› History of Eger Wine - 18th and 19th Centuries

History of Eger Wine (part 3)

The Eighteenth and Nineteenth Centuries          

As the eighteenth century progressed, vine-growing became increasingly regulated.

The vine-growing communities were organised and directed by the mayor and the body of magistrates.

They decided on the time of the harvest, determined the working hours and wages of day-labourers and the way the labourers had to be supplied, and they also organised the guarding of vineyards.

Unusual method of supporting vines in the Eger wine region.

Leaders of the vine-growing communities, already set up in 1713, supervised the work of keepers as well as the work done in vineyards since improperly or carelessly managed vineyards could be confiscated according to an order made by the magistrates in 1722.

As far as the method of cultivation is concerned the vineyards of Eger were laid out in a lined structure.

This meant that the plants were arranged in rows running downslope towards the foot of the hill and these rows were paralleled by furrows which were designed for footpaths and for draining excess water and which also divided the vineyard into sectors.

If the furrow lay between two neighbouring vineyards it was called a common furrow.  

Furrows were crossed by perpendicular furrows at an average distance of 36 to 48 feet (11 to 18 metres) from each other; these latter furrows were planned for draining off water into mud-traps (called “sánk” in Eger) dug at the crossings of the two types of furrows.

Water draining into these mud-traps deposited silt there and could flow on further downslope into the large mud-trap situated at the bottom of the slope.

The silt could then be used for fertilisation or as soil when planting new vines.

Vines in the region of Eger were pruned to grow only short stems making stakes unnecessary for trellising, which saved significant amounts of money for vine-growers.

Historical records mention that vineyards in the region of Eger were classified according to quality on the basis of the fertility of the soil, the lie of the land and the amount of sunshine.

In 1760 three classes of quality were set up and nearly half of the Eger vineyards were designated as first class. Later six and eventually eight such categories were defined.

Winter makes it easier to appreciate layout of vineyards on Eged Hill

Accounts from the period unanimously praise the excellence of Eger wines:

Károly Galgóczi and Károly Mártonffy note thatthe population of Eger makes a living mainly out of vine-growing. The red wines of Eger, both in terms of their fine taste and lasting good quality, can rival those of Buda.”

From the account of the county completed by Mátyás Bél between 1730 and 1735, one can learn thatexcellent wines are grown in the region of Eger. Both wine-districts provide white and red varieties alike but the red ones are more abundant though they require more labour. I can assert that I have not drunk any wine that would be better than those of Eger. Eger wine does not have a tint of sulphur but it is clear and tasty and it does not cause headache unless it is consumed beyond measure.

The viticultural work of Demeter Görög dating from 1829 reveals thatthe red wines of Eger are both renowned and respected in the world of commerce.

According to András Vályi (1796), “the red wine of Eger is usually pleasant in its taste, it is light and healthy, it does cause unease in the stomach, and its good qualities are such that their combination is difficult to find in any other red wine.

Károly Keleti asserts in his 1875 work entitled The Viticultural Statistics of Hungary that “the most outstanding wine of the wine-district of Heves County is the Eger one with its distinctive pleasant fragrance, softness and dark garnet colour.”

However excellent the Eger wines were considered, less and less could be sold.

The growth of the vine-growing areas had already come to a halt at the end of the 18th century, and by the middle of the 19th century stagnation had set in due to the high tariffs levied on Hungarian goods ordered by the imperial decree of 1755.   

This is the third installment of the story of wine making in Eger, if you wish to read the other parts, then they are as follows

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