made.

Already in 2002, when the St. Andrea winery was established, I thought that I would take Bikavér very seriously. That was the year when Merengő was first made, so it was bottled for the first time 16 years ago. (Its name was born before it, during the year before the birth of the winery. I first called a Cabernet Franc of mine like this in 2000.) Earlier, it was meatier, more tannic with more new barrel Cabernet Franc in it. It still defines it to some extent even today. In Eger, winemakers focus on ripe fruit and tannins, which is what we have to show in style. The 2015 Merengő is the 11th vintage, 6,700 bottles were made from it. We put five grape varieties into it: Kékfrankos (31%), Cabernet Franc, Merlot and Syrah in an almost equal proportion, and bit less of Pinot Noir. It was fermented in open vats and tanks, spontaneously and also inoculated, then we aged it for 18 months in 5-hectolitre barrels. It’s more elegant than the previous ones…

 

Truly – that keeps me excited now

“In the last couple of years, we’ve been thinking about putting one more Bikavér into our selection. For me a Bikavér was missing from among the Hangács-Merengő and the Nagy-Eged-hegy that would make the range complete. The area below the Nagy-Eged-hegy vineyard, at the foot of the hill is a separate vineyard, this is Nagy-Eged. This lower part has different qualities, similar to the one on the hill, the soil is limestone here as well but it is covered by a hummus-rich layer. By today, it has become certain that we will have a Bikavér that will be based on the red varieties (Kékfrankos, Merlot, Cabernet Franc) grown here. It will be called “Igazán” (meaning “truly”), that keeps me excited now.”

 

 

The aromas and flavours of the hill – Nagy-Eged-hegy 2013

“‘One should only taste the wines from Nagy-Eged-hegy after six years,’ according to the grandfather of Ferenc Csutorás, a winemaker friend of mine. The altogether 658 bottles didn’t age that much, but it’s true that I gave it more time compared to my other single vineyard wines; it spent two and a half years in barrels. Even if we don’t take the six years literally, it’s a good thing to have the old wisdom in our heads that the wine from here behaves differently. The mesoclimate is really special here, spring arrives early. Its uniqueness lies in the calcareous soil of grey Triassic period limestone and the sea alluvial limestone soil on top of it… This is our big Eger wine that is defined by this terroir. We have six kinds of red varieties: Kékfrankos, Kadarka, Merlot, Pinot Noir, Syrah and Csóka. In 2013, we couldn’t put any Csóka into it as the pheasants ate it. There is 37% Kékfrankos, 25% Merlot, 19% Syrah, 13% Kadarka and 6% Pinot Noir in it. It is easy to recognise and distinguish it when tasting it. In the 2013 vintage, it was fermented in vats, both spontaneously and controlled, with cultured yeast, then aged in 5-hectolitre new barrels. It has an oaky, smoky, sandalwood character. It shows the aromas and flavours of the hill even at this young age. For me, it’s a ‘prayer that turned into wine’, the wine of the saint hill.

We want to build our most important wines, the Bikavérs, the Áldás, the Hangács, the Merengő, and the Nagy-Eged-hegy for everybody’s joy, that’s the aim. They should bring prestige for Eger and St. Andrea. For these, two things are important: to have a unified message from Eger and also to formulate our own message with them. To find the Eger character and their own personality within them, that’s our mission.”

 

 


 

About the labels

On the new bottles, the labels have become four lines long; besides the name and the vintage, we also indicate other things that we find important. On the Áldás, it says ‘cool climate’, which people around the world associate with more acidic, fruitier wines. We put the expression ‘single-vineyard / cru’ on the label of the Hangács and the Nagy-Eged-hegy and ‘volcanic’ on the Merengő. This way, wherever people taste them, they can place them better and know what to expect from them, and what’s worth paying attention to.”

 

The regulations of making Eger Bikavér

The regulations applying to the making of Bikavér have been constantly changing in the last 100 years or so – ever since we can talk about Bikavér. What the greatest problem was for a long time was that these were only recommendations and they were not compulsory. The basis of the current Eger Bikavér regulation was signed by the wine region’s 13 wine communities in 1997, whereby they put the wine region onto a new track. Since August 1, 2017, the following description applies to Eger Bikavér with Protected Designation of Origin:

For making it, the wines of Bíborkadarka (only in the classic category), Blauburger, Cabernet Franc, Cabernet Sauvignon, Kadarka, Kékfrankos, Kékoportó, Menoire, Merlot, Pinot Noir, Syrah, Turán, Zweigelt can be used from the vineyards belonging to the wine region.

When making an Eger Bikavér Classic, the wines of at least four grape varieties should be blended, the proportions of all components should each be higher than 5%. Kékfrankos should be the largest proportion in the blend (at least 30%), the Turán and the Bíborkadarka, regardless of whether together or separately, can only be used to a maximum of 10%. Eger Bikavér Classic can only be put on the market after at least six months of barrel ageing and be sold solely in bottles, the soonest on September 1 the following year after the harvest. The Superior and the Grand Superior Bikavérs have to be aged for at least a year in barrels and can be put on the market the soonest after November 1st in the following year after the harvest.