A peek into Tokaj in Slovakia

An exchange on a FB post and before I knew it, I was lucky enough to be joining Dániel Ercsey and Tamás Doma on a flying visit to taste wines of some small producers in the area of Tokaj just across the border, some 15 km from Sátoraljaújhely. Fantastic! I’d been curious for ages, but this was the first chance for me to explore.
And what an opportunity – to discover it with Dani and Tamás from WineSofa, the Central European wine design and culture site, and Tokaj enthusiast Igor Vizner and his dear French wife Cécile. So – another first for the day – I finally had the pleasure of meeting Igor after months of social media communication. Since first discovering Tokaji wines whilst studying, Igor has been passionate about these unusual wines and, despite living in France, shares news from both sides of the border. The name of his FB passionfortokaj describes his attitude perfectly. True international cooperation :)
Click on the picture to see the whole infographic (Thanks to WineSofa:

Map-infographic of Tokaj wine region by www.winesofa.eu

The first stop – Macik Winery

We had been invited by small producers, but Pál – our lovely driver for the evening – first took us to the large Macik Winery in Malá Tŕňa (Kis Toronya) to meet Péter who was coordinating our visit. Here Jaroslav Maciek took us behind the bar to show us the family business wines, each with unusual and eye-catching label, closure and bottle designs. We even tried their IPA which brought back memories of walks with country pub stops where my cousin often samples the pale ales :)

Their funky winery which has an atmospheric terrace snuggled in front of the building was set in more traditional surroundings: several traditional wine cellars with iron gates, small tables set outside, open – wines, must, smiling people despite the rather persistent rain. And lovely to see local producers too – some impressive large, round, aged cheeses with delicious aromas of a fresher one being grilled, a woodworker and a carver sculpting a human-size bear (Macik means bear in Slovakian.)

A great start to the adventure!

 

The second port of call – Marián Takáč

We visited fireman/winemaker Marián Takáč in a cellar hidden in the hub of the Černochov wine festival – complete with fairground, grilled sausages and lots of people trying to stay out of the mud. Marián, whose winery is named KOŇA (“horse” – his childhood nickname), presented some lovely wines in the packed cellar, regaling with tales about their creation. He also spoke about the organic cultivation which he is trying for three years.

horse-winery-slovakia-tokaj

The spirit of experimentation was palpable, fuelled by passion and curiosity I felt at our next stop(s) too.

The “cellar crawl” above Veľká Tŕňa

And in some places it almost felt like a crawl. Not because of the wines we were tasting, but because the ancient cellar ceilings were so close to our heads! This was a real treat, to explore wines of five artisan winemakers in their own cellars, each just a stone’s throw from the next. And I got the strong impression these men shared and compared – and grew from their joint experiences and curiosity. Sound familiar to another Tokaj village?

Map of Tokaj, Slovakia by Igor Vizner

All we visited are members of a small producers’ association, and charismatic Matúš Vdovjak with his hat, Ordinarium wine and cut-out “V” on the label was first. Followed by Laci who told of reading Antal Szirmay’s  (19th-century) winemaking accounts and his own experiments with aszú grapes from the same parcel for better wine stability. Then on to a second Laci, Martin, and finally „Dr” Štefan who cultivates just 0.3 hectares.

I was particularly impressed with their leanings towards organic cultivation, natural yeasts and experimental approach and would like to sincerely thank all for the very warm welcome and hospitality, for sharing time, wine and knowledge and making this such a memorable experience. And next time I’d like to be back in daylight to see their vineyards and the barrel observation tower!

 

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