Tokaj (Slovakia)

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Tokaj wine region
Wine region
Vineyards in Slovakian Tokaj.jpg
Official nameVinohradnícka oblasť Tokaj
Country Slovakia, Hungary
Climate region Continental climate
Precipitation (annual average)550 mm
Soil conditionsrocky with volcanic origin
Total area908,11 ha [1]
Grapes produced Furmint, Lipovina, Muškát žltý, Zéta
Varietals produced Tokaji
No. of wineriesTokaj Regnum Association [2]

Tokaj wine region (Slovak : Vinohradnícka oblasť Tokaj [3] ) is a wine-growing region located in south-eastern Slovakia and north-eastern Hungary. The two vine-growing areas were once part of the greater Tokaj wine region (also Tokaj-Hegyalja wine region or Tokaj-Hegyalja) of the Kingdom of Hungary. Following the Treaty of Trianon, a smaller part (3 villages and about 175 hectares of vineyards) became part of Czechoslovakia, and after 1993, Slovakia. The majority of the region (around 28 communities and some 5,500 hectares of vineyards) remained part of Hungary.


Nowadays, the Slovak part of the Tokaj wine region comprises 7 communities and approximately 908 hectares of vineyards. [1] Under the current EU legislation, the vintners in the Slovak wine region of Tokaj may use the Tokaj label (or Tokajský/-á/-é which means “of Tokaj” in Slovak). [3] [4]


Map of Tokaj wine Region with both Hungarian and Slovakian parts. Map of Tokaj Hegyalja.jpg
Map of Tokaj wine Region with both Hungarian and Slovakian parts.

Vine growing in Tokaj wine region goes back to the Roman times, when the area belonged to the Roman province of Pannonia. After the fall of the Roman Empire, the vine growing tradition was continued by Slavs. It is believed that the name of the village and mountain Tokaj has a Slavic origin. It is derived from the word “Stokaj,” loosely referring to a confluence of two rivers, in this case the rivers Bodrog and Tisa.

Legend says that when Hungarians, led by Álmos and his son Árpád, reached this area, viticulture had already been flourishing. Árpád's valiant knight Turzol was first to climb the summit, and on return he reported to his master that the hillside was covered throughout with tranquil vineyards. Árpád then awarded Turzol not only with the hill, but also the entire area up to the intersection of the Bodrog and Tisza rivers. The village of Turzol was built here (today Tarcal). In 1241, the invasion of Tatars left the area plundered and its vineyards destroyed. King Béla IV of Hungary (1235-1270) decided to bring a new life to the region and colonized it by Latin people.

The settlers were probably Walloons from northern France, although some researchers claim that those were Italians. The Slovak village of Bara (Hungarian: Bári) was colonized by Italian settlers who brought with them new wine growing skills and traditions, as well as a base variety Furmint. [5] After the Turkish wars which began in 1528, the region stayed under Turkish rule for 170 years. Most of Tokaj cellars date back to that period, when they were built as hideouts for people and property from the plundering soldiers.

Around 1620 the emperor imported a wallonian-French winefarmer Duvont, who later invented the later known "king of wines"-methode in the Tokaji-district. In honour of Mr. Duvonts exceptional skills, the emperor ennobled this farmer, and gave him one of his many villages (Kiralyfalva) now Königsdorf in Austria. The emperor then named the family Királyfalvy.

Tokaji wine became an increasingly important commodity for the region from the 17th century, its export being a major source of income for the ruling princes of Transylvania to which the Tokaj region belonged at the time. Indeed, revenues from the increasingly renowned Tokaji Aszú wine helped to pay for the wars of independence fought against Austrian Habsburg rule. The repute of Tokaji wine was enhanced when in 1703, Francis II Rákóczi, prince of Transylvania, gave King Louis XIV of France a gift of numerous bottles of wine from his Tokaj estate. Tokaji wine was then served at the Versailles Court, where it became known under the name of Tokay. Delighted with the precious beverage, Louis XIV declared it "Vinum Regum, Rex Vinorum" ("Wine of Kings, King of Wines").

In the 18th Century, Tokaj reached the height of its prosperity. Both Poland and Russia had become major export markets for its wine. Such was the importance of Tokaji in Russia, that the Russian emperors maintained a de facto colony in Tokaj in order to guarantee the supply of wine to the Imperial Court.

