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The most famous wine Hungary is near the borders of the city of Tokaj in the northeast of the country Slovakia and the Ukraine named. The word "Tokaj" is probably of Hunish-Turkish origin and means something like "forest on the river". It was first mentioned in a chronicle at the end of the 11th century, where the passage of a human army over the Tisza river is described at "Thocoyd". King Béla IV (1235-1270) founded Hungarian viticulture on a larger scale, the first upswing in the Tokaj region took place in the 13th and 14th centuries. It is no longer possible to determine when the very first Tokaj Aszú was produced in its current form, but it is certainly one of the first wines to be made botrytisvery sweet Berries were obtained.

Tokaj vineyards in the second half of the 16th century and barrels

The history of the Tokaj

There are many legends about the “invention” of the Tokaji. Supposedly a Tokaji Aszú was handed over to Pope Pius IV (1499-1565) at the Council of Trent in 1562, after which he remarked: "Summum pontificem talia vina decent!" ("Such wine belongs on the papal table" or "Wine from Tállya belongs on the papal table ”- because the word“ talia ”can mean“ Tállya ”but also“ such ”). Already in 1590 the term "Asszu szolo Bor" (wine from Aszúbeeren) appeared in the posthumously published work "Nomenclatura" by Balázs Szikszai-Fabricius (+1576). And in 1635, on a list of the Rákóczi cellar, “7 barrels (the Göncer barrel was the standard size) and 2 Àntalag (= small barrel) Aszúszölö-Bor ”(= Aszútrauben-Wein).

The Tokaj region of Tokaj-Hegyalja was one of the estates of Prince György Rákóczi I (1600-1660). When the Turkish raid loomed again around 1630, the court preacher in charge, Máté Szepsi-Laczkó (1576-1633), decided with the vintage to wait until the danger is averted. During the long and sunny autumn the berries started to shrink and the noble rot started. The winegrowers were instructed to harvest the grapes from the vineyard Oremus to be squeezed separately. At Easter in 1651 the first "Tokaj eruption" (so or as Trockenbeerenauslese the wine was called at that time) by Princess Zsuzsanna Lorántffy. The Hungarians still honor Szepsi-Laczkó as the "inventor of Aszú".

From the 17th century, the Tokajer played an important role in many European courts. Royal lovers were Franz-Joseph I, Maria Theresa, Frederick the Great, Victoria I and Wilhelm II. Many famous writers, poets and composers mentioned the Tokaj in their works. That was Ludwig van Beethoven, Johann Wolfgang von Goethe (Faust), Heinrich Heine (book of songs), Friedrich von Schiller (Wallenstein), Franz Schubert, Bram Stoker (Dracula), Johann Strauß Sohn (bat), Theodor Körner (in a wine song), Nikolaus Lenau (Mischka on the Tisza) and Voltaire (proof of God). In 1733, the Russian Tsar Court established its own wine buying commission in the city of Tokaj. The Empress Elisabeth Petrovna Romanowa (1709-1762) ordered a delivery of 375 barrels by letter on November 8, 1745, and remarked as a postscript: “And if there is only one possibility, send at least three Antal with messengers (barrels of approx. 75 Liters), which I cannot get anywhere here, since I cannot be without the wine, as you also know ”.

Under her successor Catherine the Great (1729-1796) there was a special Cossack department, whose job was to escort deliveries to their place of residence in St. Petersburg. The French sun king Louis XIV (1638-1715) awarded him the title "Vinum Regnum - Rex Vinorum", in German " Wine of Kings - King of Wine ". The Tokaj was often used as a diplomatic weapon. When the Turks were expelled from Budapest in 1686, Prince Ferenc Rákóczi II (1676-1735) wanted to establish Hungary, now liberated, as an independent, national kingdom. In order to ally himself with Louis XIV, he sent him a noble Tokajer of his goods. Emperor Franz-Joseph I (1830-1916) also used the wine for diplomatic purposes; he greeted the English Queen Victoria (1819-1901) every year on her birthday with a program Aszú.

The heyday of Tokaj viticulture and wine trade was in the heyday of the ruling families Rákóczi and Bercsényi in the 17th and 18th centuries. During this period, most of the countless wine cellars (185 in Tokaj alone counted 185 in 1967) were dug into the loess soils that were excellently suited for this purpose, for which the cellar digger's own profession existed. From the last third of the 18th century there was a decline, on the one hand due to warlike events, which left the vineyards unprocessed or destroyed, and on the other hand through economically prescribed measures, especially during the reign of Maria Theresa (1717-1780). Only as much export of Tokaj wines was permitted as was introduced on Austrian wines. In 1745 the ruler of the Russian Tsarina Elisabeth (1709-1762) sent 600 bottles of it. Pope Benedict XIV (1675-1758) also received a broadcast and this thanked him with an extraordinary one Quote,

