If Hungary were to have a “winemaker personality”, Dr. György Lőrincz would be a strong candidate for the title. He received the Hungarian Order Of Merit in 2007 and was named winemaker of the year 2009 by the Hungarian Wine Academy; furthermore, his is one of the few estates to have made a name for itself on the export market. St Andrea Vineyard and Wine Cellar—named for his wife, Andrea—started in 2002 with 20 hectares of land and 19 grape varieties, increasing to 40 hectares and 25 varieties in 2005. As of late 2013, the estate had 45 hectares.
While located in the historically famed wine region of Eger, he tends to buck tradition a bit, all while keeping the good bits that many have since discounted – vinifying and ageing mainly in wood barrels, using traditional techniques for piégeage and, for some vineyard plots, a horse to work the land. The only stainless steel to be found is in the large tanks where wines are blended before bottling.
Production is modest—about 160 000 bottles—and a focus is placed on local grapes, like Furmint, Olaszrizling Hárslevelű, Kadarka and Kékfrankos, though St Andrea does also make wines from international varieties like Pinot Noir. Lőrincz is also experimenting with organic agricultural techniques, and is a firm believer in the existence of Hungarian terroir. A winemaker at St Andrea told me that they are continually studying the possibilities that different varieties exhibit on different parcels.Unlike at Neszmély Szöllősi, here indigenous yeast spores are used. Fermentation lasts a long time—about 20 to 21 days—and battonage usually continues until the January following harvest.
The Eger region in total has 5000 hectares of vines, 70% of which are planted in red. Twenty different red varieties are authorised for a wine identified as coming from Eger. Of these, 13 are permitted and at least three required for a wine to be labelled “Egri Bikavér Classicus” and five for a wine to be labelled “Egri Bikavér Superior”. This latter label was established in 2004, and also holds the winegrower to lower yields and a longer ageing period.
The question is, thus, and one that winemakers ask themselves, too: What is the character or the taste of an Egri Bikavér wine? And how to market a wine that is categorised under a single label, but could be made from nearly any selection of 13 different grape varieties?
In addition to traditional Hungarian grape varieties, a few international grapes have earned their place on the list of approval. A few years back, the discussion centred on the new planting of Syrah, which was not then on the official Egri Bikavér list. Questions included its resistance to the region’s frost, and more so, where—if—it would fit into the typicity of Eger wine. Perhaps as a herald of its potential Lőrincz decided to start making both his Áldás Egri Bikavér Classicus and his cultish Merengő Egri Bikavér Superior with Syrah—the 2009 contains 5 % Syrah, along with Cabernet Franc 32%, Merlot 27%, Kékfrankos 25% and Cabernet Sauvignon 9%.
Wines at St Andrea are made with the goal of having elegant acidity, exciting aromas, colourful tastes, a pleasing fruitiness and soft tannins, another factor that diverges from the historic Eger style of Bull’s Blood.
A note about Egri Bikavér: It has nothing in common with the Spanish wine frome Torres called Sangre de Toro, the Torres wine being “a brand”, while the Hungarian wine is “a product”, the winemaker says.
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 be on the lookout for upcoming encounters with another Hungarian wine estate : Thummerer Pince.
St Andrea Vineyard and Wine Cellar (St Andrea Szőlőbirtok és Pincészet)
3394 Egerszalók, Ady Endre út 88.
Tel: +36-36/4740 18