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Tóth Ferenc, known endearingly as Uncle Feri, gives his name to his family winery, which in 2023 celebrates its 40th birthday. In 1983, Feri and his wife left their jobs to pursue lives as winegrowers, planting their Áfrika Vineyard in the subsequent years. In the early 1990s, Tóth Ferenc achieved its first success with a Merlot, and in that same decade acquired two old wine cellars to concentrate production. In the early 2000s, Feri led efforts to champion various rare grape varieties, such as Kadarka (as well as its historic rosé style, Siller), in the Eger region, alongside the white specialty Leányka.
In 2005, Ferenc’s daughter Katalin and son-in-law Zoltán joined the winery. Together, the family worked to expand the winery’s cave system, dramatically grow their vineyard holdings among Eger’s top sites, and modernize the tasting room. They further campaigned with other winegrowers to codify Egri Csillag, the region’s flagship white wine, into appellation law. The winery continues to collect accolades, such as Eger Winemaker of the Year and Eger Grape Grower of the Year. In 2017, Ferenc was awarded the prestigious Hungarian Order of Merit, nominated by the city of Eger for his contributions to the local wine industry and his preservation of indigenous Hungarian grape varieties.
Leányka is a rare native Hungarian white grape variety, counting less than 1,000 hectares planted. It grows primarily in Eger, as wellas the neighboring regions Mátra and Bükk, where it is bottled both monovarietally under the larger Felső – Magyarországi appellation and in various white blends, such as Egri Csillag. Well-suited to harsher winter climates, Leányka yields soft, bodied, and gently aromatic white wines.
The name Leányka translates to “maiden” in Hungarian, as does Romanian-Moldovan specialty Fetească Albă in Romania, and thus the two varieties were long believed identical. Genetic testing has proven otherwise; they are of no relation. Still, the legend of Leányka’s name is said to trace to the Hungarian Revolution of 1848. During this time, villagers were unable to pay their churches in cash for services, such as baptisms. Instead, they offered vines to the local church vineyard. At one such church, a new grape variety was noticed among the gifts, simultaneous to a disproportionate number of newborn girls versus boys. Accordingly, the new grape was deemed “maiden” in
A short 90-minute drive northeast of Budapest, Eger produces some of Hungary’s most revered red wines, along with whites of increasing interest from unique local grape varieties. At the focal point of the city of Eger, around which the wine region is found, is a medieval castle, a major target in the 16th century Ottoman Wars. Winegrowing, however, can be traced much earlier, with much of its origins coinciding with the formation of the Eger diocese in 1004. The Mongol invasion of 1241 devastated the local population, but their retreat was succeeded by an immigrant wave, among them the French and Walloons, who brought with them important viticultural and coopering expertise, respectively.
The foothills of the Bükk Mountains provide a series of gentle slopes upon which Eger winegrowers cultivate their vines, scaling up to the highest vineyard elevations in the whole of Hungary. Much of the region is blanketed in tuff and volcanic soils, similar to those found in the neighboring Tokaj region, which produces some of the world’s most coveted sweet wines. Also like Tokaj, beneath Eger lies a series of intricate caves dug into the soft earth. While many of these caves are centuries old, wineries today continue to utilize these spaces for production and storage.
Kékfrankos, an Austro-Hungarian grape variety, stands as one of the highlights of Central Europe's rich wine heritage. This captivating grape, arguably one of the region's defining flavors, is planted extensively across the Carpathian Basin, with its roots tracing back to Lower Styria, a region now nestled within the borders of Slovenia. The passage of time has seen the grape gain numerous aliases, with Blaufränkisch being the most globally recognized. This name, loosely translating to 'Blue Frankish', carries with it an intriguing aura of mystery, as its exact origins remain uncertain. One theory suggests the name evolved from Franconia in Germany. Meanwhile, a Hungarian urban legend intriguingly proposes that Napoleonic soldiers, known for their blue coats, paid for this wine with their 'blue francs', leading to the grape's unique moniker.
Dive further into the history and variety, and you'll find this grape going by different names in different regions. In Bulgaria, it's known as Gamé, and it has a second Hungarian name, Nagyburgundy (big Burgundy) since the variety was commonly mistaken for Gamay Noir and Pinot Noir. Hungary takes particular pride in its Kékfrankos vineyards, boasting the largest acreage globally. Yet, the Austrians were the first to make a name for this variety in the international market, referring to it as Blaufränkisch. This linguistic divide mirrors the shared, yet distinct, wine heritage of the region.
With distinctive earth and spice notes, Blaufränkisch ferments to delightful midweight reds of complexity and character. It comprises an important part of various Eastern European red blends, including Hungary’s Egri Bikavér, in which Blaufränkisch (here called Kékfrankos) is the dominant grape.
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