Thursday, February 9, 2012

Wine and Cheese at Bock Bisztro in Budapest, Hungary

Pictures: Bock Bisztro in Budapest and Christian G.E. Schiller with Jozsef Bock in Villany at Bock Pince

Jozsef Bock – from Villany in the South of Hungary - is one of Hungary’s two dozen or so winemakers who have achieved international recognition. I visited Jozsef Bock in Villany during the summer of 2011 (as well as  Attila Gere and Erhard and Evelyne Heumann). But we had our first encounter with Jozsef Bock food and wines at the Bock Bisztro in Budapest, which is one of the top restaurants in Budapest.

Picture: Budapest

In Villany, at Jozsef Bock, a major expansion of the Bock Winery and the Bock Hotel was going on. I have written about Dining and Wining at the Jozsef Bock Winery Restaurant in Villany, Hungary and Expanding his Empire: Winemaker Jozsef Bock in Villany, Hungary

Meeting Jozsef Bock in Villany

I had the chance to talk a bit with Jozsef Bock in Villany. He did not speak English, but I could converse with him (and with Attila Gere) in German, because they belong to the so-called Danube Swabians. The Danube Swabians are Hungarians and other Eastern Europeans whose ancestors had moved from Swabia to the former Kingdom of Hungary and settled there, especially along side the Danube River valley. A first wave came in the 12th century and a second wave in the 17th – 18th, after the war between the Habsburg Monarchy and the Ottoman Empire had depopulated much of the country. Between 1740 and 1790, more than 100,000 Germans immigrated to the Kingdom of Hungary.

The Jozsef Bock forefathers, as part of their farming activities, always made wine. But up to the death of Jozsef Bock’s father in 1981, the Bock family vineyard area never exceed 2 hectares. When Josef took over the 2 hectares of vineyard land, he was not was not really into wine making. He had gone to a technical college and had a job as a technician. With the death of his father, things changed and Jozsef Bock started to get involved with wine – albeit on a limit basis for a couple of year. However, the success of his wines and the rapidly increasing demand pulled him into becoming a full-time winemaker in 1991. In 1987, he had started to bottle his wines and sell them directly to restaurants and hotels in the area. As a next big advance, in 1992 he entered the Budapest market and also started to export in that year. Concurrently, a modern winery was constructed in 1994 to 1996 (and later expanded during several phases). Until 1994, the wine was produced at the Jammertal Cellar, which I did not have a chance to visit. The Bock family has owned the Jammertal Cellar since 1850, although the cellar had been expropriated for about 10 years in the 1940s. Today, the cellar is used for storage only, with a capacity of 400 hl. Soon Jozsef Bock was named – in 1997 – Hungary’s winemaker of the year and became known in the international wine scene.

Picture: Bock Winery and Restaurant in Villany

Over the years, Josef Bock has built up a little empire, which he is currently expanding. Today, the Bock empire in Villany comprises the Bock Winery, producing 600.000 bottles of wine, of which 15% is exported, the Bock Hotel and the Bock Restaurant. Josef Bock is a family owned and run enterprise, with his wife Valeria, his daughter Patricia (management), his son Valér (winery) and his son-in-law Gábor Béni (winery) part of the Bock team.

Josef Bock Winery (Bock Pince)

The vineyard area has increased from initially 2 hectares to 75 hectares today. In addition, Joseph Bock buys fruit from other vintners, with the share of fruit bought from others approaching 40 percent of total input. The number of barrique barrels stands at 1500 currently.

When I was there, the winery and the hotel were undergoing another major expansion. At the end of it, a new, impressive wine cellar, which is 100 meter long, will be added to Bock’s aging and storage capacity.

Winery Restaurant in Villany (Bock Etterem)

We had a wonderful meal cum wine tasting at the Bock Winery restaurant, which has a big terrace outside the winery. We had a 3-course dinner and went through 7 wines by the glass.

Pictures: Christian G.E. Schiller at Bock Winery in Villany

In German, Bock means goat; so the symbol of the winery is a goat head, which you can find in all Bock wine labels. 95% of Bock wines are red wines. About 30% of the wines are aged in oak. Bock wines tend to be powerful, rich, "brawny" wines that should not be drunk too young. Villány’s signature grape, the Portugieser, is grown in large quantities by Joseph Bock. Other varieties, like Cabernet Franc, Merlot, Cabernet Sauvignon and Pinot Noir are also grown. The premium wines include the flagship „Magnifico“ (Merlot) as well as the blends „Bock Cuvée“ and „Capella“ (both Cabernet Franc, Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot), all of which are matured in new barriques for 24 months, Blaufränkisch Selection (14 months in barrique), as well as Chardonnay (8 months in barrique).

Jozsef Bock Hotel in Villany

We did not stay at the Hotel as we stayed with Erhard and Evelyne Heumann. I glanced at the nice indoor pool area. As part of the expansion, the room capacity will increase to 30 rooms.

Bock Bisztro in Budapest

Bock Bisztro in Budapest is one of the best restaurants in Budapest. It is located in the Corinthia Grand Hotel Royal. Bock Bisztro is also a wine shop, where you can buy Jozsef Bock and other Hungarian wines.

Pictures: Bock Bisztro

There are only tables to sit down – no bar or lounge area – at Bock Bisztro and I am not sure if you can have just a glass of wine there in the evening. We came late in the evening and sat down for a small cheese plate with a glass of wine, to finish the evening - after dinner at Klassz Bistro at 41 Andrassy utca.

Picture: Cheese at Bock Bisztro

The wine list of Bock Bisztro is impressive. Bock Bisztro serves about 60 Hungarian wines by the glass, of which 15 Bock wines, 15 wines from Tokaji and 30 wines from other Hungarian producers.

What I could see from the menu and what was served at other tables is that the food at Bock Bisztro is rather sophisticated. Chef Lajos Bíró is in command, who is apparently internationally well connected.  There were many wall pictures of Chef Lajos Biro with Chef Michel Richard, who I know from Washington DC, and Chef Eckehard Witzigmann, the Paul Bocuse of Germany.

Bock Bisztro
Erzsébet körút 43-49. 1073, (within the Corinthia Grand Hotel Royal) district VII. , tram 4,6 Király utca
Tel: (+36 1) 321 0340
Open: Mon-sat: 12.00-24.00

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1 comment:

  1. Bock Bistro gets 14 points in the Gault Millau Hungary