TOKAJI WINE REGION
The Tokaj Wine Region is at the confluence of the rivers Tisza and Bodrog, in the northeast of Hungary, 220 km from Budapest. The natural boundaries form a triangle between Kopasz-hegy (“Bald Hill”) to the south in Tokaj, Vár-hegy (“Castle Hill”) to the east in Sátoraljaújhely and Sátor-hegy (“Tent Hill”) to the northwest in Abaújszántó.
When the UNESCO World Heritage Committee declared the wine region part of the World Heritage in 2002, it recognised the unique winemaking assets as well as the knowledge and value of the centuries-old culture in the Tokaj Wine Region. The foundations for the natural and human resources are:
- the climate and microclimates that are significantly influenced by the bordering rivers (Bodrog, Tisza) and the wet, swampy areas they create; the climatic conditions that assist microclimates suitable for the aszú berry development regularly occur in the region during autumn
- the location along the southern, south-eastern edge of the Zemplén Hills and the topographical conditions protect vineyards from extreme northern colds
- the volcanic base rocks and soil compositions of the terroirs and vineyards here are extremely varied
- the distinctive and characterful local grape varieties: Furmint, Hárslevelű and Sárga Muskotály (with much smaller quantities of Zéta, Kövérszőlő, Kabar)
- the unique winemaking, storage and aging techniques (e.g. Aszú making, wine aging in small barrels) are found nowhere else in the world
- the hard-working local population have cultivated vines and made wines for centuries.
The wine region is located at latitude: 48°7’ and 48°30’, longitude: 21°10’ and 21°40’.
TYPES TOKAJI WINES
Brands: Füleky Tokaj, Fülöp a Különc
Füleky Tokaj – our classic wines
Estate wine, a blend of our best vineyards. Füleky Tokaj overview.
Single-vineyard wines present and explore the grape varieties and the distinctive Füleky Tokaj terroirs, all/many grown in historic First Growth vineyards. Füleky Tokaj in depth.
Fülöp a Különc – more easily understood wines. The range is named after Philip the Stork who stayed in the village for many years (normally they migrate in winter). Introduction to Füleky Tokaj.
Elegant acidity balances the natural sweetness of overripe, late harvested grapes in deliciously drinkable wines that can be enjoyed as an aperitif or dessert wine.
A dry late harvest wine with intriguing flavours, often including walnut. Barrel-aged under yeast veil in a similar way to sherry or Vin Jaune.
This sweet late harvest, barrel-aged wine made from bunches with healthy and aszú berries is a Tokaj speciality. Fresh and dried fruit aromas, refined acidity makes generous sweetness feels more discreet. Extremely food friendly.
Sweet and sour sensations.
The noble wine that distinguishes Tokaj from the rest of the world. An exceptional sweet style created with truly unique winemaking and enabled by the climate which allows a natural miracle, noble rot. When autumn humidity from the rivers Tisza and Bodrog rises to meet the overripe grapes, Botrytis cinerea can start its magic. As the noble rot develops, warm, sunny and breezy autumn days assist the shrivelling of grapes, which concentrates the natural sugars, harmonious acids and exciting flavours. Hand-selected from the vine, the aszú grapes are briefly macerated in (fermenting) must or wine before fermentation finishes and the wine is barrel aged in the cellar.
“C’est le roi des vins, et le vin des rois” (King Louis XIV of France)
The pure essence of aszú berries. While individually hand-picked aszú grapes are collected and stored (before Aszú is made) they give an incredibly sweet nectar pressed by their own weight. With over 450 g sugar/litre, it ferments unbelievably slowly until it reaches 1.2-8 % alcohol. A special EU dispensation includes this Tokaji specialty as wine that was once available in pharmacies.
TOKAJI CULTURAL LANDSCAPE
Terroir, People, Tokaji wines
Tokaj has its own unique microclimate that is particularly favourable to the development of aszú berries. The tradition of making naturally sweet wines stretches back to the 16th century, and high quality dry white wines are also created here.
It is usually drier in August and early September when the grapes are gradually reaching total ripeness before they become overripe and the berry skins start to wrinkle. Then wetter weather follows, opening the way for Botrytis cinerea to spread, the fungus necessary for the aszú berry development.
The Tokaj Wine Region is one of the few wine regions in the world where Botrytis has a beneficial effect, one called noble rot by our ancestors.
During the noble rot process the Botrytis cinerea multiplies on the ripe grape, initiating a very special overripening process. With the loss of a significant amount of water, the noble rot grape reaches an incredibly high sugar content (55-65 %), while the rise in acidity is lower as the noble fungus causes a natural reduction in acidity. At the same time the noble rot enriches the wine with Botrytis aromas, resulting in honey aroma components with flowers and fresh and/or dried fruits (linden, acacia, apricot, quince).
The influence of the bedrock and soils are an important factor in the quality of Tokaji wine specialties and wines. The volcanic bedrock of the Zemplén Hills and the diversity of tuffs that cover them create an extremely varied terroir in terms of geology. In some places you can find three types of tuff remnants. Together with the soil depth, these influence the life conditions for the vines.
