Let's make Tokaj great again!

Discover The Legendary Region of Tokaj

 Located in the north eastern tip of Hungary, Tokaj is the most famous wine region in the country, with a long wine history and famous for one of the oldest sweet wines in the world-Tokaji Aszú. The village of Tokaj gives the name to the entire region, which covers 27 distinctive villages, with over 5400 hectares of vines under production.


Tokaj has a long history when it comes to wine making.It is believed that it started with the first German, French and Italian settlers which improved the winemaking techniques like soil management, pruning, harvesting and barrel ageing. Louis XIV of France (1643-1715) claimed about the Aszu to be "the Wine of Kings, the King of wine". Many important names from Napoleon III, Gustav III of Sweeden, Elizabeth Petrovna, Empress of Russia, Beethoven, Liszt, Rossini, Schubert, Goethe, Voltaire and Dumas were all big lovers of this extraordinary wines. In 1737 Tokaj becomes the first clasified wine region in the world, with a list of vineyards classified based on location and quality by Mátyás Bél. 

The phylloxera epidemic reached Tokaj around 1885 and destroyed up to 90% of the vineyards. In 1920 with the Treaty of Trianon Hungary lost two-thirds of its territory and parts of the Tokaj wine region were annexed by the newly established Czechoslovakia. During the Second World War collective farming became the norm and many of the Jewish merchant families-which had a big impact in the development of the region- disappeared. In the following years it was a dark period for the region as there was little focus on quality. The region found again its path after 1991 when a new era started with foreign investments. Some of the first names to arrive in the region were: Royal Tokaji Wine Company co founded by Hugh Johnson, Vega Sicilia and AXA Millesimes. 

Terroir and Grapes

Along with the Zemplent Mountains the vineyards of Tokaj are protected by the Carpathian Mountains, providing a cool continental climate with warm and sunny summers, dry long autumns and cold winters. In the autumn due to the humidity a fog is rising from  the rivers Tisza and Bodrog in the morning and encourages the development of the famous „noble rot”.The Tokaj area has experienced 20 million years of volcanic activity, which has given the region many different types of soils.There is loess, mixtures of rock and clay, rhyolite, andesite, dacite, bentonite, zeolite, kaolin, opal, and obsidian on a deep tuff subsoil.The diversity of rock types and soils contributes to the complexity and the top quality of single vineyards wines. There are six main grapes varieties permitted in Tokaj region: furmint, hárslevelű,sárgamuskotály, zéta, kabar and kövérszőlő.

Wine Styles

Dry Wines- In the last 15 years this category has seen a great evolution as it allows producers to be less dependent on the weather conditions for the noble rot to happen and make and age  the sweet Aszu wines. Most of Tokaj dry will contain some residual sugar in order to balance the high acidity and they can be blends or single varietal wines. These dry wines can be categorized as estate wines or single vineyard wines which will show more complexity and terroir driven characteristics.

Late Harvest Wines-These sweet wines can produce wonderful quality in the right vintages, but they are usually made from grapes which are either not botrytised or just have a touch of botrytis. They are less complex than a Szamorodni style and have a  fresh structure with good fruit balance and generally aged only for a  few months.

Szamorodni- This is a special Tokaj category and can be made in a sweet or a dry style. The name comes from Polish and it means "as it was born" and whole bunches of grapes, which contain a mixture of both botrytized and healthy berries are harvested late (without the individual berry selection as in Aszú). The berries, are picked and cold-soaked for a short time, just like for dry wine, before being fermented, aged and bottled. The sweet styles need to be aged at least 6 months in oak barrels. The dry Szamorodni is a very special category but very rare this days. It is fermented to dryness and then is aged under a layer of flor, developing a character similar to a sherry but in this case fortification is not allowed.

Aszu-This is the golden liquid that brought fame to Hungary around the world, still so under appreciated by the wine consumers. The process starts with the harvest in a good vintage-as noble rot does not happen every year. Being affected by the mold the berries will shrivel and become raisins like berries with concentrated levels of sugars and aromas. Each berry is selectively hand harvest one by one during the late autumn months.

The transition from normal berry to Aszu berry @Disznoko

The berries are afterwards mashed into a paste and a base wine is added so it can macerate for up to 2 days. The mixture is then transfered  into 136-liter Gönci barrels—made of Hungarian oak from the Zemplén forest—to finish fermenting and to age for a minimum of two years (at least 18 months of which should be in oak barrels. Aszú is most of the time made as a blend, but there are also some single varietal styles. Since 2013 Aszú is not anymore categorized based on the puttonyos but rather on the minimum sugar concentration which for a Aszu needs to be 120g/l. Aszú should not be treated as a dessert wine but rather as a wine with  great balance of sugar and  great acidity.


                          Noble Rot at Erzsebet Pince

Eszencia— Is the rarest form of Tokaji wine—is also made from the hand-picked aszú berries. For eszencia, a vat is filled with only  aszú berries and the pressure of the grapes pushes out the free-run juice, which has the characteristics of a thick syrup. The sugar content is so high (between 500 and 700 grams per liter) that it ferments very slowly, sometimes during many years. Even after a long fermentation the alcohol content rarely exceeds five percent. It is very rare and very expensive but something that should be tasted at least once in a life time.

                                      Aszu and Eszencia at Disznoko Estate

Good to know about Tokaj:

-Unique System of Underground Cellars hand-carved in the volcanic bedrock starting with the 15th century in order to store the Aszu wines in perfect conditions. They are covered with a black puffy mold which feeds on the alcohol that evaporates from the wines. One of the most famous is located in the center of Tokaj, the place where János Szapolyai was secretly crowned King of Hungary in the 16th century.

                              Rakoczi Pince Underground Cellars

-The Tokaj Riedel glass was build specifically for the Furmint grape and can be used for all types of Furmint from dry to sweet in order to reveal the aromas and flavours complexity.

-International Furmint Day is celebrated on the 1st of February every year.

-The Unique Tokaj Bottle Shape unique designed since the end of the 19th century for the Aszu wines, in an uniform bottle of 500 ml and more recently same shape for dry Tokaj sized 750 ml. 

-Eszencia the rare concentrated wine is sometimes served in a glas spoon.

-The Famous underground wine cellars in the village of Hercegkút.




Important Vineyards in Tokaj-Some of them are classified since the 18th century and produce very concentrated terroir driven wines: Betsek, Barát, Szent Tamás, Nyulászó, Lapis, Úrágya, Király, Határi, Percze, Disznókő, Kővágó, Szílvölgy, Szerelmi, Mézes Mály, Zafír, and Mandolás.

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