I was skeptical. Hungary and wine…good wine? My colleagues at Celergo Global Payroll extended an invitation for a weekend tour of the Eger wine region in Hungary. I am always up for anything with ‘tour’ and ‘wine’ in the description, so on the train from Budapest to Eger I went. The train ride itself was a treat; viewing the Hungarian countryside, passing hectare after hectare of lovely sunflowers in full bloom.
I was not expecting good wine and the first tasting met my expectations. The cave atmosphere was utterly charming. But I could not drink the wine at all. It was a crime in a glass. Sadly, I left the cave thinking the entire day would be miserable. Here is another of life’s lessons realized: One should never give up. The second cave was better!
The second cave housed the classic red wine of Eger, Bull’s Blood or Egri Bikaver. It was robust, luscious and very drinkable. May I have another please? Over the second glass, I heard the legend of how Bull’s Blood got its name. Castle Eger was under attack in 1552 by over 2000 invading Ottoman Turks. Hopelessly outnumbered, a group of about 200 Hungarians began drinking this potent red wine to bolster their courage. The wine spilled over their beards and clothing, coloring everything red. Rumors then spread to the Turks that the Hungarians drank the blood of bulls to make them fierce and the Turks eventually retreated. I am happy to say that I did not spill a drop. All was carefully, deliberately and deliciously consumed.
The third cave, and third time is definitely the charm, was the most memorable. It was Chateau Wanda. I had never heard of it before. I choose to walk into this cave for one reason and one reason only, its name. My Mom’s name was Wanda. This was destiny calling me. The women who worked there were friendly and knowledgeable. I chose their Cabernet Franc. A winner! Ok great name and great taste. This is definitely the highlight of the journey! May I have two bottles of this delicious wine, along with your tin storage tube featuring that beautiful name, and the wine bag, and the cute embroidered wine apron….please?
Now my eyes were open to Hungarian wine. I later discovered an amazing pinot noir – the best east of Burgundy – that I have ever had the pleasure of quaffing . It was a beautiful sunshine-filled day sitting on DiVino’s patio just outside St. Stephen’s Cathedral enjoying a glass of Hernyak 2012 Pinot Noir. Yum! There is more to explore! The Hernyak wine estate is even closer to Budapest. Okay, so the next Hungarian wine region tour on my list is Etyek, and more (much more) pinot noir. And then the next…well I must pace myself…Hungary is a country with half a million winemakers!