Most of the most famous historic vineyards in the Tokaj Wine Region are at higher altitudes, and the soils contain tuff remnants and other rock fragments. Here the soils are even richer in potassium, magnesium and many other trace elements. Some 5 % of the region (mainly Tarcal, Tokaj) is covered by a layer of loess which heats up more quickly, so the growing season starts earlier. As in other great wine regions, these factors mean the region is also excellent for single-vineyard wines too. In many wines soil conditions have a direct effect on wine quality and appear as mineral flavours in the wine.
In addition to its natural assets, the Tokaj Wine Region has yet another special feature, one created and formed by human hand, one that plays an essential role in wine aging: the cellars. Most of the cellars were carved into tuff, and they have a fairly stable year-round temperature that only moves between 8-12 °C. The walls of these cellars that have an excellent climate are thickly covered with noble cellar mould / Cladosporium cellare / that also acts as an important regulator of the humidity of the cellar air.
The wood of the sessile oak forests in the higher regions of the Zemplén Hills is a special value as it is an excellent material for making wine barrels. As we know, the material of the barrel significantly influences the aging process of the wine and has an effect on the aromas and colour of the wine too. You could say the wine and barrel form a unique combination here in the Tokaj Wine Region where, in contrast to some other winemaking areas in the world, we do not have to transport the raw material for the barrels from far away. The land itself produces the wood, and from earliest times it has contributed to achieving genuine quality.
13th century: traditions of grape production in Tokaj have been mentioned in documents since the 13th century.
1550 – 1560: Tokaji wine broke onto the domestic and international wine markets. Increase in quality. Polish merchants appeared in the wine region. The Austrian imperial court purchased Tokaji wine from the mid-16th century and for generations after.
1571: The first written reference to Aszú (as aszúbor, literally, Aszú wine) in a Garay family inventory dated 15th May.
17th century: The name of Tokaj spread ever wider on the wine market. Almost one third of the wine production went to the export market. The Polish and Russian export increased steadily, gradually becoming of definitive importance in the wine region.
1631: Reformed minister Máté Szepsi Laczkó (1576-1632) made the first Aszú from grapes grown in the Oremus-dűlő in Sátoraljaújhely for Zsuzsanna Lórántffy, Princess Consort of Transylvania.
1616 – 1660: The Rákóczi Age. It was in this period, its Golden Age, that Tokaj grape cultivation took on the face we see to this day. Rákóczi, the Prince of Transylvania owned numerous cellars and also had several mansions built in the wine region.
1655: A decree was passed in Parliament on the harvest with selection of aszú berries.
18th century: King Louis XIV of France praised the Aszú wine he received from Ferenc II Rákóczi with his famous saying: “C’est le roi des vins, et le vin des rois” (“It is the king of wines, the wine of kings”). They started to call the area Tokaj-hegyalja (Tokaj Foothills), and, for ease of understanding, the wine became known as Tokaji wine.
1737: Regulation of Tokaj and delimitation of the boundary of the wine region. The foundation for protection of origin was established, the first of designation of origin in Europe, indeed in the world.
1857: The body became known as Tokaj-hegyaljai Bormívelő Egyesülét (Tokaj-Hegyalja Wine-Grower Association) and it was primarily an organisation and lobbyist/representative of vine cultivation and winemaking.
1886: Phylloxera appeared and in under 10 years around 90 % of the vines died. The first international court case was held in this period in which Tokaj producers managed to protect the Tokaj name in court.
1920 – 1950: Tokaji Aszú wine is listed in the pharmacopoeia.
1936: The process of Aszú-making is precisely recorded in a legal manner.
1950 – 1990: The state winemaking company Tokaj-hegyaljai Állami Gazdasági Borkombinát, the predecessor to Tokaj Kereskedőház (Tokaj Trading House), was founded with the unification of numerous state estates and state wineries. The state winery purchased grapes from small producers, organised production and trade.
1990: The start of privatisation in the Tokaj Wine Region.
1993: Conclusion of the Agreement between the European Community and the Republic of Hungary regarding the reciprocal protection and regulation of wine names (Council Decision of 23 November 1993) on the reciprocal protection of designations of origin, including the exclusive use in Hungary of the name „Tokaj” and its derivatives, as well as the protection of the name „Tokaj” in respect to wines from Alsace and Venezia-Friuli-Giulia which bore the Tocai and Tokay variety denominations and had a moratorium until 31 March 2007.
2002: The UNESCO World Heritage Committee included the Tokaj Wine Region as a Cultural Landscape on the World Heritage list.
2004: The wine law stipulates the name Aszú is to be used exclusively in the Tokaj Wine Region. The name of the wine region was changed from Tokaj-hegyaljai borvidék (Tokaj-hegyaljai Wine Region) to Tokaji Borvidék (Tokaj Wine Region).
(Source: TOKAJ PDO product description)