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Shrivelled and dedicated grapes used in Tokaji


Hungary- History

Vines planted since 400 BC. Part of a military highway. Hungary has seen a succession of conquerors, meaning wine production has been sporadic over the years. From fall of Romans until 10 century AD vine growing was absent. Monastic orders created the vineyard areas still in existence today. The fall of the eastern bloc led to a collapse in economy as main export markets suddenly became unavailable. A bid to occupy western shelves meant indigenous varieties were replaced by international varieties. Recent counter reaction has occurred with outside investment and a new generation of proud Hungarian wine makers.


Wine Laws- Hungary

Based on French appellation control system; geographical origin determines quality. Three zones with 22 regions. Wine classified as:
Asztali Bor- table wines
Minosegi Bor- Quality wine, recognised QWPSR category.
Kunloneges Minosegi Bor- Special Quality Wine. Bottles carry offical state seal. Special quality wine divided into 4 groups:

1. Late harvested wines (similar to Austrian Spatlese)
2. Special selection late harvest (Auslese).
3. Shrivelled grapes (BA or TBA)
4. Aszu wines

New governing structure introduced in 1995 with a national council for wine an overall supervisory role, regional council for each region with a representative from each commune and a local council for each wine commune. All growers over 0.15ha must register. Only registered growers can sell on the domestic and export markets. Council is responsible for grape quality, setting harvest date, vilification methods but not the finished wine quality.


Regions- Hungary

Central European climate, short, cold winters, long warm summers. Long autumn for ripening. Average temperature throughout the year 10.5 degrees. Annual rainfall approximately 600mm per year.
Three zones (Great Plain, Transdanubia and Northern Massif) divided into 22 regions.


Northern Massif

Tokaj is the most prestigious wine region. Northern mountains on Slovak border, also banks of the Bodrog and Tisza rivers. Wines split into two categories. Quality wine and Special Quality Wine, latter bottled in 50cl bottles. Noble rot affected; some of the world's greatest sweet wines. Rivers create mists for noble rot production. Tokaji Aszu- Aszu means nobly rotted grapes. Botrytis affected grapes separated in vineyard. Healthy grapes fermented to dry. Alcohol content around 10.5- 12.5% abv. Aizu grapes then added to must or dry wine to get the sweetness required. Final residual sugar classified in puttonyos as follows:

3 puttonyos= 60g/L
4 puttonyos= 90g/L
5 puttonyos= 120g/L
6 puttonyos= 150g/L

3-6 years cask ageing before release. Traditionally wine was oxidised to a certain level before release. Foreign investors and wine makers questioned this, now more likely released without oxidation. Wine is deep amber in colour with high acidity, aromas of orange marmalade, apricots and honey. The best show complexities of bread, smoke, coffee and caramel.


Aszu Eszencia- Tokaji

Made in the best years from best vineyards. Sugar in excess of 6 puttonyos.


Eszencia- Tokaji

Made from free run juice of aszu berries. Very sweet, with minimal alcohol. (can be over 400g/L sugar, and 3-4% abv). Concentration of flavours allows long ageing without loss of intensity. Expensive. On par with Chateau d' Yquem.


Szamarodni Szaraz- Tokaj

Dry Special Quality Wine produced also showing limited Botrytis characters. It is aged traditionally in Goncs. Left on ullage, enabling flor- like yeast to grow. This dry wine develops sherry characters.


Eger- Hungary

Extension of the same hill range as Tokaji. According to legend, this once made a full bodied powerful red. Agri Bikaver or 'Bulls Blood' is now a blend, usually including Kekfrankos and Bordeaux varieties. Some are aged in casks in cellars cut into the tufa rock under Eger. Most modern wine is light in tannin and body.


Trans- Danubia- Hungary

Around Lake Balafon, protected from winds. Ideal climate for wine production, volcanic, iron rich soil gives body to the wine. Range of varieties, including international ones are planted. Two important areas are Aszar-Neszmely and Vilany-Siklos.

Szekszard- Long warm summers, red wines similar in style to those of Eger.

Villany-Siklios- A small number of premium producers make powerful, age worthy (and expensive) reds.


Great Plain- Hungary

Sandy and phylloxera free. Many vineyards, but little quality wine grown.


International Grape Varieties- Hungary

Chardonnay, Pinot Gris, Cabernet Sauvignon, Cabernet Franc


Furmint- Hungary

Powerful white wine, apple character when young, developing nuts and honey with age, prone to botrytis. Grown in Tokaji and Somio.


Harslevelu (Linden Leaf)- Hungary

Late ripening, prone to Botrytis. Used for Tokaji, wine has a spicy character.


Sarga Muskotaly- Hungary

(Muscat a Blanc Petit Grains)- aromatic orange blossom character. Used for Tokaji.


Olaszirizling (Welschriesling)- Hungary

Crisp and light, flavour of bitter almonds, grown around Balaton.


