8+1 delicious wines from the land of blends
The Eger winemaker thinks in terms of blends. There’s no other Hungarian wine region where so much is heard about the importance of blending. Even crossing the border, you’d have to drive all the way to the Southern Rhône to find something similar. In the past 1,000 years, every visitor, with the exception of the Turks, starting with the Walloons, has left something here that influenced the region's viticulture. However, it was after the recapture of Eger Castle in 1687 that the region's wine culture began to take hold.
Planting the grapes mixed together and making red wine by co-fermenting the varieties had tradition here, which was cultivated by the local growers until the beginning of the 1900s. The turning point was ushered in by Jenő Grőber, the most influential grape grower and winemaker of the wine region that was awakening after phylloxera.
He was driven by the question: how could it be done better?
He took the structure that was called ‘Bikavér’, i.e. ‘Bull's blood’ and ripped it up. Approaching the question from the aspect of the ingredients, instead of mixed cultivation, he started growing the varieties in separate places and with a different attitude. The harvest thus took place in several steps, always based on the ripeness of the varieties that would arrive at the cellar separately, which were then fermented and aged separately. At the end of the process, there was a step that had never happened in the wine region before, and that was conscious blending. The new innovations eventually became a wine style thanks to the bourgeois families of Eger who thought in a similar manner to Grőber. Until 1950, the blend was mainly based on Kadarka, which was then replaced by Kékfrankos – a variety that could better tolerate mass production.
(From the estate of Jenő Grőber, owner: István Bitskey.)
Of course, the changes of the 100 years that have elapsed since then have also brought about the necessary reformulation of the formula. The climate has changed, the range of ‘raw materials’, that is the varieties that can be used has changed, and the level of technology used in cellars has come on leaps and bounds. Also, the best step of the wine region in the last 20 years was the creation of Egri Csillag (i.e. Eger Star) – a striking and gap-filling wine region brand, which in a short time has become Bikavér's equal white partner.
Capturing the essence, the basic idea has not changed. Just like Jenő Grőber, the attentive winemakers of today's Eger plant by selecting from among vineyards, locations and soils. They arrange the varieties in separate rows, cultivate them differently, play many instruments, and understand many things. Whether the outcome of the large toolbox will be a blessing, instead of a nuisance, in the end depends only on the winemaker's good sense of proportion.
We tasted the core of our current Eger selection and chose four Egri Csillags besides four really good Bikavérs. The exception that proves the rule is our new wine, a pure Pinot Noir from the Ferenc Tóth winery.
Bolyki Egri Csillag 2022
“There’s only one recipe at the time of blending at the Bolyki estate: the wine should be good. We usually make 15 trial blends of the Csillag with different proportions, we taste them several times a day, then we keep the four best ones and re-taste them the next day to decide what should go into the bottle.” It’s a blend of Királyelányka, Sauvignon Blanc, Hárslevelű and Riesling.
Gál Tibor Egri Csillag 2022
This year’s Csillag by Tibor Gál was made from eight varieties, from grapes grown on volcanic rhyolite tuff soil, with the ultimate style in mind when compiling the blend. It’s an intense wine with aromas of tropical fruits, peaches and pears on the nose and a full, mineral palate with a vibrant acid structure. It’s a blend of Olaszrizling, Hárslevelű, Viognier, Tramini, Szürkebarát (Pinot Gris) and Pinot Blanc.
Böjt Egri Csillag 2022
A pristinely pure, fresh and citrusy wine that clearly shows Riesling characteristics. Gergő Böjt is constantly on the move, travels a lot, his passions are surfing and cycling. He recently returned from a longer trip to New Zealand, so it's no surprise that he didn’t leave Sauvignon Blanc out of the Egri Csillag. It’s a blend of Olaszrizling, Leányka, Sauvignon Blanc, Muskotály and Riesling.
St. Andrea Napbor Egri Csillag 2022
“We were already optimistic when tasting the first wines of the 2022 vintage. We picked up those exciting, fruity Napbor flavours,” said György Lőrincz. Napbor is St. Andrea’s most popular white wine. It’s lively and crispy, and it’s the most serious among the light wines. It’s a blend of Chardonnay, Olaszrizling, Hárslevelű, Zengő, Riesling, Viognier and Pinot Blanc.
Bolyki és Bolyki Bikavér Superior 2019
The blend of the best barrels from the best vineyards. Among the cellar's broad selection and many wines, this is the one that best reflects the winemaker's style and approach. It’s a complex, spicy, masculine wine that will show more and more of itself over time. A blend of Kékfrankos, Cabernet Franc, Merlot and Blauburger.
Gál Tibor Egri Bikavér Superior 2020
A youthful and contemporary Bikavér from the estate that’s turning 30 years old this year. It’s a blend of seven grape varieties – according to Tibor's creed, the emphasis is on ultimate harmony and style, so there’s no ‘formula’ to follow, any of the black grapes that can be found on the estate can be included in the Bikavér. It has been fermented spontaneously in vats from the first vintages. It is aged slowly, and then is bottled unfiltered and unfined. A blend of Cabernet Franc, Cabernet Sauvignon, Kadarka, Kékfrankos, Pinot Noir and Syrah.
Böjt Egri Bikavér 2019
“Cool, taut, vibrant and pure excitement,” – this is what a good red wine is, according to Gergő Böjt. The 2019 Böjt Bikavér, sealed with a screw cap, is one of the most modern in the range: it’s medium-bodied with lively acidity, delicately spicy and northern. It’s the lighter side of Bikavér, and a blend of Kékfrankos, Cabernet Sauvignon, Pinot Noir, Zweigelt and Blauburger.
St. Andrea Áldás Bikavér Superior 2021
This is what it’s like when everything comes together: the varieties, the place, the cellar and the approach of the precise winemaker. One of the most well-known and most successful red wines of our selection is the Áldás, the benchmark of modern Bikavér. The two György Lőrinczs, father and son, are building the reputation of the historic wine region at the same time as that of the family estate. It’s a blend of Kékfrankos, Merlot, Cabernet Franc, Pinot Noir, Syrah, Kadarka and Cabernet Sauvignon.
Tóth Ferenc Pinot Noir Superior 2020
Our first wine from the estate is a spicy and dense Pinot Noir from the Steiner vineyard. The soil of the 0.39-hectare parcel, planted in 2015, is volcanic, yet due to the north-facing orientation, the wines here have cool flavours. Hand-harvesting and sorting is followed by destemming, then fermentation on the skins in tanks. It was aged in two new 500-litre Hungarian barrels for one and a half years.
A total of 1,200 bottles were made of it.