Wine Tour in Tokaj (UNESCO)
Tokaj is a historical town in Borsod-Abaúj-Zemplén county, Northern Hungary, 54 kilometers from county capital Miskolc. It is the centre of the Tokaj-Hegyalja wine district where Tokaj wine is produced. Tokaj is named after the nearby mountains resemblance to the hills of Tokaj-Hegyalja. The wine-growing area was first mentioned by the name Tokaj in 1067. The town itself was first mentioned in documents in 1353. Its first castle was a motte, which was destroyed during the Mongol invasion of Hungary. By the 14th century the town already had a stone castle, belonging to the Diósgyőr estate. After 1450 Tokaj was the property of the Hunyadi family, so after Matthias Hunyadi became king, the town became a royal estate. In 1705 Francis II Rákóczi ordered the castle to be destroyed.
After the Austro-Hungarian Compromise of 1867 the town prospered, but when the world wars came, it suffered a lot, lost its importance and its town status. Even its role in wine trade was taken over by Sátoraljaújhely. Tokaj was granted town status again in 1986 and it started to prosper again. Now the town is a popular tourist attraction.
The region consists of 28 named villages and 11,149 hectares of classified vineyards, of which an estimated 5,500 are currently planted. Tokaj has been declared a World Heritage Site in 2002 under the name Tokaj Wine Region Historic Cultural Landscape. However, its fame long predated this distinction because it is the origin of Tokaji aszú wine, the worlds oldest botrytized wine. Due to the Treaty of Trianon, a smaller part of the historical wine region now belongs to Slovakia.
Some of the characteristics which make the Tokaj wine region unique are:
• Soil and microclimate: The Tokaj terroir consists of clay or loess soil on volcanic subsoil. The microclimate is determined by the sunny, south-facing slopes and the proximity of the Tisza and Bodrog rivers, and is conducive to the proliferation of Botrytis (noble rot) and the subsequent desiccation of the grapes.
• Indigenous grape varieties: Furmint and Hárslevelü have been cultivated in the region for centuries and, together with Yellow Muscat (Hungarian: Sárgamuskotály), Kabar, Kövérszőlő and Zéta, are the only grape varieties officially permitted for use in the region.
• Cellars: A vast system of cellars was carved out of solid rock between 1400 and 1600 AD. They provide a constant temperature of around 10-12 °C. The cellars are covered with a characteristic mold, which feeds off the alcohol evaporated during aging and keeps the humidity in the range of 85-90%, which is ideal for the aging of Tokaji wines.
• Appellation system: A royal decree in 1757 established a closed production district in Tokaj, the worlds second system of wine appellation (the first one was CHIANTI 1716). Vineyard classification began in 1730 and was completed by the national censuses of 1765 and 1772.