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Delhi Wine Club

Posted: Tuesday, April 15 2008. 18:05

Tokaj wine region of Slovakia

Contrary to common perception, the Tokaj wine region does not exist only in Hungry but also in Slovakia currently comprising 22 communities and about 1,000 hectares of vineyards, writes H.E. Alexander Ilascik, Ambassador of Slovakia.

The official name of this region in Slovak is Vvinohradnícka oblas Tokaj.

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 delineation.

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.

The 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.

The 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 Kežmarok – 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 aging.

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 the cibeba-raisin.

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:

Soil and 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 region.

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 wines.

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 place.

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 dessert wines.

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

Dominik Szabo Says:

Please note that the grape variety is called Muscat Ottonel in english, not Yellow Muscat (that is a translation from Hungarian) Also the Linden-leaf is called Hárslevelu in Hungarian, the accent mark is different. Please see the following website for more information:

Posted @ October 01, 2011 10:06 Says:

Dear Sir/Madam,

first of all, thank you very much for providing some useful information about Slovak wines on your page:
I think that it will be very useful for your users to see a guide to Slovakia with all the necessary information about the country, more specifically about tourism, currency, weather, embassies, history, etc. The page is:

The most important thing is that we let people ask questions related to Slovakia and we answer them immediately (especially see the visa & embassies page for providing answers - We also constantly improve the content according to these questions.

Have a look and if you think the website meets your quality guidelines, feel free to link to it. Thank you!

With the kindest regards,

Zdenka Kerďová Team

Posted @ December 29, 2009 12:37


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