Cserszegi Fuszeres and Kiralyeanyka- Hungary

Both produce aromatic dry wines.


Kardarka- Hungary

Black grape, almost completely replaced by international varieties. Ages well in oak.


Kekfrankos (Blaufränkisch)- Hungary

Light, purple coloured wine, high in acidity.


Kekoporto (Portugeiser)- Hungary

Needs warmth, good in blends, adds soft tannins and soft acids.


Zweigelt- Hungary

Austrian variety, widely planted. Often produces high yields.


Bull's Blood

Once a wine brand named after a historic style of red wine made in hungary, known as bikavér in Hungarian.


Hugh Johnson

Johnson’s passion for wine began when he was at Cambridge University, where he read English. One of the great stylists of the literature of wine, he was immediately taken on as a feature writer for Condé Nast magazines on graduation. As a result of his close friendship with André simon, the founder of the International Wine & Food Society, he became General Secretary of the society and succeeded the legendary gastronome as editor of its magazine. At the same time he became wine correspondent of the Sunday Times and embarked on his first book Wine, whose publication in 1966 established him as one of the foremost English gastronomic writers of the time. More than 750,000 copies have been printed, in seven languages. He revised it in 1974. His next book was even more successful, even though it allowed only limited scope for Johnson’s matchless prose. The World Atlas of Wine represented the first serious attempt to map the world’s wine regions, and first appeared in 1971. More than 4.5 million copies in a total of 20 languages have been sold of this and subsequent editions in 1977, 1985, 1994 the fully updated 2001 edition, 2007, and 2013 editions, co-written with J. R. Pausing only to write a best-selling book on trees, The International Book of Trees, inspired by his acquisition of an Elizabethan house in 12 acres of Essex countryside, he went on to devise and write a best-selling annual wine guide, The Pocket Wine Book, which has sold more than 12 million copies in a dozen languages, since its first edition in 1977. The more expansive Hugh Johnson’s Wine Companion followed in 1983 and was revised in 1987, 1991, 1997, and 2003. It sold widely in the US as Hugh Johnson’s Modern Encyclopedia of Wine, and in France as Le Guide mondial du connaisseur de vin, and in Germany as Der Grosse Johnson. This prolific output, encouraged by Johnson’s publishers Mitchell Beazley, was supplemented by The Principles of Gardening, another bestseller, and a succession of co-authored and less serious wine books (including even a ‘pop-up’ version). Johnson’s most distinctive work, however, did not appear until 1989. The Story of Wine is a tour de force, a single-volume sweep through the history of wine in which Johnson’s literary skills and breadth of vision are headily combined. The book was written to coincide with an ambitiously international 13-part television series, Vintage: A History of Wine, written and presented by Johnson. In 1992, he co-authored The Art and Science of Wine with Australian James Halliday. A Life Uncorked (2005) is his most reflective and autobiographical work. Between 1986 and 2000 Johnson sold the Hugh Johnson Collection, glassware and other wine-related artefacts, with notable success in Japan, where he was a consultant to Jardines Wines and Spirits. He also served (1986–2001) on the administrative council of first growth Ch latour, as a consultant to British Airways, and has been president of the Sunday Times Wine Club run by laithwaite’s since its inception in 1973. In 1990, Johnson co-founded The Royal tokaji Wine Company, a reflection of his interest in wine history. Other activities include regular journalism on and enthusiastic gardening. For 25 years from 1975 he was editorial director of the Journal of the Royal Horticultural Society. In 2005, none too hastily one might argue, the French made him a Chevalier de l’Ordre National du Mérite. Johnson is one of the most vocal opponents of scoring wine, and his writing has been characterized more by a sensual enthusiasm for wine in all its variety than by the critical analysis of individual wines which characterizes writers such as the American Robert parker. His daughter Kitty followed him into wine writing.


