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Kristóf Pap

Hungary’s most famous dessert winethe ‘Tokaji aszú’


Kristóf Pap

1. Introduction: We can declare that Hungary is a very popular touristic destination in Europe, especially if we consider the Eastern parts of the continent. Our biggest competitor is Prague (most people would not imagine this), which shows that the country might not be so battered as Hungarians themselves think. There are a lot of facilities to spend time as a tourist in Hungary, being younger or elder, single or married, alone or with friends, you can surely enjoy the time you have here. The majority of the tourists come here to stay only for a short period but their number is very impressive. According to a survey (by the World Tourism Organization) Hungary was ranked as the 23rd most visited country in the world in 2007 with its 9,3 million tourist arrivals before such other countries like Egypt, Japan or even Australia. Most of them are very curious about Budapest (the number-one tourist destination) or they just wanted to spend their medical treatment here in one of the numerous thermal baths, but we can say „there is also life beyond Budapest” so if you just want to go out from the capital don’t be afraid, just do it! Hungarian cuisine is very famous and unique owing to its spices and ingredients. A drink, which is usually consumed before meals, is called ‘pálinka’ (Hungarian traditional fruit brandy) but Hungary is also very famous about its postprandial drinks: about


1.1 Origin of the Hungarian wine Hungarian is one of the three European languages, which has its own word for ‘wine’ (bor) that is not derived from Latin (the two other languages are Greek and Turkish). This means that the ancient Hungarians already had contact with grapes and wine over a thousand years ago. The climate and the soil are perfect for wine-making in Hungary and this small country embraces 22 wine regions, each with a different microclimate, producing different tastes and styles.


Kristóf Pap

2. A piece of history: It is said that the Romans brought the wine into Hungary, or as it was known those times, Pannonia. During the Roman occupation there already were extensive vineyards in Pannonia, and then after the Hungarian invasion (AD 896), Árpád (the leader and the head of the Hungarian conquering troops), rewarded his best soldiers with vineyards in Tokaj. Throughout the history the “wine industry” was present in almost every era. King Stephen was very responsible for the spread of Christianity across Hungary. Monasteries were established across the country and the wine culture could spread as well because the monks had the proper knowledge to medicines, spices and wine as well. Then, during the Turkish invasion the wine industry declined until the middle of the 17th century when Buda was recaptured from the Turkish in 1686. It was the end of the Turkish occupation and the beginning of Austrian Dominance. Meanwhile, we can thank the occupation something, if it is true. There is a legend that because of the continuous wars the grapes was not harvested in time but a little later and a rot had an effect on the plants. They still tried to make wine from the grapes, and when they opened a bottle of wine they found it very tasty and high-quality. They recognized the differences (it was harvested later) and the successful story of Noble Rot wine (usually in Tokaj) have begun and it is very popular even these days. Hungary was still not independent but it was offered a right market for the Hungarian wine by the Austrians. The economy was stabilized by the new command and people were encouraged to plant vine on a larger scale. Within a short time wine became the most popular drink in Hungary and a much was exported to Austria, Russia and Poland for the upper classes. For example in 1703, Francis Rákóczi II, Prince of Transylvania, gave King Louis XIV of France a bottle of wine from Tokaj as a gift and it was served at the french Royal court at Versailles where the king offered a glass of wine to Madame Pompadour saying the following: „Wine of Kings, King of Wines” („Vinum Regnum, Rex Vinorum”). This sentence became very famous and it is still used nowadays in the marketing of Tokaj wines which had and still has a strong basis.


Kristóf Pap

3. Tokaj wine region: 3.1 Geography One of the most famous wine regions in Hungary. It is located at the northern part of the country, in the Zemplénmountains, and since the Trianonconduct the third part of the region is

Landscape of Tokaj city

in Slovakia (though they cannot use the name of “Tokaj” on their wines). The area of the wine region is about 6200 acre and it is part of the UNESCO World Heritage as a cultural region since 2002. The capital of the region is the city Tokaj which has some centenary-long wine-maker tradition, special architectural heritage and it saves the local traditions as well. This country has continental climate which is very beneficial for the grapes because the number of sunny and rainy days make the rotting possible (later explained). There are two main types of soil: in case of the first one, the rock-bed beneath the surface consists of volcanic rocks and the soil is very rich in minerals and because of these elements the wines from here are full-body and bear mineral properties with high acidity. The other type of soil is loessal which makes the wines less acidic with a silkier character. More fragrant wines can be made here than on other parts of the region. 3.2 Why is it so special? The main trademark of the Tokaj-area is the so called ‘aszú’. It is made from grapes that had been affected by a noble rot before the harvest. This rot is brought forth by a kind of disease (called Botrytis cinerea), which can be found in other regions as well but there is unique mixture of microclimate, noble rotted grapes

neighbouring rivers (Bodrog, Tisza) and the adequate types of grapes (hárslevelű, furmint, muskotály, zeta) which

generates the rot and guarantees a very high quality for the wines. There is another


