From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia - View original article

Jump to: navigation, search
For other uses, see Tokaj (disambiguation).
A Aszú 3 Puttonyos Tokaji.

Tokaji (Hungarian: of Tokaj Hungarian pronunciation: [ˈtokɒji]) is the Hungarian form for the name of the wines from the Tokaj wine region (also Tokaj-Hegyalja wine region or Tokaj-Hegyalja) in Hungary or the adjoining Tokaj wine region in Slovakia; the traditional English form is "Tokay". The name Tokaji (which is of Protected Designation of Origin) is used for labeling wines from the Hungarian wine district; the Slovakian form is "Tokajské". This region is noted for its sweet wines[1] made from grapes affected by noble rot, a style of wine which has a long history in this region. The "nectar" coming from the grapes of Tokaj is mentioned in the national anthem of Hungary.

The Slovak wine region of Tokaj may use the Tokajský/-á/-é label ("of Tokaj" in Slovak)[2] if they apply the Hungarian quality control regulation.[2] This area used to be part of the greater Tokaj-Hegyalja region within the Kingdom of Hungary, but was divided between Hungary and Czechoslovakia after the Treaty of Trianon.


A Tokaji wine cellar; 185 cellars were counted in the town of Tokaj in 1967.[3]

Six grape varieties are officially approved for Tokaji wine production:

Furmint accounts for 60% of the area and is by far the most important grape in the production of Aszú wines. Hárslevelű stands for further 30%. Nevertheless, an impressive range of different types and styles of wines are produced in the region, ranging from dry whites to the Eszencia, the world's sweetest wine.[citation needed]

The area where Tokaji wine is traditionally grown is a small plateau, 457 m (1500 ft) above sea level, near the Carpathian Mountains. The soil is of volcanic origin, with high concentrations of iron and lime. The location of the region has a unique climate, beneficial to this particular viniculture, due to the protection of the nearby mountains. Winters are bitterly cold and windy; spring tends to be cool and dry, and summers are noticeably hot. Usually, autumn brings rain early on, followed by an extended Indian summer, allowing a very long ripening period.

The Furmint grapes begin maturation with a thick skins, but as they ripen the skins become thinner, and transparent. This allows the sun to penetrate the grape and evaporate much of the liquid inside, producing a higher concentration of sugar. Other types of grapes mature to the point of bursting, however, unlike most other grapes, Furmint will grow a second skin which seals it from rot. This also has the effect of concentrating the grape's natural sugars. The grapes are left on the vine long enough to develop the "noble rot" (Botrytis cinerea) mold. Grapes then are harvested, sometimes as late as December (and in the case of true Eszencia, occasionally into January).[citation needed]

Typical yearly production in the region runs to a relatively small 10,028,000 liters (2,650,000 gallons).

Types of Tokaji wine[edit]

A bottle of Tokaji Aszú 4 Puttonyos, vintage 1990, in a 500 ml bottle of the style that is typical for Tokaji wine. The capsule label with the colours of the Hungarian flag is also characteristic.
The concentration of aszú was traditionally defined by the number of puttony of dough added to a Gönc cask (136 liter barrel) of must.[5] Nowadays the puttony number is based on the content of sugar and sugar-free extract in the mature wine. Aszú ranges from 1 puttonyos to 6 puttonyos, with a further category called Aszú-Eszencia representing wines above 6 puttonyos. Unlike most other wines, alcohol content of aszú typically runs higher than 14%. Annual production of aszú is less than one percent of the region's total output.

In 1999, Chateau Pajzos became the first winery to produce a Tokaji ice wine.

A bottle of Tokaji Eszencia.


"Wine of Kings, King of Wines" (as Louis XV of France called Tokaji).[3]

It is not known for how long vines have been grown on the volcanic soil of the fork of the rivers Bodrog and Hernád. This predates the settlement of the Magyar tribes to the region.[5] According to legend, the first aszú was made by Laczkó Máté Szepsi in 1630. However, mention of wine made from aszú grapes had already appeared in the Nomenklatura of Fabricius Balázs Sziksai which was completed in 1576. A recently discovered inventory of aszú predates this reference by five years.

Tokaji wine became the subject of the world's first appellation control, established several decades before Port wine, and over 120 years before the classification of Bordeaux. Vineyard classification began in 1730 with vineyards being classified into 3 categories depending on the soil, sun exposure and potential to develop noble rot, botrytis cinerea, first class, second class and third class wines. A royal decree in 1757 established a closed production district in Tokaj. The classification system was completed by the national censuses of 1765 and 1772.