Vega Sicilia

Concentrated and long-lived red wine that is Spain’s undisputed equivalent of a first growth, made on a single property now incorporated into the ribera del duero denomination. The wine was being made long before the present do region took shape in the 1980s. This 1,000-ha/2,500-acre farm either side of the main road east of Valladolid has been making wine in its present form since 1864 when Eloy Lacanda y Chaves planted vines from Bordeaux alongside Tinto Fino, also known as Tinta del País (a local strain of tempranillo). The current style was defined around 1910, when the winery was leased by Cosme Palacio, a Rioja grower. A succession of different owners has since managed to maintain the quality and reputation of Vega Sicilia as Spain’s finest red wine. However, Vega Sicilia fell on lean times at several junctures, and was able to make a substantial leap in quality and, more importantly, in consistency after being bought by the Alvarez family in 1982. The more than 200 ha/500 acres of vineyard on limestone soils overlooking the River Duero (douro in Portugal) are planted mainly with Tinto Fino but cabernet sauvignon, merlot, and a little malbec together make up about 20% of the total production. A tiny quantity of old-vine white albillo remains. Bodegas Vega Sicilia produces three wines, all red. Valbuena is a five-year old vintage-dated wine aged in American oak. Vega Sicilia Unico, which is restricted to the best vintages and is often released after spending about ten years in a combination of wooden tanks, small, new barriques, large, old barrels and bottles, attracts the most attention. The best vintages of Vega Sicilia Unico and the third wine produced here, the rare multi-vintage Reserva Especial, last for decades. In 1991, Bodegas Vega Sicilia acquired the nearby Liceo winery and created the immediately acclaimed Bodegas Alión, which makes much more modern reds from 100% Tempranillo grapes, aged in new French oak. In 2001, Pintia, Vega Sicilia’s bodega in the toro region, produced its first vintage. Then, in a joint venture with Benjamin de rothschild, Vega Sicilia created the Macán estate in Rioja. As the bodega celebrated its 150th anniversary in 2014, tensions between different members of the Álvarez family who accquired it in 1982 were widely publicized.



Much-disputed town in north-east hungary whose wines have been exported with success since the 13th century, although various Turkish incursions interrupted this trade. Eger’s most famous siege was during the Ottoman occupation of the 16th century when, according to legend, the defenders of Eger were so dramatically fortified by a red liquid which stained their beards and armour that the Turks retreated, believing their opponents to have drunk bikavér, or Bull’s Blood. The town gives its name to a pdo on the foothills of the volcanic Bükk Mountains where rainfall is low and spring tends to come late. This is one of Hungary’s cooler wine-producing areas, and therefore the wines have good aromas and acidity. The geological makeup is diverse, with calcareous sections alternating with patches of loess, alluvial soils, and extensive volcanic rocks, especially tuff. The southern slope of the Nagy Eged Hill, reclaimed from woods and shrubs, is one of the three most valuable vineyard sites in Hungary. The topsoil here is not volcanic. Pajdos, Síkhegy, and Grőber are all very distinctive sites, too. The renowned grape of Eger’s halcyon days, kadarka, is being rediscovered, and Pinot Noir and Shiraz are also being planted. Grown on over 200 ha/500 acres, kékfrankos (Blaufränkisch) continues to dominate and tends to have firmly etched acidity that demands malolactic conversion. As for white wines, Eger, like Balatonfüred-Csopak and Somló, produces some of the finest Olaszrizlings (welschriesling) in all Hungary. Other fine whites are made from Chardonnay, Leányka, Királyleányka, and Hárslevelű.



Wine region and pdo in southern hungary with a special loess soil as deep as 10 to 15 m (35–50 ft) in places. The landscape is very varied, which allows different mesoclimates to shape the wines. The Szekszárd Hill is 100–120 m/330–395 ft high on average. The steep slopes are dissected by erosional valleys and ravines with the eastern and southern slopes generally providing the best wines. The kadarka grape, once the chief component of bikavér, made Szekszárd’s viticulture famous in the 18th and 19th centuries and its attractively scented, relatively soft wine can once again be found fairly easily, either as a varietal Kadarka, Kékfrankos, Bikavér (a blend now based on Kékfrankos), or a bordeaux blend.


Imperial Tokay

Historical name used for wine produced on the vineyard properties of the Austrian Habsburg emperors in the tokaj-Hegyalja region of Hungary, especially during the 19th century. The Habsburg holdings were concentrated in the village of Tarcal, particularly the highly respected Szarvas vineyard that had been confiscated from the rebellious Prince Ferenc Rákóczi II in 1711. The term became widely known in western Europe following the creation of the Austro-Hungarian Monarchy in 1867. However, Imperial Tokay was usually misunderstood either as being necessarily far superior to all other Tokaji wines, or as being an alternative term for Eszencia.



Town, pdo (Oltalom alatt álló eredet megjelöléssel or OEM in the local language), and the most famous wine region in hungary, whose sweet wine was once revered throughout Europe. Mount Tokaj is the prominent volcanic cone at the southernmost tip of the region, which includes the foothills of the entire Zemplén Mountains (which, in turn, form the southern range of the Tokaj-Eperjes Mountains). Hungarians often use the name Tokaj to mean the whole region, but the people living in the area refer to themselves as being from the Hegyalja, to emphasize their separateness from the residents of the town of Tokaj itself. However, even they prefer to call their wine Tokaji (the –i ending is a suffix indicating place of origin, as the –er in New Yorker) regardless of any more precise location within the region.


