Eger is finally emerging from the 'ordinariness' that characterised its wines pre-1989.
In socialist times quality was sacrificed for quantity and the impact this had on the reputation of Hungarian vintners has been difficult to shake off.
The past ten or so years, however, have seen a renaissance in the wine district; this can be attributed to a number of factors e.g. the introduction of the new cuvée wine, Egri Csillag, but the overwhelming cause must be the quality of the grapes coming off the slopes.
In order to assist those planning to visit Eger or buy wines from the region here is our guide to the vintages of the past decade.
2003 was generally regarded as very good across the country. The best reds from Eger continue to evolve and will remain enjoyable for another five to 10 years. The whites are now past their prime, unless they have well-handled new oak to rely on for support.
2004 was an inferior year with less than ideal insolation and heavy autumn rains, all resulting in less than average quality. Surprisingly, a few wines from the best cellars, many of them pinot noirs, remain enjoyable today.
2005 favoured late-ripening white grapes and red wine grapes as well, provided that the grower was patient enough to delay the harvest. The result is a large quantity of fine reds distinguished by vigour and elegance rather than by sheer muscle or concentration. Many whites are well-structured with good acidity, and will keep well. The balance of the wines in general is much more even than that of the alcohol-rich 2003’s and 2006’s, which is definitely a plus in our vocabulary.
2006 was one of the best vintages of the past quarter of a century for both whites and reds. Effectively, it took outright negligence in vineyard work to spoil the outcome. Predictably, some of the wines will enjoy a quality plateau for 25 years. Due to the whims of the weather, the acids escaped unscathed despite the high sugar degrees, which will boost the longevity of the wines.
2007 was reasonably good, with many whites achieving just sufficient acidity, some less than that. The wineries that allowed the malolactic to go down are struggling with deficient acidity. By and large the reds fared better, many benefiting from phenolic ripeness.
2008 rivalled the yardstick 2006 in quality in some vineyards. All things considered, it cannot be termed an exceptional year nationwide, but it was clearly very good in Eger, where many wines — both whites and reds — will take well to cellaring.
2009 cannot be filed away as an indisputably great year, but in several wine-producing areas, including Eger, red wine growers have very high expectations. The growing season was off to a quick start in the spring, followed by much heat after mid-July that culminated in a relatively early harvest. The acids are not in short supply, and in style many wines resemble the 2006’s. The barrel samples seem promising, but it would be too early to call the heavyweights.
2010 Did not show a lot. Unlike the previous year, bud break came very late, and berry set was poor for certain varieties in areas where flowering coincided with monsoon-like rains. The cool and wet weather accompanied the whole year all the way along, the wines are thus acidic and therefore cannot be ripened for long.
2011 This was a warm and dry vintage relative to previous years. It was fortunate that soil moisture was retained from 2010, and therefore the bulk of the grapes did not show a vibrant acidity but good balance. The reds are characterised as warm, with mature tannin, a beautiful structure and rich fruitiness.
2012 Yet another dry and very warm year. Low acidity is evident in both white and red wines, although the reds show a mature character throughout. Supposed to have a shorter aging potential to the 2011 vintage.
2013 Mixed weather, a very late spring, and a lot of moisture at the time of blooming. In maturity slightly vague, rich, slender wine produced. On the other hand, good aging potential and elegant fruity wines are awaiting bottling.