Moving on from Bull’s Blood

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At the end of February I was invited to talk at the XIX Vine and Wine Conference at the Károly Esterházy University in Eger, on marketing Hungarian wine in a global context. Some of my research highlighted the fact that after Tokaj, Bull’s Blood was the most well known Hungarian wine in many countries. It also indicated that Bull’s Blood had a reputation for wine in the cheaper bulk wine category, with many wines generically labelled ‘Bull’s Blood’.

Ceiling of the conference hall at the Károly Esterházy University

The successful marketing campaign for Bull’s Blood refers to the legend of when the Ottoman Turks believed the Hungarians were drinking blood to fortify themselves before battle when they saw the red wine stains on their beards. Today, it is largely the entry level wines which are called Bull’s Blood: blended reds which are bottled in Eger. Mostly, serious Eger producers choose to call their wines by the Hungarian name bikavér, with maybe a passing nod to a bull on the label, such as those of Ferenc Tóth and János Bolyki. Continue reading

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Defining Szekszárdi Bikavér

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How often have we read a simple description defining a wine style, only to find that few wines match this? Indeed, with permutations including vintage, winemaker, terroir, how can one description sum up a region?

Szekszárdi Bikavér – Bikavér (“Bull’s Blood”) from Szekszárd in southern Hungary – is often described alongside Bikavér from Eger, 300km to the north, making descriptions even more confusing. Though they share the name Bikavér, and are both based on Kékfrankos, they are inevitably influenced by their different terroirs. Egri Bikavér is often identified as being bigger and more structural, but this difference is often less obvious when taking into account winemaking styles. Indeed, a major challenge facing both areas, is to define the unique qualities of each and the differences between them in the eyes of the international consumer. Kristian Kielmayer has neatly summed up the differences between the Bikavérs in his 2015 review of the annual tasting of the wines from the two regions.

Logo for the annual Eger vs Szekszárd Bikavér tasting

Logo for the annual Eger vs Szekszárd Bikavér tasting

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Rosé Wines from Central Europe

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Central_Europe_Regions

This June I drove from home (near Nice) to Hungary to take part in the VinAgora Wine Competition.

With only a few days free before the start of the competition, I drove across northern Italy, to Slovenia, staying for a couple of days outside Ljubljana, before driving east, taking a very short short-cut across northern Croatia into Hungary and up to Budapest.

After the VinAgora competition, I drove from Budapest, north west, briefly across Slovakia to stay a few days in Moravia in the Czech Republic, then south west to Vienna, south through Styria to north east Italy and back home.

During the trip I had a few opportunities to taste local rosé wines, appreciating the diversity of this growing wine style. As there have been no organised tastings of rosé wines from these countries, this summary is based on the few I have tasted and is by no means exhaustive. Despite the popularity of rosé, few rosé wines featured on wine lists in bars and restaurants, so I sometimes had to ask if rosé was available.

The rosés tended to be darker than those of the almost white-shell-pink Provence. Blaufränkisch/Kékfrankos was the most commonly used grape, featuring in twelve out of thirty wines. Zweigelt, which is included in five of the following rosés, is a cross, created at Klosterneuburg (see Austria below) between St Laurent x Blaufränkisch. Most of the rosés were fruity (generally red fruits) and with high acidity. Many also had a delicate tannic presence which, combined with the acidity, appears to give these rosés a degree of longevity; note the vintage dates of those tasted – the oldest being 2012. The majority of rosés tasted were 12% alcohol or under. Continue reading