In 1920, following the fall of the Austro-Hungarian Empire, a small part of the Tokaj wine region (approx. 1.75 km²) became part of Czechoslovakia due to the Treaty of Trianon, while the rest remained part of Hungary. After World War II, when Hungary became a Soviet-influenced state, Tokaji production continued with as many as 6,000 small producers, but the bottling and distribution were monopolized by the state-owned organization. Since the collapse of the communist regimes in 1990, a number of independent wineries have been established in the Tokaj wine region. A state-owned producer continues to exist and handles approximately 20% of the overall production.

Famous consumers of Tokaji[edit]

In 1703, Francis Rákóczi II, Prince of Transylvania, gave King Louis XIV of France some Tokaji wine from his Tokaj estate as a gift. The Tokaji wine was served at the French Royal court at Versailles, where it became known as Tokay. Delighted with the precious beverage, Louis XV of France offered a glass of Tokaji to Madame de Pompadour, referring to it as "Vinum Regum, Rex Vinorum"[3] ("Wine of Kings, King of Wines"). This famous line is used to this day in the marketing of Tokaji wines.

Emperor Franz Josef (who was also King of Hungary) had a tradition of sending Queen Victoria Tokaji Aszú wine, as a gift, every year on her birthday, one bottle for every month she had lived, twelve for each year. On her eighty-first and final birthday (1900), this totaled an impressive 972 bottles.

Tokaji wine has received accolades from numerous great writers and composers including[3] Beethoven, Liszt, Schubert, Goethe, Heinrich Heine,[3] Friedrich von Schiller,[3] Bram Stoker,[3] Johann Strauss II,[3] and Voltaire.[3] The composer Joseph Haydn's favorite wine was Tokaji. Besides Louis XIV, several other European monarchs are known to have been keen consumers of the wine. Louis XV and Frederick the Great tried to outdo one another when they treated guests such as Voltaire with Tokaji. Napoleon III, the last Emperor of the French, ordered 30–40 barrels of Tokaji at the French Royal Court every year. Pope Pius IV. (1499–1565) at the Council of Trient in 1562, exclaimed: Summum pontificem talia vina decent! (This is the type of wine that should be on the papal table). Gustav III, King of Sweden, loved Tokaji - it has been said he never had any other wine to drink. In Russia, customers included Peter the Great and Empress Elizabeth of Russia.[3] A newspaper account of the 1933 wedding of Polish president Ignacy Mościcki notes that toasts were made with 250-year-old wines, and goes on to say "The wine, if good, could only have been Essence of Tokay, and the centuries-old friendship between Poland and Hungary would seem to support this conclusion."[citation needed]

Other uses of the Tokaji appellation[edit]

Tokaji wines have been famous for a long time, which has resulted in their name being “adopted” by other wines:

In popular culture[edit]

A bottle of Tokaji Aszú 3 Puttonyos

See also[edit]


  1. ^ "Tokay". Encyclopædia Britannica. Encyclopædia Britannica, Inc. 2008. Retrieved 2008-08-16. 
  2. ^ a b c "A névért perelnék az uniót a tokaji gazdák". Népszabadság (in Hungarian). 2008-08-02. Retrieved 2008-09-21. 
  3. ^ a b c d e f g h i j k Tokaj-Hegyalja
  4. ^ “A rich, sweet, moderately strong wine of a topaz color, produced in the vicinity of Tokay, in Hungary; also, a similar wine produced elsewhere.” Webster’s New International Dictionary of the English Language (Springfield, Mass.: G.&C. Merriam, 1913). See Tokay at page 2166.
  5. ^ a b Lichine, Alexis (1987). Alexis Lichine’s New Encyclopedia of Wines & Spirits (5th edition ed.). New York: Alfred A. Knopf. pp. 497–499. 
  6. ^
  7. ^ Tokay alsace
  8. ^ Rutherglen: What is Topaque?
  9. ^ Wines in Transcarpathia, Ukraina

Further reading[edit]

  • Alkonyi, Laszló. Tokaj - The Wine of Freedom, Budapest, 2000
  • Grossman, Harold J. & Lembeck, Harriet. Grossman's Guide to Wines, Beers and Spirits (6th edition). Charles Scribner's Sons, New York, 1977, p. 172-4. ISBN 0-684-15033-6
  • Terra Benedicta - Tokaj and Beyond (Gábor Rohály, Gabriella Mészáros, András Nagymarosy, Budapest 2003)
  • Tradition and Innovation in the Tokaj Region PDF (328 KB) Tim Atkin, MW.

External links[edit]