Tokaj Hegyalja piac market - photo of cutting birthday cake

Happy birthday dear market

Happy birthday to you!

Today is a day of celebration for it is the day the much-loved Tokaj-Hegyalja market enters its third year. Dreamed up and then brought into being by seven women (including a blogger, dermatologist, restaurant manager, community experts and me) passionate about good, local food for their families and those around them, this monthly artisan market has become a firm fixture in the wine region’s diary. A popular meeting place for locals, and a treat for visitors who discover a whole array of foods and crafts made lovingly in the Tokaj wine region. Along with live music and exhibitions, talks and demonstrations, pony rides and supervised children’s play area, it is always a day to look forward to. And today, time celebrate the market’s success.

Tokaj Hegyalja piac market - photo of founders cutting birthday cake

The beginnings

Somewhere, way back in the mists of time, Enikő Lengyel was dining in the Arány Kaviár in Budapest, talking with Sasha about how great it would be to have a farmers’ market at Disznókő, to create a setting for local producers to present their wares and to give consumers an alternative to mass-produced goods. Well, after many months, lots of ideas and a fair amount of dealing with authorities (who were actually really supportive), the first market attracted people excited by this new way of shopping. And the love affair has continued as we saw today!

The stunning venue

Few markets in the world are set among the vines, near a former press house that is today a popular restaurant, the Sárga Borház. The place means its perfect for a walk through the vines up to the viewpoint to see the Tokaj hill and the Great Hungarian Plain stretch out below. The Sárga Borház (also known as La Maison Jaune), which sources an increasing number of ingredients from the producers, always creates an imaginative market menu based around the market theme from seasonal produce.

Photo of Tokaj Hegyalja Piac market and view through the vineyards to Disznókő

Tokaj Hegyalja Piac market and view through the vineyards to Disznókő

The community of producers, craftsmen/women and consumers

Markets are all about contact, the interactions between artisan and buyer. The chance for feedback, about personal relationships that develop. Also about the direct sales opportunity that cuts out the “middleman”. Indeeed, they’re also about business to business, as restaurants and hotels source the finest quality directly, as the honeycake maker buys straight from the beekeeper.

Events exploring past, present and future

From singing to book signings, soap making to cheese rolling, puppet performances to folk crafts, barrel making to blacksmiths, bike tours to half marathons! Old grape and fruit varieties, herbs and fungus, beekeeping. Basket weaving to jewellery making. Folk dance to fashion! Art exhibitions, photo collections of Tokaj wine region through winemakers’ eyes, “Where the mangalica (Hungarian hairy pig) live” and much much more.

Tasting Tokaji wines – and pálinkas

In the cooler months thematic wine tastings explore the range of wines with winemakers and writers. Themes have been terroir-based, focussed around a grape e.g. Furmint and wine styles including Champagnes and Pezsgő, the Hungarian bubbly. Then through spring till autumn the terrace wine bar beckons. Oh, the pleasure of a glass of chilled white under the shady trees, surrounded by green and the market hum. Or a shot of pálinka, the traditional Hungarian spirit, from one of the nearby distillers who are reinventing the liquor story.

wine tasting at Tokaj Hegyalja piac market with László Alkonyi photo

How do the founders feel?

Delighted, in a word. We felt there was a demand from all sides, we knew markets are a form of community building. But perhaps we’re all a little surprised at just how popular this joint effort has become. As someone noted at the cake cutting, “To the next three years”, to which another replied, “And ten times that!”

Tokaj-Hegyalja Piac market in spring photo