This is one of those stories about how to get the better of the government. Once upon a time, there was the Thummerer family, from the Eger region of Hungary. In 1984, papa Vilmos Thummerer decided that he wanted to make his own wine for a profit. So, he went to the government, and they told him that there was a new regulation that let people if not own, at least rent land—but only 0.6 hectares per person. It was thus that the entire Thummerer family came to hold vineyards, for a total of 10 hectares. That year they planted vines of six different grape varieties.
Today still, every member of the family is involved. The tufa cave which houses the winery is more than 100 years old, dug by hand by miners for a local count. It later became nationalised and used for a state wine co-operative. A couple of years ago, Thummerer Pince had its size doubled, this time by machine.
Today, Thummerer Pince has 30 varieties (70-30 red-white) and 100 hectares of land – the capacity of what the enterprise can manage, Eva Thummerer told Vino247. (She also says that in the Eger region, it takes about 20 hectares of vineyards for a person to be able to make a living from his wines.) Because it is not only making and selling wine here, but also trying out different grapes, from how they grow to the wine they produce. This means that the cellar has 31 different labels—they like to experiment with what sells well—for a total of about 350,000 bottles a year. The majority of this, 70 to 80%, is sold on the Hungarian market. Which is too bad for us here in North America, because it is good.
The Egri Bikavér Superior 2006 (about 15 euro) that we tried is 40% Cabernet Sauvignon, along with Merlot and Kékfrankos. If St Andrea’s Egri Bikavér Merengő (about 40 euro) is full of juicy fruits (see related story), vanilla and cloves, Thummerer’s Superior is redolent of a succulent steak with fruit sauce flash grilled over a beachside grill. And that question about typicity in my related story?
According to Ms. Thummerer, Hungary is very strict about certifying all wine that is sold, even bottom-level table wines. Before selling, it must undergo chemical analysis and receive certification from a control organisation in Budapest. This certificate is necessary to sell the wine. There are also local representatives who verify that things continue along the straight path.
Given its reputation of about 20 years ago—cheap, sweet Tokaji and cheap, unengaging Bull’s Blood—Hungary has come a long way, with the change to quality really being noticed in about 1999, locals say. If things continue the same direction, it will not be long before people stop remarking: “Oh, Hungary makes wine?”, and start picking up a bottle to try.
For an overview of the Hungarian wine industry of today, see Cave Hopping In Hungary, From Past To Present. Be sure to also check out a profile of Mihály Szöllősi’s winery, and an encounter with one of Hungary’s dynamaic winemakers: St Andrea Winery.
3325 Noszvaj, Szomolyai út