Tokaji- History

The first known occurrence of the name, in the form ‘Tokay’, is in a 13th-century genealogy and history entitled Gesta Hungarorum. The Gesta, and many sources after it, refer to the emblematic hill of the region not as Tokaj but as Tarcal, today the name of a village at the western foot of the hill. Remarkably, Tarcal was also the name of the hill in Syrmia far to the south, today known as Fruska Gora in serbia, which yielded the most famous wine of medieval Hungary. Records enumerating the administrative units have existed since 1641, but these early sources are rife with gaps and contradictions. Hungarian wine legislation of the time lists 27 communities with a right to label their wines as Tokaj. The vineyards around most of these communities were first classified in the 18th century, in a manner that was rigorous at the time but is not entirely useful today. By the 18th century, this extraordinary wine had been introduced to the French court (see hungary, history), and was subsequently introduced to the Russian imperial court by the Habsburgs. Only constantia from the Cape of Good Hope, and to a lesser extent Moldavian cotnari, rivalled the reputation of this wine, generally known outside Hungary as ‘the wine of kings and king of wines’ during this period of sweet-wine worship, with Tokaji Esszencia regarded as an all-purpose restorative. During most of the 20th century, Tokaj languished however. Its recovery from phylloxera was slow, and was far from complete even at the outset of the Second World War. Its reputation suffered with the dissolution of the Austro-Hungarian Empire in 1918. Under Soviet domination, quantity rather than quality was encouraged, although a surprising number of individual growers and winemakers continued to uphold traditions and some exceptional wines were made. As the birthplace of a world-famous wine, Tokaj has a better-documented history than most Hungarian wine regions. It potentially encompasses 11,149 ha/27,549 acres but only 5,946 ha/14,692 acres are planted today. It seems unlikely that all of the 9,829 hectares/24.287 acres rated Class I will ever be fully planted.


Tokaji- Geography

Located in north-eastern Hungary, the Zemplén Mountains have a cool climate, as does the entire Tokaj-Eperjes range within the Carpathian volcanic chain. The mean temperature in the foothills is 9–10 °C/48–50 °F annually, 21 °C in July, and −3 °C in January. The favourable south-south-eastern aspect of the foothills contributes to the excellent mesoclimates found on the slopes. High levels of humidity, due to the location of the vineyards above the confluence of the Bodrog and Tisza rivers, encourage special fungoid flora, including the all-important botrytis. The best vineyard sites occupy the southern slopes, where they are sheltered from northern and north-westerly winds by relatively high, forested peaks. Of these, the top sites are open to the east or the west to promote air circulation and to discourage frosts. The volcanic activity which began 15 million years ago and dominated geological processes here for 6 million years created a great topographical diversity in the Tokaj-Eperjes range. The spectrum of volcanic rocks that can be found in the area includes rhyolite, rhyodacite, dacite, andesite, and even basalt, which is much more typical of the volcanic hills of western Hungary. These various rock types occur as lavas and differ mainly in terms of silica content. In addition, pyroclastic rocks, most significantly tuffs, are also found. During and after the principal eruptions, a variety of post-volcanic alterations left their stamp on the rocks of Tokaj. Volcanic rocks tend to weather faster than other igneous types and the process is accelerated here by the flow of post-volcanic groundwater and hot springs, which deliver to the surface large quantities of potassium and trace elements, which enrich the volcanic detritus. The major centres of post-volcanic changes are in the area of Mád (sites such as Szent Tamás, Úrágya, Betsek, Urbán), Erdőbénye, Tolcsva, and Sárospatak. The southern fringes of the range were overlain by loess at a much later stage, during the Quaternary period when the region’s main soils were developed. On the steeper slopes, the thin soils are typically mixed with weathered andesite, and are quite hard to till. In the low valleys, loess soils of the slope, clay, and glacial deposits evolved. Easily weathered volcanic glass still mingles with the soils today, enriching them in nutrients that are available to the vines. The most widespread soil type is the clayey nyirok, a red soil created by weathering volcanic rocks, particularly stony andesite. When too wet, nyirok is so sticky that it adheres to the spade; if it dries out, it will yield to nothing short of a pick-axe. It does not absorb water very well, and has low permeability. Its red colour, from ferrous hydroxide, turns darker as its humus content increases. Slightly less common is the soil type known as yellow earth, which forms from loess and clayey loess, as well as sandy loess on the Kopaszhegy near Tokaj and the hills north of Olaszliszka. Loess has good drainage, and here has a low lime content. Szarvas near Tarcal is a famous example of a vineyard with loess soil. Loess is not found in the interior of the Tokaj-Eperjes chain nor in the valleys, but on the south eastern slope of Mount Tokaj it can be found at elevations as high as 405 m/1,330 ft. A further soil type is the rock flour that forms from the mechanical weathering of white rhyolite, pumice, and perlite. It is crumbly, does not retain water, and has a low heat capacity, so vines planted in it may easily dry out during a drought, or freeze in extreme cold. Rock flour is the soil type of the Pereshegy at Erdőbénye, the Tolcsvaihegy, and the Oremus vineyard at Sátoraljaújhely.