Apr 27 2015

The great Bikavér (bulls blood) tasting Szekszárd vs. Eger

Bikavér a.k.a. Bulls blood in English is produced in two regions of Hungary, in Eger and Szekszárd. While people say historically speaking, because of the “co-operative” it was more famous in Eger, but this if so was purely based on volume and nothing else. On the other side the majority of people reckon from the historical point of view Szekszárd Bikavér was first, yet the story with the battle around the castle of Eger sounds somewhat more exciting. There is an ongoing and never ending battle between Egri Bikavér vs. Szekszárdi Bikavér. Which is good in a way that they push each other to make better and better wines. At least this is my idea of this battle which is best shown when you taste the wines side by side.

It would be too bold to say Bikavér has a definite and easy to recognize style in Szekszárd or Eger. This is not the case, at least not at the moment. But there are certain rules which the producer have to obey.

In Szekszárd a Bikavér has to be aged for at least one year in oak, must be made from minimum of three varietals. Kékfrankos and Kadarka must be represented in the blend with minimum of 40%, at the following varieties are not allowed to be more than 10% in the blend: Blauburger, Menoire, Syrah, Zweigelt, Biborkadarka, Turán, Alibernet, Tannat and Sagrantino.

The Premium Bikavér has similar rules but there is one year of additional bottle aging as well as Kékfrankos must be minimum 35% and Kadarka a minimum of 5%, and Syrah minimum of 10% and can have further on the following varieties in the blend: Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, Pinot Noir and Cabernet Franc. Much more international in style judged by the blending partners and percentage. Bikavér must have a minimum of 12% and the premium  marginal higher.

In Eger there are three levels of Bikavér: classicus, superior, grand superior, where the later have a minimum 12,5% abv and the classicus 11,5%. What worries me a bit -apart from many other things – is the residual sugar of 5 g/l which is allowed. In the classicus bikavér´s Kékfrankos has to dominate but nothing can be over 50% in the blend with a minimum of 6 months aging in oak. Superios Bikavér´s have a longer maceration on skin and with a minimum of 12 months aging in oak and you can guess grand superior has a higher oak percentage (16 months) and 6 months of bottle age. In Eger from the two top categories there are no chips/staves, RO or alcohol reduction allowed.

While it´s very welcoming that a great emphasize is put on local varieties such as Kékfrankos and Kadarka as well because varieties as a tool do determine the style of the wine. Personally I find it confusing with all the different levels, especially in the case of Eger because it gives a sense of devaluing the “brand” Bikavér.

Now who is winning the battle of Bikavér´s? In my book it´s Szekszárd, they just show more finesse, elegance, depth and complexity in general terms than their counterparts of Eger. This doesn´t mean that there are no good Bikavér´s from Eger, it only means that comparing the same number of wines you´re more likely to find more exciting producers from Szekszárd. And simply a I can cite more favourite Bikavérs from Szekszárd than from Eger. But as said, it´s a good competition and may more and more be producing gorgeous Bikavér´s with personality.

Tasted 20.02.2015

Vintage 2009: over all a very good vintage, ripe flavours and good balance of alcohol and body with plenty of fresh acidity.

Eszterbauer, Tüke Szekszárdi Bikavér 2009

Blend which is based on Kékfrankos, Kadarka and French varietals, 15 months in second and third fill oak barrels matured. Medium ruby colour with cool mint and herbal quality on the nose led by ripe red fruit. Round sweet spice, lush red currant red berry fruit. Ripe on the palate with fresh acidity, hint of smoke, cranberry, plum and cherry note. Lush texture smooth tannins with fleshy subtle fruit on the finish. Drinks very well with good depth and well balanced.

Drink now – 2023

Vesztergombi, Bikavér 2009

The winery is producing since 1992 bikavér. Medium ruby colour with floral, spice integrated oak vanilla, dark chocolate aromas. Plenty of volume on the palate, flesh, multi layered touch of farmyard. Round, delicate, lush sweet spice, mix of red berry and black berry, some herbal quality smooth sweet finish.

Drink now -2023

Besenyei, Egri Bikavér 2009

Based on Kékfrankos and Kadarka, 20 months in big oak barrel and 4 months in small oak. Medium ruby colour vegetal and green notes of peppery, capsicum pencil shaving. Cool herbal quality, unusual for the vintage. Mint and basal leaf with some floral background. Fresh style, greengage, herbaceous, simple black currant, eucalyptus moderate mid palate and finish

Drink now

St. Andrea, Merengö 2009

Deep ruby colour, meat ball masculine rich nose hint of farmyard. Ripe, red currant, red berry, sweet spice and mix of fleshy ripe delicious fruit multi layered. Good intensity, ripe fruit and sweet spice with good depth, bright crunchy finish and rich tannin structure.

Drink now – 2025

Gál Lajos, Pajados Egri Bikavér 2009

Seven varieties menoire also plays a major role 1 year in 225 litre oak and further year in 12 hl oak matured. Medium ruby colour some cooked jammy notes with herbal attack. Floral, blossom lean cool, character some intense floral reminds of pelargonium (menoire otherwise…), funky finish.

Drink now

Vintage 2007: somewhat difficult, warm to hot summer some rain in September and October usually softer acidity and rich, concentrated fruit.

Gróf Buttler, Nagy Eged Egri Bikavér 2007

Based on Bordeaux varietals, aged in 225 litre oak barrel. Medium ruby colour, vibrant. Sweet spic, intense, tar, roses, rich fleshy meat ball. Sweet cornflakes, coconut, rich spice full bodied with high alcohol. Spice and cinnamon, anis, grippy rich tannins, round finish.

