Birthplace of Tokaji Aszú, this legendary wine region in north-eastern Hungary is named after the town of Tokaj, its former commercial centre. Its a relatively small region of around 5,500 hectares of vineyards which encompasses 27 towns and villages. It was declared one of the first appellations in the world (in 1737!) and has been famous for its Tokaji Aszú, a noble sweet wine, for centuries. Its winemaking culture and traditions are honoured by its inclusion in the UNESCO World Heritage since 2002.
Over the last twenty-five years fresh energy has been pulsing through its veins. This dynamism is bringing exciting wines – both sweet and dry – from the six permitted grape varieties, mainly Furmint and Hárselvelű. But the region is not all about wine. It offers local artisan food and friendly village houses as well as luxurious five-star hotels. What to do? Experience the cultural events and festivals as well as spas and thermal baths, castles and museums, river sports and adventure parks. Tokaj is on the move again!
Where is the Tokaj Wine Region?
In the northeast of Hungary, the Tokaj Wine Region forms a triangle from Abaújszántó to Tokaj and up to Sátoraljaújhely on the border with Slovakia. The vineyards lie along the foothills of the pristine Zemplén Mountains, at the meeting with the enormous Great Hungarian Plain which provides the summer heat for the vines. Humidity essential for the noble rot, the Botrytis, drifts up from the rivers Bodrog and Tisza.
It includes the towns and villages of Abaújszántó, Bekecs, Bodrogkeresztúr, Bodrogkisfalud, Bodrogolaszi, Erdőbénye, Erdőhorváti, Golop, Hercegkút, Legyesbénye, Makkoshotyka, Mád, Mezőzombor, Monok, Olaszliszka, Rátka, Sárazsadány, Sárospatak, Sátoraljaújhely, Szegi, Szegilong, Szerencs, Tarcal, Tállya, Tokaj, Tolcsva, Vámosújfalu.
Why visit the Tokaj Wine Region?
Well, obviously there are wines and local cuisine to savour, wineries and their cellars to explore as well as wonderful festivals, concerts and performances. But, beyond pure hedonism, there is great walking, cycling and horse riding in the vineyards, through small villages by the rivers and in the forested mountains full of game.
Or would you prefer to lounge in a spa, take a dip in the thermal waters or maybe a trip on the rivers? Kayak or motorboat? Have a more adventurous streak? Then the adventure park is for you. Skiing or bob? More of a culture vulture? Then the castles and palaces, museums and exhibitions should satisfy. All you need do is decide.
Why is the Tokaj Wine Region so legendary?
Some of the world’s best naturally sweet wines are born here, Tokaji Aszú wines. Just a sip of this golden nectar can transport you to another world. Probably why they have inspired so many artists, writers and composers as well as been enjoyed by royals and the privileged. Of course, there are great dry whites too from the main local varieties Furmint and Hárslevelű, bursting with minerality from the volcanic soils or expressing subtlety from the loess. And they are deservedly drawing increasing attention from the outside world.
Who might you meet in the Tokaj Wine Region?
Well, wine lovers obviously. Passionate winemakers are forging ahead in their adventure with their wines from the volcanic land. Some of these dedicated creators were born here; some moved here many moons ago, some recently. And they hail not only from Hungary. From France and Germany too.
And because there are many small estates, you can be lucky enough to have the winemaker share his or her wines – and tales. And the same is true of the chefs running the superb restaurants here based on local and seasonal ingredients.