Kristóf Pap uniqueness in Tokaj that can be discovered in the cellars especially on the walls of cellars that are covered by a fungus disease (Cladosporium cellare) which can only be found here and at the Rajna wine region. It also contributes to the quality and provides a smell and taste of new bread, dark golden colour and a pretty high, 14% alcohol content.

a cellar in Tokaj

Beyond the “basic” wine types there is another wine (called ‘szamorodni’) which is made by mixing rotted grape with “living” grape and they are processed together. The wines in Tokaj are aged in wooden casks. The highest quality wines are made in Tokaj, Tarcal, Tolcsva, Mád and Tállya villages. Tokaj-hegyalja wine region is an embanked area that means that no grape, wine or grape juice (except bottled wine) can be brought into the area. 3.3 Creating a Hungaricum-How is the ‘aszú’ made? As I have mentioned above, a disease causes the characteristic taste to the grapes. Grapes are harvested lately (between October and December) and separated in order to put only rotted grapes into the wine (as opposed to the ‘szamorodni’ which is made from whole bunches of grapes containing both rotted and unrotted ones). The

Harvester with a ’puttony’ (basket)

collected pieces of the fruit are smashed and either put away to drop down (that liquid is the so called essence of ‘aszú’ which is sold independently /very sweet/) or the smashed fruit is mixed with 136,6 litre wine from the same age-grade (136,6 litre is the capacity of a ‘Gönc-cask’ /a kind of cask made of oak, and its name originates from the village Gönc/ usually used in Tokaj to age ‘aszú’).Then the two liquid was macerated together for 1-1,5 day to unloose the sugar and acid content of the rotted grapes and after the elapsed time it was pressed and filled into casks to be fermented. The quality is usually marked on 5

Kristóf Pap the labels with the number of baskets (‘puttony’) filled with rotted grapes /20-25 kilograms/. The biggest number is on the bottle the highest quality the wine has. The number is determined by the number of baskets that are soaked into a Gönc-cask. It can be made from 3, 4, 5, 6 baskets. There was a wine-law which declared that ‘aszú’ wines had to be fermented as long as many baskets they contained. Nowadays, it has equally decreased for 2 years. The process of wine-making is strictly ruled. The sugar content what is in the centre: a 3 basket ‘aszú’ has to contain 60 g sugar /litre and this number increases by 30 g / litre by each added basket. The wine that is contained 180 g sugar/ litre or more is called essence of ‘aszú’. some really old essences of ’aszú’

3.4 Achievement Tokaj-wines are very famous worldwide, a special example is that during the ceremony of the Nobel-peace-award the prize-winners clinked with a glass of 5-basket ‘aszú’ (agegrade 2007) from Royal Tokaj wine-house.

3.5 Events and festivals in Tokaj There are also some events for those who want to experience the invidual feeling of the Tokaj countryside. One of the biggest Hungarian music festivals is the “Tokaj- Hegyalja fesztivál”). It is a kind of rock festival but other types of music are also performed. For those people who are less interested in music and much more in culture there is a cultural festival (“szüreti napok” =harvesting days) which offers concerts, programmes for children, cookingcompetitions and wine-tasting. The people who want to discover the region on their own have also an opportunity that is the so called wine-tourism card.


Krist贸f Pap 3.6 Wine-tourism card: There is initiative offered by Wineline Ltd. called Hungarian wine-tourism card which is a simple plastic card with which you can get several discounts, of course that are in connection with wine: at wineries, for accommodations, in wine shops, in restaurants, for festival and events and

wine-tourism card usable for 12 months

for programmes offered by travel agencies. You can also get a book (Wine Guide) that contains a map with the Hungarian wine regions. The publication introduces the different wine regions with their characteristic grapes and with those service-providers that offer discounts. The discounts can be utilized for not only one person but for two adults and three children (under the age of 14).

wine-tourism card usable for 14 days

3.7 Always the best choice The Tokaj wines are very enjoyable consumed independently but they can also be matched with several dishes. Usually it is recommended to goose liver and desserts because it can evolve its taste with these kinds of dishes forming a great harmony between the flavours. Consuming alone or after a meal, Tokaj wines are always the

different types of Tokaj wines

best choice that Hungarians will always be proud of.


Kristóf Pap

Content and references: 1. Introduction 1.1 Origin of the Hungarian wine 2. A piece of history 3. Tokaj wine regoin 3.1 Geography 3.2 Why is it so special? 3.3 Creating a Hungaricum-How is the ’aszú’ made? 3.4 Achievement 3.5 Events and festivals in Tokaj 3.6 Wine-tourism card 3.7 Always the best choiceékú my previous bartender studies 2002, Rohály- Mészáros, Borkalauz 2002, Tokaj, AKÓ kiadó


Tokaji aszú The famous Hungarian dessert wine  

Tokaji aszú The famous Hungarian dessert wine

Tokaji aszú The famous Hungarian dessert wine  

Tokaji aszú The famous Hungarian dessert wine