The partition of Poland in 1795 and subsequent imposition of customs duties dealt a severe blow to the exports of Tokaji wine and precipitated the economic decline of the region. However, this was only the first of three major crises for Tokaj. The second occurred when the phylloxera epidemic reached Tokaj in 1885 and destroyed the vast majority of the vineyards in a matter of years.

Division of Tokaj-Hegyalja

Border crossing between Slovenske Nove Mesto and Satoraljaujhely. Border SK-HU.JPG
Border crossing between Slovenské Nové Mesto and Sátoraljaújhely.
Map of Slovakian part of Tokaj Wine region Map of Slovakian part of Tokaj Wine region.jpg
Map of Slovakian part of Tokaj Wine region

Following the signature of the peace Treaty of Trianon in June 1920, Hungary lost two-thirds of its territory, and the Tokaj wine region was divided between Hungary and the newly created Czechoslovakia. A state border has been set on the Ronyva creek and small suburb of Hungarian town Sátoraljaújhely (Kiskarlapuszta, Nagykarlapuszta, Állomás) was granted to Czechoslovakia (today Slovakia) and became a village called Slovenské Nové Mesto (English: Slovak New Town), (Hungarian: Újhely). Out of the historical Tokaj-Hegyalja wine region, Czechoslovakia gained an area of 175 hectares of vineyards and 3 villages: Malá Tŕňa (Hungarian: Kistoronya), Slovenské Nové Mesto (Hungarian: Újhely) and Viničky (Hungarian: Szőlőske). During the inter-war period, Slovakia's production of Tokaj wine was concentrated in Malá Tŕňa, which has always been the principal wine-growing locale in the area, and the local viticultural school was also located there (with instruction in Hungarian). [6] In 1924, a viticultural research station was built there in order to improve the vinegrowing and winemaking techniques in the region. Following the First Vienna Award in 1938, Hungary gained once again the territory and held it until 1944.

Not much has changed since the partition of the wine region. The majority of local population has been using Hungarian as their first language and they have preserved winemaking as well as other traditions just like before the Treaty of Trianon. The winemakers continued producing Tokaj wines according to the old Hungarian legislation (law of former ministry of agriculture n° XLVII from 17.12.1908). [7] In 1958, the research station in Malá Tŕňa prepared a proposal regarding the future development of the Tokaj wine region in Czechoslovakia. In 1959, the Czechoslovak government passed new legislation and expanded the region by adding 4 more neighboring villages: Veľká Tŕňa (Hungarian: Nagytoronya), Bara (Hungarian: Bári), Čerhov (Hungarian: Csörgő) and Černochov (Hungarian: Csarnahó). With addition of these new communities, the total surface of classified Tokaj vineyards became 703,10 ha. Another legislation has been passed in 1996, expanding the surface to 908,11 ha of classified Tokaj vineyards. [1]

A detailed map of the Slovak part of the Tokaj wine region has been drawn in 2016 and is visible on multiple tourist information panels on the Slovak side of the appelation.

Characteristics of the wine region

Vineyards in Slovakian Tokaj Vineyards in Tokaj.jpg
Vineyards in Slovakian Tokaj

Tokaj wine region is one of a handful in the world whose conditions are favourable for growing grapes for naturally sweet wines. With its 908 ha, Tokaj is the smallest of the six vine-growing regions of Slovakia. It comprises 7 villages in the Trebišov District: Bara, Čerhov, Černochov, Malá Tŕňa, Slovenské Nové Mesto, Veľká Tŕňa, and Viničky. [8]

Some of the characteristics which make the Tokaj wine region unique are:

One of many Tokaj wine cellars in Vinicky, Slovakia. Wine Cellar in Slovakian Tokaj.jpg
One of many Tokaj wine cellars in Viničky, Slovakia.

Winemakers and Wine Styles

Tokaj winemaker using a wine thief to extract wine from the barrel. Tokaj winemaker.jpg
Tokaj winemaker using a wine thief to extract wine from the barrel.

Wine makers from the Slovak side of the border produce quality dessert as well as dry wines similar to those of the Hungarian wine region. [9] The Tokaj wines (Slovak : Tokajské víno) made exclusively from 3 base varieties Furmint, Lipovina and Yellow Muscat (Slovak: Muškát žltý) grapes, are:

The "Designation of origin" dispute

Bottles of Slovak (left) and Hungarian Aszu wines Bottles of Tokaji Aszu.JPG
Bottles of Slovak (left) and Hungarian Aszú wines

Tokaj wine is, by its unique character, a luxurious commodity with a strong appeal to the international market.