The falsifications of wine, which took place on a large scale in Hungary and many other countries in the 19th century, also contributed to the Tokajer's bad reputation. There were even detailed recipes in wine books, for example in a work from 1875 it said: Take 100 liters of regular wine; 15 l raisin essence; 0.5 l bitter almond essence; 0.1 l elderflower essence; 4 kg of sugar; 0.5 kg caramel; 4 kg of glitter and 6 l of 80% spirit. Such wine could be ordered in wagons from a wine dealer in Vienna-Döbling at a ridiculously low price. wine adulteration were common at the time. During the communist reign after the Second World War, there was a total decline in Tokaj culture. Almost all of the larger wineries were nationalized. It was cheap and mass-produced. Today the Tokajer is experiencing a rebirth.

The Tokaj region (Hungary and Slovakia)

The defined boundaries have changed several times over the centuries. The oldest documented demarcation dates from 1641, at that time 12 municipalities were part of the narrower Tokaj area. The current wine-growing region Tokaj-Hegyalja (Hegyalja = located at the foot of the mountain or short Unterberg) was determined by the Hungarian Wine Act in 1997. The triangle-like area with a length of about 60 kilometers and a width of about 30 kilometers is located in the north-east of Hungary on the border with Slovakia and the Ukraine and includes the four cities Sárospatak, Sátoraljaújhely, Szerencs and Tokaj, as well as 24 smaller municipalities.

But there is also a tokajer-like wine outside of Hungary. A small area in the region has this special status Slovakia, which is directly adjacent to the Hungarian Tokaj-Hegyalja area. A Tokaj-style wine is produced here in the three municipalities of Kistoronya, Szõlõske and the Slovak part of Sátoraljaújhely. Slovakia referred to the wine law from 1908, when this area still belonged to Hungary. In 2003, after years of controversy, the two countries agreed that the wines produced within the approximately 200 hectare area may bear the Slovakian designation of origin "Tokajský".

Tokajer - Tokaji-Hegyalja vineyards and wine cellar near Abaújszántó

The eponymous city of Tokaj is located at the confluence of the Tisza and Bodrog near the Kopaszhegy (Kahlberg with 512 m). The area is bordered by the three rivers Hernád, Bodrog and Tisza. These influence the specifically moist, the French Sauterne similar climate that the Botrytis (Hungarian Nemes Penész) promotes. The climate is extreme, a cool and dry spring is followed by a hot summer and then an initially wet, later dry and long sunny autumn. The vineyards cover around 6,000 hectares of vineyards. Only the wines from the approved varieties Furmint with 60% of the area, Hárslevelü with 25%, Muscat Lunel ( Muscat Blanc ) with 7%, Kabar, Kövérszölö ( Grasă de Cotnari ) and Zéta (Oremusz) may have "Tokaji" on the label. Wines from other varieties such as Chardonnay may only bear the designation of origin "Zempléni" (Zempliner Mountains). The best locations are in Bodrogkeresztúr, Mád, Mezözombor, Tallya, Tarcal, Tokaj and Tolcsva.

The special wines are named after the winery, number of butts (Puttonyos) and location. If you want to emphasize the origin, then you speak e.g. B. from a Mádi Aszú (Aszú from Mád). The first surviving wine-growing regulations date from 1641, where a regulation consisting of 48 points existed in the municipality of Mád. Under Prince Ferenc Rákóczi II (1676-1735) a detailed winegrowing code was published in 1700. Back then, making Aszú was probably easier than it is today. In a writing from 1758 it says: “After the Aszú berries have been poured out with must, they are stirred well and the vat is not covered too tightly. After three to four days fermentation When the sweet juice of the berries has dissolved in the must, the mass is squeezed out by hand and the wine is left to ferment. "

In 1904 the publication of "extraordinary measures for the Tokaj wine region", in which among other things a geographical delimitation with a total of 33 localities, the mandatory specification for the use of oak barrels and the absolute prohibition of mixing Tokaj wines with wines from other areas was included. Furthermore, only those wines were allowed to be referred to as Tokajer, whose vines from "mountainous vineyards" (ie from hillside ) came from. The 1997 Wine Law declares Tokaj-Hegyalja as the only "closed" wine-growing region in Hungary. This means special protection and specific requirements regarding this area winemaking, Treatment and distribution of the Tokaj.

