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Posts Tagged ‘Hungarian wine’

Excuse us if we seem a little tipsy. It’s November which means that while it may be a difficult time for sunbathers, it is a great time for wine lovers. That’s because November is ‘new wine’ season, when vineyards release a limited amount of the year’s vintage. ‘Újbor’ in Hungarian, it is better known by its French name, Beaujolais nouveau. The product of early harvest red grapes (though to a lesser degree you will see whites and rosé) Hungarian újbor is usually light, fruity, and highly potable.

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The celebrations of the new wine go hand in hand with St. Martin’s Day. As such, two of the reasons we think Hungary has become the second top tourist destination in the world converge in November: wine and festivals. Hungary is a country that celebrates all its culinary niches with festivals, and újbor is no different. How St. Martin himself became identified with the release of new wine is largely speculation. Some say it is due to his generous nature, while others maintain it is merely because he is from the town of Tours in France, the nation traditionally identified with a finicky wine culture.

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St. Martin’s new wine festivals happen in the middle of the month, taking place across the country. In Budapest we have the Saint Martin’s Day Festival that unfolds over three days at the ever-glamorous Gellért Hotel. If you want a less ritzy venue, the Hungarian Museum of Agriculture in Budapest’s City Park also sponsors a November 9th St. Martin’s Day celebration, offering tastings of goose dishes as well as újbor, along with a program of folk crafts and dancing. Both venues have goose on the menu: in Hungary the bird is traditionally served with new vintage wines, as it is believed to bring good fortune for the coming year.

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So don’t feel too bad as autumn transitions into winter – do as the Hungarians do and celebrate new beginnings and the great things to come.

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PPM Film Services is a Budapest-based film company offering an inspiring and creative work atmosphere for its host of clients from around the world. Since our inception, our focus has been providing the best of the best in terms of local production resources, locations, cast and technical teams to ensure that whatever the production we’re charged to create, we do it with no compromise. To sign up for the PPM Hungary newsletter, have a look here.

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bikaver-labelThere was a time (read: Socialism) when all the world knew of Hungarian wine was the acidic if not downright sour-tasting red cuvée Bikavér, or as it is known in the West, Bull’s Blood. Though Bull’s Blood is one of the most popular Hungarian wines, only one company sold it abroad, Eger’s formerly state-owned Hungarovin.

These days, the red of socialism has washed away, but the ruby-colored Bull’s Blood remains, though it is now quite a different animal. This is because local winemakers have taken it upon themselves to reinvigorate, if not rehabilitate, the Bull’s Blood brand. It can be said that this cherished cuvée is one of the most exciting things about contemporary local wine production. While winemakers have gotten quite creative with the re-invention of this stalwart, they still have to conform to certain standards, regulated by the Hungarian Wine Making Act, which was put into place to preserve quality and local heritage. Bull’s Blood must contain three or more grape varietals from Kékfrankos, Blauburger, Portugiser, Cabernet Franc, Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, Pinot Noir, Kadarka, and Zweigelt. No grape may comprise more than 50 percent of the mix. All production must come from facilities residing in or around the town of Eger (though the Villany/Szeksazard regions have successfully lobbied to be allowed to produce Bull’s Blood, and have been making Bull’s Blood for some time now.)

Borászat - Felújított borospince Egerben

Legends abound about the wine and its origins. It is said that the Turkish tried to invade the town of Eger during the Ottoman occupation. The men of the village drank deeply of many different wines to fortify their courage for the fight. The wine that spilled from their mouths splashed down their beards and onto their clothing, making them appear as though they had just feasted on blood. The word was passed among the Turkish that the Hungarian warriors were drinking the blood of bulls as nourishment. The frightened Turkish retreated and the invasion was successfully repelled.

We would like to invite the Turkish back, only this time to skip the skirmishes and partake in a glass of Bull’s Blood alongside the locals. It’s more fun that way.

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Five Great Small Wine-Makers from Around Hungary

If you shop for wine in England or the United States, you might have discovered just how few Hungarian wines are available. What you are likely to find are mass-produced Bikavér (Bull’s Blood) or prohibitively expensive Tokaj dessert wines. The scarcity of Hungarian wine on foreign shelves is not due to poor quality, it more reflects the culture of wine-making, which largely originates from family-owned vineyards. This means a small to medium yield of product: enough for local drinkers, but not enough to build a brand abroad. But, if you happen to be in Hungary on a shoot and want to try some of the more offbeat vineyards that are favorites with local insiders, do not despair. Below is a list of five great small to mid-size Hungarian wine-makers.