Now – 2025

Bodri, Szekszárdi Bikavér Faluhely 2007

Kékfrankos, Kadarka and CabSav, Merlot

Fading ruby colour, leathery, full developed spice, meaty, forest floor, wet leaf. Lean, simple, smooth touch of vegetal, herbal slightly drying finish.

Drink now

St. Andrea, Merengö Egri Bikavér Superior 2007

Wild ferment in open vat, matured separately for 16 months in oak. Garnet colour with floral and perfume notes some rich cooked fruit on the nose. Warm and bright flavours, sweet spice, tight on the palate yet full bodied rich sweet finish some meaty, spice and leafy background.

Drink now – 2018

Takler, Szekszárdi Bikavér reserve 2007

Classic blend of leading varieties in Szekszárd, 16 months in 500 litre Hungarian oak matured. Garnet colour. Medium intense spice, sweet fruit, good richness on the nose combine with some floral, velvet and very ripe background, good use of oak. Round and delicious with mixture of black fruit and red fruit well balanced.

Drink now – 2020

Vintage 2006: late ripening vintage, cool year with fresh acidity and moderate fruit usually

Takler, Szekszárdi Bikavér reserve 2006 (magnum)

Medium garnet colour. Fully developed nose with farmyard, forest floor, cooked spice, herbal meaty hint of farmyard. Game note and herbal attack on the palate, reminds me of angelica roots, hint of medicinal touch and ginger. Dry with herbal and leafy yet ripe mid palate concentration. Good weight, fine to drink.

Drink now – 2018

Demeter, Egri Bikavér reserve 2002

Medium garnet colour. Floral and spice on the nose with forest floor and earthy touch. Hint of glue and volatile touch as well. Sweet mocca, coffee mix of cranberry, rich use of oak hint of sweet finish.

Drink now

Márkvárt, Szekszárdi Bikavér 2000

Aged in big oak barrels. Medium garnet colour. Coffee, toffee and toasted aromas with coffee grounds. Floral, crunchy notes of leafy and floral notes. Bell pepper, paprika spice, round medium alcohol and medium full bodied, coffee and tobacco, paprika powder shines through at the end as well.

Drink now

Vesztergombi, Szekszárdi Bikavér 2000

Aged for 2 years in large oak barrels. Fairly deep colour almost ruby which is unusual for its age. Slightly closed nose at the beginning. Tight but there is some richness behind the curtains. Full bodied, spice and tobacco with some smoke. Fine richness and good depth on the mid palate opens up with time, finesse and graceful development, good support from the rich tannins, smooth but serious finish.

Drink now – 2020

Thummerer, Egri bikavér reserve 2000

Aged in big oak barrels: the usual suspects with blauburger. Medium garnet colour, there is some mushroom and cooked herbal notes which is slowly opening up and changing to floral and gamey and hint of prune, and dried fruit. Sweet spice on the palate with floral, game and cranberry, mushroom, ripe tannin and smooth finish.

Drink now

Top Bikavér wines from recent vintages from Szekszárd and Eger

Bösz Adrián 2011

Ruby colour, lovely cherry, spice, cranberry and hint of herbal, eucalyptus note. Fruity, very elegant sour cherry, damson fruit with a sweet spice on the finish. Plenty of layers and long finish

Drink now – 2020

Vida 2012

Ruby colour with spice red fruit and cherry, bright plum. Lovely grip on the palate with herbal, spicy, fresh finish, very elegant and bright finish, fine tuned damson and herbal notes at the end.

Drink now 2018

Prantner 2012

Ruby colour. Fleshy round red fruit with currant and spice on the nose. Fresh on the palate, elegant and well balanced fruity, fine silky tannins with hint of tobacco, long finish.

Drink now – 2020

Bolyki 2011 Superior

Ruby colour. With cool cherry, sour cherry, spice and crisp plum on the nose. Lovely touch. Fresh start with crisp blueberry, soft spice sweet finish full bodied, round finish.

Drink now – 2018

Vesztergombi 2012

Ruby colour. Floral, perfume, fresh fruit and lovely sweet spice on the nose. Crisp, elegant fresh red wine, good mid palate weight with damson, cinnamon, anis on the palate, round flavours, drinks very well.

Drink now – 2020

St Andrea Merengö 2011

Ruby vibrant colour. Tar, spice and herbal notes. Much juicier on the palate, bright red berry, floral and tobacco on the finish line. Fine spice from the oak.

Drinks now – 2019

Heimann 2012

Purple colour. Fresh clean nose, lovely red silky berry fruit attached to some herbal, spice character. Round and fresh on the palate, some black pepper and black fruit combination with well balanced medium finish.

Drink now

Gál Tibor, superior 2011

Ruby colour with bright spice and bell pepper freshness on the nose. Elegant smooth velvet tannin structure with red berry, damson and plum. Hint of cinnamon spice with bright fresh finish.

Sebestyén Iván völgy 2012

Purple colour. Bright floral, delicate spice anis and herbal bell pepper on the nose. Sweet fruit with freshness and cherry, plum, hint of floral touch at the end. Good combination of berry fruit, balanced finish.

Drink now

Gál Lajos Pajados 2009

Medium ruby colour. Mint and perfume on the nose. Bright, herbal attack, floral violet perfume on the nose. Fresh, grainy tannin structure with herbal attack and some savoury black fruit on the finish.

Drink now – 2018

Nimród Superior 2011

Ruby colour with rich spice attack. Cinnamon, anis and more. Bold fruit driven on the palate with hint of sweet edge, fairly intense notes, rich and bright style, long finish.

Drink now – 2020

Takler reserve 2012

Ruby colour. Sweet bright cherry, plum elegant and spice and thyme at the same time. Lovely bright finish with plum and complex herbal note.

Drink now – 2020

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