Why in the world would anyone call their wine Bull’s Blood?

There's a great legend here, involves wine and history and heroics… and it all starts in the great little town of Eger, Hungary. Back in 1552, the Turks were expanding their empire through Europe… and having conquered the Balkans, thousands and thousands of them were headed west through Hungary. They besieged the little city of Eger on their way to Western Europe.

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The townspeople of Eger holed up in their castle. Two thousand soldiers led by their Captain Istvan Dobo were in the castle with the townspeople. The castle was besieged for a month. With food and water running short, Dobo Istvan and his 2,000 Hungarian warriors dumped all the wine together. Franconian, Merlot, and Cabernet, and who knows how many local varietals were mixed together creating a robust, ruby-colored wine. The warriors drank it to give them strength to fight off the Turks.

The wine spilled over their beards and onto their clothes and armor… coloring them blood red. 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?)

As they continued their valiant fight, word spread among the Turks that the Hungarians were drinking the blood of bulls to make them strong. Superstition forced the Turks back as much as the valiant resistance of the Hungarians.

The Turks were understandably shocked. They said they had been forced to retreat because they couldn't defeat the Hungarians… why? They said 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 Bikavér 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 Empire's invasion of Western Europe.

The Bikaver that came out of Hungary years ago was probably not always a memorable wine by today's standards, but all that has changed. You can sample Bull's Blood wine all around Eger, and it's served throughout Hungary today. Look for it in town or in the Valley of the Beautiful Women… a great wine tasting valley about a mile from 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. We enjoy trying local wines. It's not complex, and it's not expensive, but it is fun. And sitting in the town square in Eger, you wouldn't want to drop a post card or Twitter your friends that you were drinking Bikaver…. Oh, no…. That's too tame…. You'd tell them you were drinking Bull's Blood!


Jeff Halter also writes travel tips for BookCentralCoast.com.au, the perfect place to look if you need accommodation on the AUSSIE NSW Central Coast…