The Tokaj wine types & production

The Tokaj-Hegyalja wines are divided into three categories: quality wines (Minöségi borok) with, for example, the varietal Tokaji Furmint, Tokaji Hárslevelü, Tokaji Muskotály and Tokaji Zéta (Tokaji Oremusz). The maximum hectare yield is 100 hectoliters per hectare, the minimum must weight is 15 percent by weight. This is followed by wines of special quality (Különleges minöségü borok) with the same wines, but with higher quality regulations. The maximum hectare yield is 75 hectoliters per hectare, the minimum must weight must be 19 ° KMW or 95 ° Oechsle. These wines are made from matured or overripe grapes. The highest class are wine specialties (Borkülönlegességek) with the variants Tokaji Máslás, Tokaji Forditás, Tokaji Szamorodni, Tokaji Aszú, Tokaji Aszú-Eszencia and Tokaji Eszencia (Nektár). These wines are blended from the Furmint and Hárslevelü and Muskotály varieties (rare in Aszú).

Máslás : This simplest of all Tokaj wines has been known since the mid-16th century. The name is derived from the Polish word "Mászló" (butter) because the wine unites you buttery Has a taste (large quantities of Tokaj wines have been exported to Poland since the 16th century). A Máslás is still a lot better in quality than a simple one that was often produced at that time Piquette, Most or young wine is poured onto the pomace sediment of Aszú or Szamorodni wines and alcoholic fermentation is initiated. It has to mature for two years, one year in wooden barrels. Mostly it is not bottled at all, but marketed in large containers.

Forditás : This wine was first mentioned in the 19th century. Most or young wine of the same vintage is poured onto the pressed Aszú batter (grape porridge). It has to mature for two years, one year in wooden barrels. Some of the wine is also used for the Aszú. Good qualities can be kept for up to 15 years.

Föbor (German main wine): This very old wine category has been reactivated. It is, so to speak, a Szamorodni without its mandatory maturation period.

Szamorodni: The name first mentioned in 1828 means "as grown". This refers to the fact that no Aszú berries are selected, but all berries are processed. A minimum amount of noble rot berries must be present, the quality also depends on the amount. The wine remains on the mash for 24 to 36 hours and is only then pressed. It has to mature for two years, one year in wooden barrels. There are sweet (édes) and dry (száraz) variants. Sweet Szamorodni at least has to. 30 g / l residual sugar, 25 g / l sugar-free extracts and 13% vol alcohol content - the dry only 25 g / l extracts and 13% vol. The dry one resembles one sherry, the sweet one outbreak, With the sweet versions, the residual sugar fermentes very slowly to alcohol, which is why it often becomes dry types after a few years. The wines are stable for up to two decades.

Tokaji Aszú (slovakian Tokajský Výber): term for the famous, noble sweet Tokaj wine. The term is derived from aszalt (dried or dried) and refers to the botrytis Berries that are used for production or are prescribed in this state. In principle, Aszú corresponds to the German term in terms of wine Trockenbeerenauslese or (only used in Austrian Burgenland) outbreak, The Tokaj Aszú is therefore only made of overripe, from Botrytis infested berries, which are individually selected or selected by hand. The berries are kept in wooden vats and recently also in plastic containers. The Escenzia flows down through its own weight.

When this is peeled, the grapes are mashed into a dough-like paste (sometimes with the feet today), whereby the grape seeds must not be crushed. Then 136 liters (volume of a Göncer barrel) of the same vintage is poured onto the amount of three to six puttonyos (butts between 24 and 28 kg). Some wineries expect 20 kg of Aszú porridge in hectoliters and per butte. For an Aszú with six Puttonyos, the Aszú-Neuwein ratio is about 1: 1. The mixture is then left to soak for 18 to 48 hours with occasional stirring. This releases the sugar from the grapes.

The grape seeds floating above are removed. Then it is pressed and the must in wooden barrels for the fermentation bottled. Today the Szerednye barrel (200 to 220 liters) and recently also barriques (225 liters) are mainly used - the historical one Göncer barrel (Gönci hordó) with 136 to 145 liters volume can hardly be found. Little or very little sulfur is used to form acetaldehyde to avoid. In the cool cellars with high air humidity up to 98% a very slow fermentation takes place. Traditionally, this is done oxidatively - that is, with some contact with oxygen by never filling the barrels fully. This gives the wine its traditional character - a little bit like one Madeira or sherry,

Recently, however, reductive expansion has also been experimented with. The subsequent maturation takes place again in the barrel types already mentioned. The alcohol evaporating in small quantities through the wooden walls may be filled up with Tokaj brandy (about 0.5 to 1% alcohol per year) - but not below that Spriten is to be understood. The Tokajer used to be ripened for as many years as it contained butten, today the wine law prescribes at least three years, two of which in wooden barrels. Only then is the wine bottled. The best Tokajers keep very long, ancient bottles are under a thick layer of mold, the corks are renewed every 25 years. 300 year old Tokaji have been found in excellent condition.

botrytized grape and Eszencia bottle

Aszú-Eszencia: This latest quality level was only created in the 20th century. The meaningfulness is partly contested, the name also means that the wine is often confused with the Escenzia. They wanted to install an additional level between the 6-butt Aszú and the maximum level Escenzia. In the Hungarian Wine Act of 1977, it is defined as "outstanding Aszú wine from a prime location and an excellent vintage". However, since there are (no) classified locations in Hungary, the definition was somewhat imprecise - this is no longer mentioned in the latest wine law 1997. The same conditions apply as for Aszú. The botrytized berries must have a sugar content of at least 180 g / l. The crushed berries must be infused with must or new wine of the same vintage and fermented. The wine has to mature for five years (three of them in wooden barrels). The number of puttonyos is not shown on the label.