The dispute started in 1964 when, for the first time, the then Czechoslovakia exported its excessive production of Tokaj wine to Austria, the market that used to be solely supplied with this commodity by Hungary. The conflict of interests was settled in a bilateral agreement according to which Slovakia - at the expense of the Czech beer-related concession on Hungarian part - was only allowed to export its overproduction of Tokaj wine to Hungary (which consequently re-labeled and re-exported it). This agreement expired in 1990 after which date the dispute arose again. [10] In November 2012, the European Court ruled against Hungary’s request to erase the Slovak entry “Vinohradnícka oblasť Tokaj” from “E-Bacchus”, an electronic database containing a register of designations of origin and geographical indications protected in the EU. Hungary lodged an appeal against the judgement of the General Court. In February 2013, the EU Court of Justice has turned down the Hungarian appeal against an earlier ruling concerning Slovakia's registration of “Vinohradnícka oblasť Tokaj” (Tokaj Wine Region), which contains the name of Hungary’s Tokaj region. In its ruling, the court said that Slovakia’s registering its “Vinohradnícka oblasť Tokaj” in the European database E-Bacchus did not constitute an actionable measure. [11] As a result, under the current EU legislation the wine-growing region of Tokaj is located in both Hungary and Slovakia. Therefore, wine producers from both the Hungarian Tokaj region and the Slovak Tokaj region may use the Tokaj brand name. [3]

See also

Related Research Articles

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Dessert wines, sometimes called pudding wines in the United Kingdom, are sweet wines typically served with dessert.

Tokay may refer to:

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Tokaji</span> Hungarian and Slovakian variety of wine

Tokaji or Tokay is the name of the wines from the Tokaj wine region in Hungary or the adjoining Tokaj wine region in Slovakia. This region is noted for its sweet wines 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 also mentioned in the national anthem of Hungary.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Noble rot</span> Grey fungus affecting wine grapes

Noble rot is the beneficial form of a grey fungus, Botrytis cinerea, affecting wine grapes. Infestation by Botrytis requires moist conditions. If the weather stays wet, the damaging form, "grey rot", can destroy crops of grapes. Grapes typically become infected with Botrytis when they are ripe. If they are then exposed to drier conditions and become partially raisined, this form of infection is known as noble rot. Grapes picked at a certain point during infestation can produce particularly fine and concentrated sweet wine. Wines produced by this method are known as botrytized wines.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Furmint</span> Variety of grape

Furmint is a white Hungarian wine grape variety that is most noted widely grown in the Tokaj-Hegyalja wine region where it is used to produce single-varietal dry wines as well as being the principal grape in the better known Tokaji dessert wines. It is also grown in the tiny Hungarian wine region of Somló. Furmint plays a similar role in the Slovakian wine region of Tokaj. It is also grown in Austria where it is known as Mosler. Smaller plantings are found in Slovenia where it is known as Šipon. The grape is also planted in Croatia & Serbia, where it is known as Moslavac. It is also found in Romania and in former republics of the Soviet Union. Furmint is a late ripening variety. For dry wines the harvest starts usually in September, however sweet wine specific harvest can start in the second half of October or even later, and is often affected by Botrytis.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Late harvest wine</span> Variety of wine

Late harvest wine is wine made from grapes left on the vine longer than usual. Late harvest is usually an indication of a sweet dessert wine, such as late harvest Riesling. Late harvest grapes are often more similar to raisins, but have been naturally dehydrated while on the vine.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Tokaj</span> Town in Borsod-Abaúj-Zemplén, Hungary

Tokaj is a historical town in Borsod-Abaúj-Zemplén county, Northern Hungary, 54 kilometers from county capital Miskolc. It is the centre of the Tokaj-Hegyalja wine district where Tokaji wine is produced.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Sweetness of wine</span> Subjective feature of taste of wine

The subjective sweetness of a wine is determined by the interaction of several factors, including the amount of sugar in the wine, but also the relative levels of alcohol, acids, and tannins. Sugars and alcohol enhance a wine's sweetness, while acids cause sourness and bitter tannins cause bitterness. These principles are outlined in the 1987 work by Émile Peynaud, The Taste of Wine.

