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100% Vampire-proof: Hungary’s best wine cellars
It may lie in Szepasszonyvolgy — or what locals call the Valley of the Beautiful Women — but the Golen Cellar isn’t much to look at. Nevertheless, behind this simple cavern‘s red doors, stencilled with the image of Bacchus, lie barrels of the best wine to be found in one of Hungary’s most beautiful vineyard destinations.
My Hungarian mother, whose family once owned vineyards in the area, would bring me here amid the musty aroma of oak barrels and the waft of red onions on zsiros kenyer — bread topped with lard, onion and paprika. The wine would be decanted unceremoniously into a huge two-liter recycled Coke bottle.
For her, the wine in the Szepasszonyvolgy recalled her student days in the city’s college and her family’s connection with the area. "Your grandfather made white wine like this," she said when tasting a glass of Cserszegi Fuszeres, another local favorite. "This is proper cellar wine, not the rubbish you get in the supermarkets."
They take wine very seriously in this part of north-eastern Hungary, close to the edge of the Bukk Mountains. At one time the local red "bulls blood" was supposed to give residents of the town of Eger supernatural strength to ward off vampirism — a legend born from its violent past in battles with Ottoman invaders.
Even when my mother’s family lost its vineyards after World War II, my grandfather never gave up making his own wine. Today, wine is still the blood that flows through the town’s culture. Eger is the ideal destination for wine fans looking for an informal tasting trip. The lack of pretension in the cellars is a big plus for those wanting an introduction to the local produce.
It’s the topographical ingredients of the Eger region that make it ideal for winemaking. It has limestone and clay-based slopes along with a cool climate, not dissimilar to Burgundy in France. Eger’s grape-growing country spreads out into 5,000 hectares of vineyards, and includes wines areas that carry a protected status.
Among them is Debroi Harslevelu, a golden wine produced in Eger’s Debro district that carries the aroma of linden flowers and a rich sweetness. Others include Egri Bikaver (better known as the anti-vampiric "bull’s blood"). Synonymous with Eger, Egri Bikaver is one of Hungary’s most famous red wines, known for its ruby color and spicy notes. The wine comprises a blend of at least three of 17 red grape types from the Eger district.
Szepasszonyvolgy and its more than 200 wine cellars are easily reached from the center of Eger via the miniature train that departs from Egeszseghaz Street. Each cellar has its own distinct flavor. The ones located at the base of the valley pulse at night from local activity and live Gypsy music, while others are more Spartan, pulling in the crowds with quality wine.
nevertheless – ennek ellenére
cavern – barlang
barrel – hordó
vineyard – szőlőskert
musty – dohos
lard – zsír
to decant – bort lefejteni
to recall – felidézni
rubbish – szemét
to ward off – távol tartani, elijeszteni
invader – betolakodó, hódító
tasting trip – borkóstoló túra
lack of – valaminek a hiánya
pretension – hatásvadászat
limestone – mészkő
clay – agyag
linden – hárs
spicy – fűszeres
blend – keverék
distinct – jellegzetes
Spartan – spártai, egyszerű
to pull in the crowds – tömegeket vonzani
Match the words with the definitions.
a) wooden container for wine, beer, etc.
b) to repel, to try to prevent
4. to recall
5. to ward off
e) to remember something from the past
answers: 1-d 2-b 3-a 4-e 5-b