Eszencia: This specialty is also known as nectar and was first mentioned in 1707. In the 19th century, it was referred to in German literature as the “Tokay outbreak essence”. In ancient times, Eszencia was not considered a wine at all, but rather a medicine. Most of the time Eszencia was given back to Aszú (if you did not do this, one spoke of a "castrated Aszú"). This is still practiced by most wineries today. In the 17th century, bottling and sales were even temporarily prohibited by law. The exclusively noble rot berries are picked individually by hand and collected in wooden vats. Due to its own weight, the syrup-like Escenzia flows down. Due to the extremely high sugar content of 60% to even 80%, fermentation often takes 10, 15 and even 20 years. The dark-colored wine has a honey-like consistency and has only a low alcohol content of at least 5 to a maximum of 8 percent. This precious rarity is often only served by the glass in the wineries.

The Szamorodnis and Aszús are traditionally filled into white, long-necked bottles (with indentation in the bottom) with 0.5 liters, but there are many other bottle shapes and sizes, because the Hungarian wine law leaves (too) much scope. In ancient times, one to five-butted Tokaj Aszú were also produced, later they were reduced to two to five-butted. Around the year 1790, the six-butted Aszú was created and the two-butted was omitted because good quality Szamorodnis came very close to it. The two-buttigen were still produced until the second half of the 20th century. The 1997 Wine Law only provides for three- to six-butte. The number of puttonyos is only included on the bottle label for the Aszú. The quality levels with the minimum content of sugar (1) and sugar-free extract (2) in grams per liter are:

  • 2 Puttonyos Aszú: is no longer produced
  • 3 Puttonyos Aszú: 60 - 30
  • 4 Puttonyos Aszú: 90 - 35
  • 5 Puttonyos Aszú: 120 - 40
  • 6 Puttonyos Aszú: 150 - 45
  • Aszú-Eszencia: 180-50
  • Eszencia: 450 (formerly 250) - 50

Until recently, under the misleading name Tokajer, Tokayer or similar, grape varieties were grown and wines were produced all over the world. In the Italian region Friuli-Venezia Giulia there was the Tocai Friulano ( Sauvignonasse ) and in French Alsace a Tokay d'Alsace as a synonym for Pinot gris, Overseas, not only Tokaji, but also other well-known wine-growing areas such as Bordeaux have been misused. All of these terms had to be changed after the decision of the European Union and also due to international agreements from 2007. The origin protected name Tokajer may only be used for the Hungarian and Slovak originals.

The Tokaj producers

The "Tokaj Renaissance" association, founded in 1995, is dedicated to the care and culture of wine. Well-known producers include Andrássy, Árvay, Béres, Bodrog Várhegy. Chateau Megyer. Chateau Pajzos Dereszla Disznókö, Dobogó, Gróf Degenfeld, Hétszőlő, Monyók, Oremus, Pannon Tokaj, Patrícius, Royal Tokaj, Szepsy Istvan, Tokaj Classic Winery and Tokaj Kereskedőház. The following saying can be found on a label: Aki e üvegböliszik annak kivantatik, hogy a Borok Kiralyanak aranyfenye emlekeztesse a hegyaljai tajra, ahol immar ezredik eve ragyog a szölöt Ökere a Nap! Kivantatik, hogy a Kiralyok Boranak, legendas gyogyhatasa kedves egeszsegere valjek). In German this means: “Anyone who drinks from this bottle should be wished that the golden sheen of the king of wines reminds them of the Hegyalja landscape, where the sun has been shining on the vines for a thousand years. May the legendary healing effects of the wine of the Kings be transferred to his health ” . The Tokaj area was finally declared a UNESCO site in 2002 World Heritage appointed.

Main source: The Tokajer Book - Michael Sailer (Michael Sailer-Verlag Munich)
Tokay area: By Georg Hoefnagel - Own scan, public domain, link
Barrels: By Zoltan Szarvas from Pixabay
Tokaji-Hegyalja Vineyards: By Unknown, CC BY-SA 2.5 , Link
Wine cellar: Von Verita - Own work, CC BY-SA 3.0 , Link
Grapes: Von CrazyD - Self-photographed , CC BY-SA 3.0 , Link

Eszencia: From Eszencia.jpg , CC BY-SA 3.0 , link

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