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<span class="mw-page-title-main">Tokaj wine region</span> UNESCO World Heritage Site in Tokaj, Hungary

Tokaj wine region or Tokaj-Hegyalja wine region is a historical wine region located in northeastern Hungary and southeastern Slovakia. It is also one of the seven larger wine regions of Hungary. Hegyalja means "foothills" in Hungarian, and this was the original name of the region.

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Malá Tŕňa is a village and municipality in the Trebišov District in the Košice Region of south-eastern Slovakia.

Tokayer may refer to one of several wines or wine grapes:

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Tarcal</span> Place in Northern Hungary, Hungary

Tarcal is a village on the eastern edge of Borsod-Abaúj-Zemplén county, northern Hungary, in the famous Tokaj-Hegyalja wine district, 55 km (34 mi) from Miskolc.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Erdőbénye</span> Place in Northern Hungary, Hungary

The village Erdőbénye has around 1000 inhabitants and is located 20 km from the town of Tokaj in Northern Hungary. It lies in a valley surrounded by mountains and vineyards, in the middle of the famous wine-region ‘Tokaj-Hegyalja’, in Borsod-Abauj-Zemplen County. The village is one of the centres for wine-production in this region. There are more cellars in the village, where the regional wines can be tasted. As the well-known old saying tells us: “Good wine, like Tokaj Aszu, needs a good wine-cask too…“, which is why the profession of cooper has a long tradition in this region. The coopers of Erdőbénye are the only ones in the world who have preserved the tradition of the dance of the coopers, which has been handed down from father to son, and which they perform every summer at the “Festival of Coopers.”

Zéta is a Hungarian wine grape, a crossing of Furmint and Bouvier. It was introduced to the Tokaj-Hegyalja wine region of Hungary in 1951 and authorized for production in 1990. Previously known as Oremus, its name was changed to Zéta in 1999. Its main asset is a particular aptitude for high sugar concentrations, early ripening and susceptibility for botrytis.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Puttonyos</span>

Puttonyos is a unit for the level of sugar in Hungarian Tokaji and Slovak Tokaj dessert wine. It is traditionally measured by the number of hods of sweet botrytised or nobly rotted grapes added to a barrel of wine, but is now measured in grams of residual sugar. The puttony was actually the 25 kg basket or hod of Aszú grapes, and the more added to the barrel of wine, the sweeter the eventual wine. Measurement ranges from 3 to 6 Puttonyos. A Tokaji made entirely from Aszú grapes is not labeled using the Puttonyos system but is known as Eszencia.


  1. 1 2 3 "Slovakia, a Land of Wine" (PDF). (328 KB) Slovak Union of Grape and Wine Producers. pp. 21-23.
  2. Tokaj Regnum Archived 2010-09-17 at the Wayback Machine - Association of wine producers of Slovakian Tokaj
  3. 1 2 3 "E-Bacchus - Register of designations of origin and geographical indications protected in the EU" . Retrieved 2 June 2017.
  4. "Vinári začnú od júna opäť používať na etiketách názov Tokaj" (in Slovak). 2010. Retrieved 2010-10-01.
  5. Zemplén Vármegye és Sátoraljaújhely r. t. város, Budapest, 1905
  6. Lambert-Gócs, Miles. Tokaji Wine: Fame, Fate, Tradition. Board and Bench Publishing, 2010, ISBN   978-1934259498
  7. Žadanský, Juraj. Z dejín a súčasnosti tokajského vinohradníctva a vinárstva. Vlastivedné múzeum, Trebišov, 2009, ISBN   978-8089412075
  8. "Tokaj wine region of Slovakia". Retrieved 2 June 2017.
  9. "All About Shipping » Blog Archive » Tasting success: Slovakia decants its Tokaj wine…" . Retrieved 2 June 2017.
  10. "Bitka o víno kráľov, kráľa vín. Slovensko-maďarské spory o značku Tokaj sa ťahajú už 34 rokov" (in Slovak). 2008. Archived from the original on 2008-12-08. Retrieved 2010-02-11.
  11. "European Commission - PRESS RELEASES - Press release - The Court of Justice declares that the listing of the Slovak wine name 'Vinohradnícka oblasť Tokaj' in the E-Bacchus register of protected designations of origin does not constitute an actionable measure". Retrieved 2 June 2017.

Further reading