It is quite a feat to explain what makes a Bull's Blood, a Bull's Blood. Regulations are kind of fuzzy around the edges. Maybe not so much the regulations, and not so much fuzzy, but it is well-complicated.
See for yourself.
Bull's Blood or Egri Bikavér is a blend. A blend that has been changed over time, many times. Traditionally, from the late XVI. century, Kadarka was the main variety of the region, but after the phylloxera, Bordeaux varieties were favoured that left Bull's Blood structurally and characteristically changed. The aim is get a good quality, well-balanced cuvée where no single grape dominates the end product.
From 2010 there are two protected quality levels of the Egri Bikavér, Classic and Superior. According to the current legislation, it should consist at least three out of thirteen allowed grape varieties to be qualified as a Classic Egri Bikavér: Bíbor Kadarka, Blauburger, Cabernet Franc, Cabernet Sauvignon, Kadarka, Kékfrankos, Kékoportó (Portugieser), Menoire, Merlot, Pinot Noir, Syrah, Turán, Zweigelt.
The blend is now based on the Kékfrankos variety which should make up no more than 50% of the blend. But here comes the funky bit. No grape should be present more than 50% and three grapes should be present at least 5% each in the blend and the Turán and the Bíbor Kadarka cannot be more than 10% each or together. The grapes can come from certain delineated areas of 15 villages and settlements. It should have the minimum of 10.6% of alcohol if using Kékfrankos, Portugieser, Kadarka, Blauburger, Turán, Bíbor Kadarka and Zweigelt in the blend. The minimum alcohol of 12.8% if using Cabernet Franc, Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, Pinot Noir, Menoire and Syrah. The wine should be matured for six months in oak barrels, should be sold exclusively in glass bottles no earlier than the 1st of November in the following year.
To be qualified as Superior the grapes can come from certain delineated areas of 15 villages and settlements and should have the minimum of 12.83% of alcohol regardless of what grapes has been used. It should have the minimum of a year maturation in oak barrels and 6 months in bottles. It should consist at least 5 of the qualifying varieties. No variety can be present in higher proportion than 30% except the Kékfrankos, which can be no more than 50%. At least five grapes should be present, each more than 5%, except the Turán which cannot be more than 5%. Cabernet Franc and Cabernet Sauvignon cannot be present together or each more than 30% of the blend. It should be sold exclusively in glass bottles, at the second year following the harvest from the 1st of May. And this was just the Egri Bikavér. There is such a thing as Szekszárdi Bikavér, but I am not even going to go there.
Just to finish on a lighter note, after all these rules and regulations which aims for a higher quality level, you might still thinking. Hang on a second, where is the name coming from?
According to the legend it originates from 1552. When Suleiman the Magnificent and his troops in an attempt to capture the Fortress of Eger as part of the invasion of the country, realised that the relatively small number of defenders were putting up demoralising, firm resistance. They seemed to drink copious amount of red wine that stained their beards, and made their eyes bloodshot. Among the Turkish soldiers the rumour spread that the strongly coloured wine, was mixed up with bull,s blood, that made the defenders stronger, almost invincible. Finally the superstitious enemy retreated.
As lovely as it sounds this legend is definitely not true, because until the arrival of the Ottomans, Eger was solely white wine region with no red on sight at all. Kadarka as well as the process of red wine making, arrived with the Serbs later on.
Photographs by The Tannin Addict