March 25, 2010
EGER, HUNGARY, Mar. 25, 2010/ Bon Voyage / — Have you ever drunk Bulls Blood? That’s the name of a Hungarian wine which has become a speciality.Of course, there’s a legend behind the name, and it starts in the little town of Eger.
In 1552, thousands and thousands of Turks, on their way to Western Europe, headed west into Hungary, where they besieged Eger. The townspeople Eger retreated to their castle, along with 2,000 soldiers led by their Captain Istvan Dobo. The castle, which was under siege for a month, soon ran out of food and water. To prepare for the upcoming battle with the Turks and to give them strength and courage, Dobo Istvan and his 2,000 Hungarian warriors mixed all the wine in Eger – Franconian, Merlot, and Cabernet, and who knows how many local varietals – together to create a robust, ruby-colored wine. They then drank it.
The wine spilled over their beards and onto their clothes and armor, coloring them blood red. While it seemed impossible for only 2,000 soldiers to hold off 60,000 or 150,000 or 200,000 Turks (the number depends on which account you read. and maybe how much wine the teller has been drinking). word spread among the Turks that the Hungarians were drinking the blood of bulls to make them strong. The tale, and superstition, led the Turks to retreat.
They believed that the Hungarian’s red-stained beards were proof that the bull’s blood gave them super-human strength and endurance. And that is when the legend of Bulls Blood Wine was born.
Bull’s Blood Wine, or Bikaver as the wine is known in Hungary is the pride of the region. The citizens of Eger are proud to tell you that, by stopping the Ottoman advance back in 1522, they halted the Ottoman invasion of Western Europe.
While the original Bikaver was probably not always a memorable wine by today’s standards, that has all changed. You can sample Bull’s Blood wine throughout Hungary today. Look for it in Eger itself or in the Valley of the Beautiful Women, a great wine tasting valley on the outskirts of the town. Bikaver has been made for centuries now, but in the 1970s the name became exclusive to wines grown to the Eger region.
With Hungarians eagerly improving their wines over the last decade, it’s become a nice wine to drink. It’s not complex, and it’s not expensive, but it is fun. And sitting in the town square in Eger, who wouldn’t want to drop a post card or Twitter their friends that they were drinking Bikaver, or better yet, Bull’s Blood!
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