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...
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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!

WHEN TO GO AND FOR HOW LONG?

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.

WHERE TO GO?

  • Szerencs, is a charming little town with a beautiful castle park and a wonderfully renovated "Municipal Bath House", dating from 1910 and now fitted with a swimming pool, jacuzzi, infrared saunas, Finnish sauna and steam room. The winery we recommend is Árpád-hegy Pince, housed in a former inn in the upper town.  
  • Mád not very far, boasts perhaps the highest number of top wineries in the region and you can see a range of wines from most of them on display in Első Mádi Borház, a combined café, eatery and wine shop, by the roadside on the left just before you enter the village. Mád is also home to one of Tokaj’s (and Hungary’s) most renowned winemakers, István Szepsy, whose house is just a short walk away from Gusteau, one of the region’s (still few) outstanding restaurants. Most dishes served here are paired with wines from Szent Tamás, a winery that is part of the same group as Gusteau.
  • Royal Tokaji is a British-owned winery that was co-founded by Hugh Johnson in 1990. They stand out with their wide range of single-vineyard Aszús. Other wineries worthy of a visit include DemeterVin and Barta Cellar, housed in a 17thcentury manor house. At Sándor Bodnár’s artisan cheese dairy, a range of cellar-matured cheeses can be tasted. A climb up to the scenic Úrágya Vineyard is another thing not to be missed while you are in Mád.
  • The next village to the North is Tállya, but before you turn right from the main road into the village, you may want to take a detour to Rátka and visit the Árvay Family Winery to find out how certain international varieties, such as Sauvignon Blanc and Chardonnay perform in the Tokaj terroir.
  • Back in Tállya, the stylishly furnished Oroszlános Restaurant & Wine Hotel**** makes a great place to stay and dine in. Their house wine is vinified by local Szent Benedek Winery, which also makes one of the best examples of Dry Szamorodni under their own label.  
  • Pendits is Tokaj's only certified biodynamic winery and is actually located in the town of Abaújszántó, a few miles further to the North. Once you are in Abaújszántó, you should drop in on Pinceköz, a relatively new start-up that not only makes wines, but also specially-flavoured jams and jellies which can be tasted and bought at the winery.  
  • From here, follow the sign to Tokaj town. The first place down this by-road is Tarcal, a village particularly well supplied with excellent hotels. Gróf Degenfeld**** is four-star hotel housed in a small mansion set in the same beautiful park as its namesake winery which turned fully organic in 2012. Andrássy Rezidencia Wine & Spa***** is the region’s only five-star hotel, housing a beautiful indoor swimming pool and spa facilities, as well as one of the region’s best restaurants with the most extensive Tokaji wine list you can get. As you leave Tarcal, you will see the building of Tokajicum on the left, the winery that has won the first Regional Trophy ever awarded to a Tokaji dry wine at the Decanter World Wine Awards.
  • For a history kick visit Tolcsva. The National Treasury’s wine museum has a collection that spans 34 vintages between 1895 and 1988. It can only be visited by prior arrangement.

DON'T MISS!

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