The official name of this region in Slovak is Vvinohradnícka
A portion of the Slovak wine region of Tokaj was once part of the historic
Tokaj wine region of the Kingdom of Hungary. One hill of the Slovak part
was even called „Tokaj“ in 1904 according to Hungarian censuses.
But for commercial reasons Hungary started to deny this in 1958.
The Tokaj region as redefined in 1908 was split up in
1918, with the majority (around 28 communities and some 4,500 hectares
of vineyards) going to Hungary and a smaller part (3 communities and about
175 hectares of vineyards) going to Czechoslovakia (now Slovakia).
In 1959, four more villages were added by Czechoslovak
legislation, three of which had been mentioned in the original 1798 Tokaj
The Settlement of Dispute
The dispute between the countries over the right of Slovakia
to use the name Tokaj that started in 1958 for its wines was resolved
in 2004. The two countries came to an agreement in June 2004 under which
wine produced on 565 hectares of land in Slovakia would be able to use
the Tokaj label, providing that common regulations are applied.
basis of the agreement was that both countries will consider both wine
region as one single region again. In effect, this should reintegrate
the two wine regions, but will require a substantial adjustment to the
current Slovakian wine region.
With the accession of both Hungary and Slovakia to the
European Union, the Tokaj name (including other forms of spelling) is
being given Protected Designation of Origin status. Starting from 2007),
only authorised wine producers from either the Hungarian or the Slovakian
Tokaj region will be able to use the Tokaj.
The villages of the Tokaj wine region in Slovakia are
Bara, Cerhov, Cernochov, Malá Trna, Slovenské Nové
Mesto, Velká Trna, and Vinicky.
Tokaj wine road
The singularity of Tokaj wine, the presentation of the
Slovak part of the Tokaj vineyard region, growing and processing grapes
as well as production technology led those involved and the local enthusiasts,
growers and producers of wine to create the Tokaj Wine Road.
The Tokaj vineyard region, with 998 ha, is the smallest
of the six vineyard regions of Slovakia. It is comprised of 7 towns in
the Trebišov district: Bara, Cerhov, Cernochov, Malá Trna,
Slovenské Nové Mesto, Velká Trna and Vinicky.
history of the Tokaj region reaches back to the 3rd and 4th centuries
B.C.E. Hungarian King Belo IV arranged a revival of the Tokaj vines after
the vineyards were destroyed by Tartar raids.
The royal towns of Upper Hungary – Prešov,
Bardejov, Levoca, Košice and Kemarok – saw to the advancement
of viniculture in the Slovak section of the Tokaj region in the 17th and
18th centuries, where they owned and leased vineyards in the Tokaj region.
During that period, Polish Tokaj wine was a much sought after.
The authenticity of Tokaj wine was indicated by the designation
“samorodný” (wine from selected grapes). Tokaj wine
achieved its greatest fame and admiration in the French royal court under
the rule of Louis XIV. The famous phrase “Vinum regum – rex
vinorum” comes from this era, meaning ‘wine of kings –
king of wines’.
Wines of Tokaj
The quality and
exceptionality of Tokaj wines is due to the natural and climatic conditions
as well as the varieties grown, which are capable of noble ripening and
the formation of cibeba (a grape which has dried on the vine almost to
raisin consistency and is usually covered with a type of fungus), the
special processing technology and the unique form of storage and long-term
Three basic varieties comprise the character of Tokaj wines: Furmint,
Lipovina and yellow Muscatel. During the course of a long and warm autumn,
these varieties use the help of the fungus Botrytis cinerea to create
At present, the
Slovak Tokaj vineyard area produces varietal wines – Furmint, Lipovina
and yellow muscatel; dry wines – Omšové, Tokaj samorodný
dry; and sweet wines – Tokaj samorodný sweet, 2 – 6
tub Tokaj select.
Uniqueness of the Tokaj region
Some of the characteristics which make the Tokaj wine region unique are:
microclimate: The Tokaj terrain consists of clay or loess soil
on volcanic subsoil. The microclimate is determined by the sunny, south-facing
slopes and the proximity of the Tisza and Bodrog rivers, and is conducive
to the proliferation of Botrytis Cinerea (noble rot) and the subsequent
desiccation of the grapes.
