Hungary’s Tokaj is the world’s first demarcated wine region, formally delimited by a Royal Charter in 1737 which also introduced strict appellation control for all Tokaji wines.
The centrepiece in a wide array of local sweet wine styles, ranging from Late Harvest and Sweet Szamorodni to Eszencia, Aszú is a natural dessert wine made using an over 400 year-old method of macerating botrytis-affected berries in a base wine or base must to achieve a specific degree of sweetness. The local grape varieties that have perfectly adapted to the singular Tokaj terroir provide the acidity to balance the sweetness; that is why a well-made Aszú is never cloyingly sweet. Aszús win trophies and awards at nearly all international wine competitions they are entered for. However, Tokaj is by no means any longer about dessert wines only.
After 40 years of oblivion behind the Iron Curtain, the Tokaj wine region has seen an unprecedented renaissance over the past two decades, which has not only brought along a fruitier and overall more elegant style of Aszús (as opposed to the heavily oxidised style of the preceding era), but also a major upswing in the production of dry Tokaji wines from around the turn of the 21st century. Single variety dry styles, primarily from Furmint grapes, are currently the key growth driver for many of the leading wineries. Today, a Tokaji can no longer be thought of as a match for foie gras or desserts only. Full Tokaji dry whites with pronounced acidity and minerality pair perfectly well with heavy dishes of red meat or game that would normally call for a red wine. Single-vineyard dry wines alone make a visit to the region worthwhile.
Now is the time to come, see and taste for yourself!
Tokaj is a place to visit all year round. A day trip with a one-night stay in the region can complement a short holiday or business trip in Budapest. For a better insight and a fuller experience you will need anything between a long weekend and a whole week.