Luka: Luka stands out as one of the few female-run vineyards in Hungary. Enikő Luka, who is as easy on the eyes as her wine is on the palate, presides over this small vineyard near Sopron, which lies just east of the Austrian border. Luka does well with the same full-bodied flavorful reds that also brought the Burgenland region fame. Try their Zweigelt or Kékfrankos (Blaufränkisch). Check out the Luka site here (in Hungarian).

Malatinszky: Csaba Malatinszky ruffled feathers when he arrived in the staid Villány region with his daring blends and modern winery. His wines are known to be as dashing and eccentric as the winemaker himself. Malatinszky likes to break rules, and his products display his ability to pull off risks. Try the Cabernoir, one of our favorite Hungarian mid-priced bottles. Malatinszky reposts wine-related news from around Hungary in English on his site, which can be found here.

Orsolya: A new craft winery from the Eger region that has become a favorite with local purveyors. Like many Eger vineyards, they do both reds and whites well. We especially like the traditional Eger Leányka (Maidon of Eger) and the adventurous red blends like the recently released Tehéntánc (Cow Dance). Run by a husband and wife team, you can taste the care they put into every bottle. Explore their site here (in Hungarian, though there is a Google translation option).

St. Andrea: This family-run winery has a huge following with expatriates who live in Budapest. It recently won the Winemaker of the Year title here in Hungary, so St. Andrea’s star is rising. Known for their strong reds – particularly their takes on the traditional Bull’s Blood blend – the winery also excels at Pinot Noir. Their white blend called Napbor (Sun Wine) tastes like a summer day in the countryside. If you want a spectacular high-end red for under 50 dollars, try the Merengő (Daydreamer). St. Andrea’s site can be read in English here.

Pannonhalma Apátsági: If a wine comes from a monastery, you can be pretty assured of its quality. Though this Saint Benedictine monastery was established over a thousand years ago, their wine-making business is a spry 100 years old. Situated in the famous Badacsony wine region that lies above Lake Balaton in central Hungary, the lava-rich soil makes for excellent white wines that are full of mineral and tang. Pannonhalma’s are among the area’s best. Try their Rajnai Rizling (Rhine Riesling) and check out the lively web-site in English here.

PPM Film Services is a Budapest-based film company offering an inspiring and creative work atmosphere for its host of clients from around the world. Since our inception, our focus has been providing the best of the best in terms of local production resources, locations, cast and technical teams to ensure that whatever the production we’re charged to create, we do it with no compromise. To sign up for the PPM Hungary newsletter, have a look here.

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News broke not long ago in Hungary that Brad Pitt and Angelina Jolie have rented a villa in the village of Tihany on Lake Balaton to spend some family time before Pitt starts shooting the adaptation of Max Brook’s epic zombie novel, War Z. The Riviera, Tihany is not. They won’t be brushing elbows with Prince, or Prince Charles, for that matter. But that is probably why they chose this sleepy peninsula on Europe’s largest lake. It is a quiet, picturesque berg, and while it can be called a national tourist destination, it can hardly be called a tourist trap.

Tihany is famous for more than its two summering stars. For starters, the Benedictine Abbey, built in 1055, contains within its charter the oldest existing example of written Hungarian. The area is also renown for its white wines, due to the soil which is rich in volcanic ash and the sunny micro-climate of the entire Badacsony region. In fact, there are three inactive volcanoes in the hills that surround the village. Brad, I recommend the Szatmári Vulcanus, a very dry, mineral white that perfectly displays the region’s terrior. It is difficult to find, but I am sure they will save a bottle for you.

Preservation – of cultural heritage and natural environment, has always been important in Tihany, and this is one reason why its beauty is so striking. And the town is not without its own unique, romantic mise-en-scene. From the hilltops, tourists thrill to the echo you get when shouting towards Lake Balaton.  Few, however, know the legend behind the echo. According to the story, there was a princess who owned golden-fleeced goats, but was punished by the king for her aloofness and stubbornness: her goats were drown in Lake Balaton – only the sharp edges of their hooves washed ashore (which, in reality, were the edges of pre-historic clam shells). The princess was sentenced to answer the greeting of every passer-by, hence the echo.

Tihany is filled with a secret history as well. It is claimed that the fortress (now in ruins) on Tihany has never been taken by any army. Perhaps the zombies will come up against similar spirited resistance in War Z – or maybe they will just kick back with a glass of Vulcanus and enjoy what the Pitt-Jolies already know.

PPM Film Services is a Budapest-based film company offering an inspiring and creative work atmosphere for its host of clients from around the world. Since our inception, our focus has been providing the best of the best in terms of local production resources, locations, cast and technical teams to ensure that whatever the production we’re charged to create, we do it with no compromise. To sign up for the PPM Hungary newsletter, have a look here.

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