Tokaj: A Breathtaking Landscape of Extinct Volcanoes + Vineyards

The history of Tokaj is long as it is illustrious, world-famous for hundreds of years in the royal courts all over Europe.

Tokaj is one of the most stunning wine regions of Hungary and the world. UNESCO listed Tokaj as a World Heritage Cultural Historic Landscape in 2002.  It is the origin of the world-famous Ice Wine (“Aszú”), a sweet, syrup-like golden wine that can only be produced in a few spots worldwide such as Niagara, Ontario – Canada, and in the Rheingau region of Germany, locations which have become famous in their own right.

The history of Tokaj is long as it is illustrious, world-famous for hundreds of years in the royal courts all over Europe.  It has possibly the oldest vineyard classification in the world, dated back to 1707-1708, long before either Bordeaux or Burgundy in France. 

What makes Tokaj exceptional and truly unique as a wine-producing region is that the dazzling landscape, the hills and valley’s is where approximately 190 vineyards lie, in an area peppered with dozens, if not hundreds of extinct volcanoes. In addition to its natural beauty and volcanic soil, Tokaj also benefits from its position between two rivers, the Tisza and the Bodrog.  The resulting combination of foggy, moist, and sunny weather conditions supplies the ideal environment for noble rot to form and for the subsequent production of Ice Wine from the “Aszu” grapes.

The first mention of “aszú” in written records was in 1571. The story goes that, the grapes were so dry that no extract could be pressed out of it, so the inventive Tokaj winemakers had to develop an entirely new winemaking method. This method of wine production, made from the shrivelled grapes, made the wines of Tokaj unique, immensely satisfying, thick and delectably sweet, and consequently, Tokaj became world-famous. The Hasburngs claimed to own many of the top vineyards in Tokaj, and which explains the claims of miraculous medical properties of the wines. 

Ideal mixture: Brand-new winery, terraced wine bars and 17th-century cellars

Hundreds of small cellars await wine lovers today.  In Tokaj you can find centuries-old wine cellars, for example, multi-level 17th-century cellars at Chateau Dereszla, where you can still see the famous cellar mould, Zasmidium cellare; but you can also enjoy the beauty of brand-new modern wineries and terrace wine bars.  

When in Tokaj, the Patricius winery is definitely worth a visit. Here, you can not only taste excellent aszú and late-harvest wines but you can also enjoy the stunning vineyards. It is no secret that the Patraicius winery was selected as Hungary’s most beautiful winery in 2013.

If you are looking for learning some knowledge of the landscape and soils of the region, you can’t miss the wine tour of István Balassa, the owner of Balassa winery; combined with his exquisite wines. Last but not least, you should pay a visit to the biodynamic Bott Pince and Tokaj-Nobilis, artisanal, family-run winery with unique quality wines.

Photo credit: PIRO4D from Pixabay