Bulls Blood Wine: A Red Blend Lover’s Dream

Bulls Blood is an ancient red wine native to Hungary and is known as its national red wine. It was a very significant wine in the pre-communist era, but had fallen into disrepute under the communists, becoming a cheap jug wine. Bulls Blood has seen a revival in recent times with a number of producers regaining the reputation of the once proud wine. It is a deep ruby red wine, true to its namesake.

History and Origins of Bulls Blood Wine

Egri Bikaver, as it is known in Hungarian, means the “Bulls Blood of Eger”. The name of the wine originates from an event that happened in Eger, the town where it is produced, in the 16th century. According to legend, the name originates from the invasion of Suleiman the Magnificent around 1552. The Turks laid siege to the city and the Hungarians were surrounded. The Hungarians numbered around 2,000 while the Turks numbered around 20,000. Badly outnumbered, the Hungarian troops were able to suppress the Turkish advances.

Spies were sent into the city to determine the reason for the Turkish failure. Speaking to the local tavern owners, they were told that the Hungarian warriors drank the blood of bulls mixed with the local wine and that this act had made them invincible in battle. Upon observing the Hungarian warriors with blonde beards all stained red, the soldiers retreated to the Turkish camp where the story spread like wildfire. The troops fearing for their lives retreated from the city and the city was spared. While many variations of the legend exist, the story emphasizes the importance of the wine to the region.

Grape Varieties in Bulls Blood Wine

Officially, Bulls Blood wine is a blend of a minimum of three grapes out a list of thirteen:

  1. Bíbor kadarka 
  2. Blauburger
  3. Cabernet franc
  4. Cabernet sauvignon 
  5. Kadarka
  6. Kékfrankos (Blaufrankisch)
  7. Kékoportó (Blau Portugeiser) 
  8. Menoire 
  9. Merlot 
  10. Pinot noir 
  11. Syrah 
  12. Turán
  13. Zweigelt

Kadarka was a significant component to the blend but has largely been replaced by Blaufrankisch as a much more viticulturally suitable grape for the blend. Blaufrankisch adds smoke and provides an anchor for the blend. Cabernet franc provides a cherry note to the blend.  The use of the little known Turan grape provides deep color as this is a teinturier grape with deep red juice.

Bulls Blood Flavor Profile

Bulls Blood is very complex, and indeed changes with each sip. The first note is cherry, supplied by the vibrant Cabernet Franc grape. Second, Blaufrankisch offers a note of smoke.. The third pass yields an earthy note of forest floor or mushroom. A subsequent tasting reveals blueberry and finally a note reminiscent of candied violets.

Pairing Recommendations for Bulls Blood Red Wine

Hungarian foods are full of flavor and are well suited to pair with this wine. Traditional dishes of chicken paprikash or Guylas (Goulash) complement Bulls Blood as if they were invented for that very purpose. Its complex flavors find a home with many dishes and it is a favorite food wine. In American cuisine, Bulls Blood pairs nicely with a rack of ribs or smoked brisket, but meets its favorite match in pulled pork and barbecue. 

Serving Tips

Bulls Blood wine should be served at cellar temperature, like most red wines. The wine benefits from a short decanting, but may be consumed without decanting nonetheless. This is a very easy going wine and should be treated as such. Despite its complex flavors, it is meant for simple enjoyment, to be consumed with food or on its own.

Regions and Producers of Bulls Blood in Hungary and USA

In Hungary, there are many producers of Bulls Blood:

Bolyki Egri Bikaver is a classic Egri Bikavér from the Bolyki winery. This award-winning expression showcases an approachable side of this legendary wine. With attractive, deep ruby color, the spicy nose shows a core of dark stewed fruit and a hint of chocolate. The wine has a rich, chewy palate with intense black pepper spice, followed by dark cherry and blackcurrant notes and a touch of vanilla. It also has lively acidity, tight tannic structure, and a long mineral finish.

Bukolyi organic Egri Bikaver – Combining hand-picked grapes from three traditional varieties, this is the only organic Egri Bikavér produced in the region and it certainly packs a punch. The wine shows off an attractive inky purple and red hue; pouring medium to medium-full. It’s clear that there is depth and complexity here, as a seductive array of flavors are jumping out from the glass. Oak and bramble, alongside red and blue fruits, are complemented by rustic aromas of forest floor and chocolate. A tantalizing acidity and medium tannins give the wine its balance. Hints of flint, smoke and paprika can be found on the finish.

ST Andrea Egri Bikaver Superior is a superior quality Bull’s Blood from Eger; this award-winning red wine is everything a great Bikavér should be. The nose is deep and complex with aromas of red cherry, red berries and a hint of licorice root. This savory style showcases notes of ripe bramble and leafy black fruits complemented by oak, chocolate and sweet smoked spice. Its medium body and elegant minerality are characteristic of the volcanic, cool-climate Eger terroir. Soft, ripe tannins and fine acidity set this wine up perfectly for food pairing and aging if you can wait.

In the United States there is very limited production of Bulls Blood.

A Rare American Red Blend: Chateau Niagara’s Award-Winning Bulls Blood

Chateau Niagara Winery Bulls Blood is a superior quality Bulls Blood wine grown in the Niagara region of New York State. This wine has won several gold medals in competition. It is an excellent example of an American-made Bulls Blood, with deep color. The complex nose sets off a cacophony of aromas and foreshadows the complex flavors underneath. The wine’s initial flavor of deep cherry is soon replaced with smoke, mushroom, and blueberry and finishes with notes of candied violets. The long finish is only surpassed by the complexity of the wine.

TeSóAria Bulls Blood

TeSóAria was an American Bulls Blood wine produced in Roseburg, Oregon after Palotai Vineyard & Winery was purchased in 2008 from its former Hungarian owner, Gabor Palotai. According to Annette Solomon, Certified Specialist of Wine, 2016 TeSóAria Bulls Blood had bold and earthy flavors of plum, blackberry, licorice, and vanilla thanks to a blend of kadarka, pinot noir, baco noir, and tempranillo. Beloved by many, TeSóAria unfortunately closed in 2018. 

Aging Potential of Bulls Blood

The aging potential of Bulls Blood wine is dependent on many factors, the largest of which is quality. Since quality varies widely, it is important to know the supplier of the wine and get to know how well the wine has been treated. The second most important determinant of aging potential is the wines in the blend. Since there is such a wide variety of grapes allowed in the wine, Bulls Blood’s aging potential differs significantly from one iteration to the next.

As with most reds, cool temperature is key to aging; classic cellar temperatures of 55°-60°F are best for these wines. They should also be kept in dark areas to prevent long term issues with light strike.

A Taste of Hungary: Embracing the Legacy of Bulls Blood in America

Bulls Blood is a wonderfully complex red wine native to Hungary, where it has a rich tradition. In America, it is currently made by only one producer, Chateau Niagara winery. It is a wonderful alternative to California Cabernet Sauvignon and French Bordeaux. Purchase Chateau Niagara’s Bulls Blood Here.

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