If you are going to invest in a winery in Hungary then you are giving yourself every chance of success by doing so in Eger, widely recognised as one of the country’s most premium winemaking regions. It is known locally as the ‘Hungarian Burgundy’ and even has its own Grand Cru and Premier Cru classification vineyards producing a range of international and local varieties including Chardonnay, Pinot Noir, Syrah, Merlot and Cabernet Franc and Furmint and Kékfrankos. The Buyer talks to Nimród Kovács, owner of the Kovács Nimród Winery.
The cool climate of Eger is ideal for making quality wine, which is what drew leading Hungarian businessman, Nimród Kovács, with a strong background in advertising, to the region to set up his own winery and look to put his name on the country’s wine map.
Tell us about your own background and that of the winery?
I spent 35 years working with major US corporations around the world and had the opportunity to experience wonderful foods and wines in many of the countries I worked in or visited. This, of course, included dining in fine restaurants and drinking great wines from all around. It has been amazing to see the emergence of countries and regions such as Italy, Spain, California, Oregon, Australia, New Zealand etc., all successfully challenging the French hegemony, when it comes wine quality and styles.
I noticed similar tendencies in my native county, Hungary, where quality conscious wineries started to emerge, taking advantage of unique terroirs and local varietals. Since 2000 I have been an investor in a wine merchant company in Hungary which also had a minority interest in a winery called Monarchia Winery in the Eger wine growing region of Hungary.
When I had the opportunity to retire from the corporate world in 2009 at age 60, I bought out the partners from the Eger winery and renamed it Kovács Nimród winery, hence becoming a full time wine guy.
The winery is situated in seven continuous cellars on the historic Verőszala Street in Eger, which in the 18th Century was lined with wine press houses erected above each cellar to handle onsite grape processing. After the grape juice was fermented, the wines were stored in barrel in the cool cellars below. Today we have resurrected this wine house and are looking to make wine in the traditional way, aided by 21st century technology.
What sort of grapes do you grow and how big is the production?
We produce about 120k bottles or 10K US cases a year. Since Eger is a cooler climate region similar to Burgundy or Northern Rhone, we produce Chardonnay, Pinot Noir and Syrah plus some Hungarian varieties such as Furmint and Kekfrankos. We are especially proud of our Grand Cru terroir called Nagy Eged, from where we bring out an enchanting Furmint a divine red cuvee called NJK and a 100% Kekfrankos based highly concentrated wine called Grand Blue.
How would you describe your winemaking style?
We want to make terroir driven, well balanced, elegant wines that represent the microclimates that we have in the region. It is also an ideal area for blending and bringing the best of the international and local varieties together. So we offer intriguing blends such as Egri Csillag, Rhapsody, Superior Bikaver and NJK.
How was the 2018 harvest for you?
It’s been a challenging, but good year. For the first time in Eger we started to harvest in August.
How do you sell and export your wines?
Since 2009 we have evolved our wines so that they appeal to different consumers and global audiences. At the moment we are selling around 65% of our wines in Hungary and then exporting the rest to key countries including the US and the UK, Benelux, Scandinavia, Switzerland, Germany and China.
Although it is important to have a strong name at home and we are proud to sell our wines in Hungary, it is also a small country and we need to build our international distribution. Especially when talking about our our higher-end wines.
What pricing levels do you have for your wine?
We create wines in three categories: Everyday pleasures ($8-$-14); Monopole/Estate wines ($15-$30); and Grand Cru Nagy Eger wines ($30-$70).
We believe there is a growing interest and demand for Hungarian wines as they are increasingly being seen as becoming more fashionable as unique multifaceted wines that also offer good, solid value for money price points.
How are you promoting the winery internationally?
We participate in trade shows and tastings and PR events in many of our key export countries. It is also important to enter competitions to help raise your profile and our wines often score above 90 points.
What would you say is the appeal of Hungarian wines to new buyers to the country?
As Hungary has 22 wine growing region it is difficult to summarise Hungarian wines in one sentence. To me, Hungarian wines show a broad range of styles and varieties presented for a reasonable price for the quality received. We certainly benefited from the short harvests across the main wine producing countries in central Europe as more buyers then had to look more seriously at Hungary’s wines.
What are your long term ambitions for the winery?
We would like to be regarded as one of the top wineries in Hungary. Our aspiration is to live up to our slogan: “Terroir driven world class wines from Eger!” Based on all the consumer feedback we get about our wines then I think we are on our way to the top.
What do you think of the UK market?
As our best customers are sophisticated wine drinkers, we like the UK market very much, because it is open, sophisticated and knows what it wants.
- Kovács Nimród Winery is imported to the UK by Boutinot.
- In terms of individual wines you can also get Kovács Nimród Monopole Blues Kékfrankos, 2015, RRP – £16.99-£17.9 at stockists: Modern French Wine, Highbury Vintners, Thind Wine Merchants
- Kovács Nimród Monopole 777 Pinot Noir, 2015, RRP – £16.49-£17.49 at stockists: D Byrne & Co, Mounts Bay Wine, Highbury Vintners, Thind Wine Merchants.