Indigenous grape varieties: Furmint and Lipovina have
been cultivated in the region for centuries. Together with Yellow Muscat,
these are the only grape varieties officially permitted for use in the
Cellars: A vast system of cellars has been carved out
of solid rock. They provide a constant temperature of around 12 °C
and high humidity of around 95%, which are ideal for the aging of Tokaj
Appellation system: A royal decree in 1757 established
a closed production district in Tokaj, the world's first system of wine
appellation. Vineyard classification began in 1730 and was completed by
the national censuses of 1765 and 1772.
The production of Tokaj wines depends on many factors that influence
the fermentation process of Tokaj dry, sweet and select wines.
In unfavourable years, the grapes are harvested before they rot. In such
years, we produce varietal wines (Furmint, Lipovina and Yellow Muscat)
and our brand name wines, Toccata (a semi-sweet wine) and Tokajer (a dry
wine). The grapes are pressed immediately and after the must is separated
out, they are immediately fermented.
In favourable years, when the grapes can ripen on the vines for a longer
time and if a smaller amount of cibébs develop, we make Tokaj Samorodné
Dry Wine. The crushed, de-stemmed grapes ferment for 12 to 24 hours, allowing
the colour and bouquet to evolve and partial enzymatic oxidation to take
Making of Tokaj
After about a month of fermentation, the wine is transferred from larger
to smaller containers. In these smaller barrels, which are not filled
to the top to allow oxidation, a long-term fermentation process takes
place at temperatures between 11°C and 14°C. Samorodné
Dry Tokaj Wines must have a yellow-gold colour, at least 13% ethanol,
20g/l of sugar-free extract and 1.6 g/l of ash and no more than 1.2 g/l
of evaporative acids.
In good years,
when cibébs do form, the raw material is used to make Samorodné
Sweet Tokaj Wine. After resting for up to 36 hours, the crushed grapes
are carefully pressed. After the must is separated out, yeast cultures
are added to the liquid and it slowly ferments. The fermented wine, which
contains 12 to 13% alcohol, is removed from its container-leaving the
settled yeast on the bottom, treated, filtered and transferred to wooden
barrels (150 – 300 liters) in Tokaj tuft cellars, where it matures
for at least 3 years. This wine has a yellow-gold, brown hue, contains
at least 20g/l residual sugar, more than 22 g/l of sugar-free extract,
over 1.3 g/l of ash and no more than 1.3 g/l of evaporative acids.
Tokaj Varietal Wines
Furmint – is produced using the Tokaj varietal
non-oxidative method. This is a dry wine with the high acidity typical
for this varietal. Its pleasant taste makes it a good complement to all
types of savory foods.
Lipovina (Linden Leaf) – Hárslevelu in
Hungarian (Lipovina in Slovak, Lindenblättriger in German, Feuille
de Tilleul in French) is a variety of grape from the Pontian Balcanica
branch of Vitis vinifera. The name refers to the „linden leaf“
in each of these languages. The grape is native to the Carpathian Basin
and is planted in several Hungarian wine regions, but most prominently
in the tiny region of Somló, and especially in Tokaj-Hegyalja,
where it is blended with Furmint to produce Tokaji Aszú and other
The grape is also planted in the Slovakian wine region of Tokaj where
it is used to produce similar wines. Vinified as a pure varietal dry wine,
Hárslevelu is capable of yielding a dense, full-bodied, green-gold
wine with an intense aroma of spice, pollen and elderflowers.
Yellow Muscat – Classic Tokaj grape variety, from
which wine is produced in very limited quantities, making it a rarity
of the Tokaj region. The lovely bouquet of this dry wine will remind you
of a freshly picked grape.
Zeta – A cross between Furmint and Bouvier.
H.E. Alexander Ilascik is the Ambassador of Slovakia, part of the erstwhile
Czechoslovakia, in Delhi. He can be contacted at email@example.com