Bull's Blood – the Wine of Eger

I was so intrigued with this bit of history that I thought it was a good idea to share it, especially since it fits in with today’s theme,so sit down, grab a coffee and listen.  Eger lies at the foot of the Bükk mountains and here the world famous Egri Bikavér and Egri Leánkya can be bought. The former, also known as Bulls Blood, is a very strong red wine that has been coloured by  grape skins that are fermented with the wine. The wine is a blend of Kékfrankos (the main variety), Cabernet, Kékoporto and occasionally, Merlot and maturation is done with great care

and requires a lot of skill. Today, however, Kékfrankos is replaced by Kardaka – the type historically used, but discontinued by the Communists. The wine is very strictly controlled and each bottle must have a state registered band around the neck, without which it cannot be sold. In 1552, Eger castle was besieged by the Turks. On the day in question, the fifth week into the siege, there were 2,000 exhausted Hungarians and 150,000 Turks who started to storm the castle. The commander of the castle forces, István Dobó, ordered that the cellars be opened. The women that weren’t fighting, were instructed to hand out the red wine to the soldiers and to all the men and women that were fighting in order to give the tired fighters  renewed strength and energy. This it certainly did but I’m not too convinced that it was simply energy. I have a sneaking suspicion the Hungarians could have been a tad drunk – not that it matters at all! Image of the siege below.

The superstitious Turks noticed that the faces, beards and armour of the Hungarians were stained blood red and that they became stronger and more aggressive with considerably less fear. They were convinced that these foreigners had been drinking the blood of bulls and therefore had supernatural powers – they  became very demoralized and fled – the Hungarians had temporarily stopped the Ottoman invasion. It took forty years for the Turks to come back.


  • In the mid 1800’s it was known as a medicine to strengthen the stomach, but it was documented only in 1851. The early recipe contained Fekete Frankos, Fekete Juhfark, Budai Nagyf’rt, Ingaly and Kadarka amongst other types of wine and later  (there were 8 different type of it then). In the 1900’s until 1970 it would contain Kadarka, Kèkfrankos, Kèkoportû, the Cabernets, and Medoc Noir.
  • The communist era put an emphasis on quantity resulting in the Kadarka grape being discarded as it was a difficult to grow.
  • Today Eger is not only famous for its history, it’s particularly famous for making some of Hungary’s best wines. Wine makers that still follow the centuries-old traditions when making Bulls Blood in honor of the Turkish siege.
  • Bull’s Blood certainly isn’t a complex wine – nor do I like it very much, but it is fun to drink. Open it well before serving or, if it’s a very hot day, be a devil and add ice.

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