Tokaji, also known as Tokay, is one of the most legendary wines in the world. A recognizable cultural symbol of Hungary it is even quoted in the national anthem.
Hungarian wine production began in the time of the Celts and developed during the Roman occupation. It reached its pure splendor in the Middle Ages, during the Ottoman invasions when abbot Szepsi Laczkó Máté, a national hero, suggested an early harvest facing an imminent attack from the Turks. This caused the grapes to rot due to an outbreak of Botrytis cinerea fungus, which added to the rest of the wort resulted in a complex wine of extraordinary organoleptic properties. See here wines from the world.
Tokay are unique wines made in the Tokaj region of northeast Hungary, where Furmint, Hárslevelű and Sárga Muskotály grapes are grown and used in the production of these noble wines.
Vineyard in the Tokaj hills in North Hungary.
Compared to other sweet wines, what distinguish Tokay are several intrinsic characteristics, such as the cultivation of grapes in volcanic soils, which grow in conical mounds. There is also the influence of the Bodrog and Hernád rivers that converge to the south, where the so-called “bald mountain” rises to 528 feet above the towns of Tokaj and Tarcal. The surrounding mountains provide shelter, and the rivers originate autumnal fogs that keep the grapes moist. The long aging processes in 8 feet deep underground caves covered with a particular fungus, and the original puttonyos system (the quantity of botrytized grapes added according to the amount of grape juice or wine) are elements that give the wine its sweetness and a moldy taste of mushrooms.
Tokay wines have shared qualities: good acidity, freshness, balance, intensity and great aromatic complexity with flower essences, along with hints of peaches and ripe plums. Their flavors are complex, reminiscent of honey, quince, caramel and nuts such as almonds and hazelnuts.
Tokay Aszú is considered the noblest sweet wine in the world. In its development, the decay produced by the fungus exerts its benign influence. This superb vintage prompted Tsar Peter the Great of Russia to send Cossacks to watch over the Tokaj cellars, and guard the roads used to transport the wine to St. Petersburg, where it was served at the table of Catherine the Great. Meanwhile, Voltaire said of the Tokay Aszú: “This wine invigorates every fiber of my brain and sparks in the depths of my soul a lovely flash of intelligence and good mood.”
Tokay Aszú can only be produced in years of plentiful crops, when nature provides favorable weather for the development of the noble rot in optimum conditions. As you taste these wines, you will detect a remarkable clarity and above all a good balance of sweetness and acidity. The Aszú is among the most expensive Tokay wines. An excellent example is Oremus, developed by the Vega Sicilia winery, established in the area several years ago.
Other famous wineries that produce Tokay wine are Disznókő, Füleky, Szepsy, Royal Tokaji and Királyudvar. Wine from these cellars will provide delightful moments of great enjoyment and pleasure. ■