The Battle is on: Eger VS Szekszárd Bulls Blood
Bulls Blood (AKA Bikavér / pronounced: bik-ah-vair) name dates back to centuries. It originated from the siege of Eger Castle in 1552, during the Ottoman Wars in Europe. The legend holds; two thousand men, women and children defended the castle and triumpher over 30-40,000 Turks. Eventually, the vanquished declared, that the victors must have been drinking Bulls Blood to have been so strong to defeat them.
Bulls Blood has come a long way since, and the brand has seen many changes in tradition recipes, regional- and winemakers own preferences, but continues to represent a legendary symbol of red wine making in Hungary. In the last twenty years or so, laws and regulations evolved a lot, quality is now strictly classified and controlled, that resulted in a reliable and prestigious modern cuvee, as it is currently known.
Bulls Blood can only officially be produced in two wine regions of Hungary: Eger and Szekszárd. Although the characteristics still cannot be clearly distinguished in the two regions’ Bulls Bloods, the blends, the requirements, and grades differ in both, in order to adapt to the local soil & particular climate of the two regions. And this is where the battle of the two Bulls Bloods gets interesting.
Whilst it genuinely is an intriguing exercise to try, taste and compare the different characteristics of the two regions’ Bulls Bloods side by side, many argue that this competition is also great from the quality perspective, driving both side towards making better and better wines overall.
Szekszárd Bulls Blood is classified in two grades. The standard must contain at least three grape varieties in the blend, with Kékfrankos and Kadarka representing minimum of 40% (Kékfrankos dominating) and other varieties (such as Blauburger, Meniore, Syrah, Zweigelt, Sagrantino et al) must not be over 10% in the blend. It also has to be aged for a minimum of one year oak. The dominance of Kékfrankos highlights the Szekszárd character of the Bulls Blood, as there is no other similar blend anywhere in the world based on Kékfrankos and Kadarka. Kékfrankos contributes with acid and structure, providing the ‘spine’ of the wine, whilst Kadarka adds its unique aromas.
With the Premium rated Szekszárd Bulls Blood the rules are further sophisticated with an additional year of bottle ageing (on top of the one year barrique ageing) , and with Kékfrankos at a minimum of 35%, Kadarka at 5%, Syrah at 10%, and can also add further varieties from a set number of grapes (Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, Pinot Noir and Cabernet Franc) It is often argued, the Premium is more “international” in style based on the varieties used and proportions weighted.
Eger Bulls Blood has three classifications: Classicus with a blend of Kékfrankos dominating, and at least two of the following 13 varieties (none of which can be more than 50%) Bíbor kadarka, Blauburger, Cabernet franc, Cabernet sauvignon, Kadarka, Kékfrankos, Kékoportó, Menoire, Merlot, Pinot noir, Syrah, Turán, Zweigelt. For the Classicus , a minimum of 6 months is required in oak, for the superior it is one year, while the Grand Superior must be aged for 16 months in oak with an additional 6 months bottle ageing. Additionally, at least 5 of the above 13 varieties must be represented in the Superior Kékfrankos based blend. The main difference here, is manifested in the body and fullness of the wine as well as in the length of the finish.
Kékfrankos (forming the base of the blend) and Kadarka (second strongest presence in bulls blood in general) are not only the most planted varieties in Hungary, but the country also encompasses overall 50% of the world’s plantings of these two varieties. Both Kékfrankos and Kadarka are regarded as great blending partners and versatile local varieties in Hungary.Hence they serve as a fantastic tool to determine the style of the wine in the Szekszárd region VS Eger region battle.
The name Eger is perhaps more established due to its prominence in the region’s history and wine making, as well as larger volumes the region can produce. It is a lovely historic town and a must see destination on a Hungarian wine holiday, as it also happens to be on the way to the famous Tokaj wine region.
Szekszárd on the other hand, is more southern positioned, hence it’s loess soils & it’s hot dry summers also place its vineyards in an equally great position. Currently the region surrounding Szekszárd is mainly known for its greenery and large areas of wildly forests.
Generally, Eger Bulls Blood tends to represent a more tannic, earthy favours, and sit on the firmer, more structured end of the spectrum. Szekszárd’s Bulls Blood tend to show elegance, luscious fruit ripeness, softer texture and spicy character, that also ages faster.
As with all wines of course, it mostly comes down to personal taste and preference, but the Bulls Blood legacy continues to offer an intriguing opportunity for wine enthusiasts to examine and compare the different characters of different regions!
An excellent quality Bulls Blood is mostly recommended to enjoy with beef, game, or classic spicy Hungarian dishes, and with a serving temperature of 15 – 17 °C.