When it comes to wineries and viticulture in general, your first thoughts will likely go towards France, Italy or Spain, which are the three most iconic representatives of winemaking. However, there is a specific Hungarian wine, that belongs to one of the most prominent wine producers. I am talking about the wine region of Tokaj, Hungary and its most precious treasure, Tokaji aszú. This world-famous sweet nectar from the Tokaji-hills has been one of the best-known Hungarian products for centuries.
Thanks to historians and archaeologists, it is already apparent that grape cultivation and winemaking are ancient traditions in this particular area. The region's outstanding reputation, however, started to build up only in the 17th century but, I believe, there is no need to feel ashamed for that. The wines of the Tokaj region had been very popular amongst Hungarian noblemen and ordinary people, but it was aszú, that brought a worldwide success to local producers. Louis XIV, the French "Sun King", once claimed about Tokaji aszú: "It is the king of wines and the wine of the kings".
Although Tokaji aszú counts as the father of Hungarian wines, quite frankly, it was the Italians who laid the foundations of the world-famous viticulture in the 13th century. Béla IV, Hungarian king of the time, invited Italian winemakers to Tokaj since their culture and technique were much more advanced back then. For instance, the most characteristic vine type, furmint, also has Latin and Italian origins. The invention of aszú had been attributed to a priest and a preacher, Máté Szepsi Laczkó, for centuries. Later on, a historian of Tokaj, István Zelenák, found an inheritance letter that proved it might have been a certain Máté Garai and his family that first made this very type of wine in the 16th century. In any event, one thing has been pretty sure for a long time: Tokaji aszú is amongst the finest wines in the whole wide world.
At the beginning of 2019, Forbes determined the Royal Tokaji company’s essence from 2008 as the world’s most expensive wine. That year of production provided an exquisite vintage, but only 18 such bottles were made, owing to pretty simple facts. A single bottle of the essence required more than 200 kilograms of hand-harvested grapes and a long maturing process, making it one of the most labour-intensive wines in the world. Curiously enough, it can last up to 100 years! Only one bottle of the essence costs a whopping amount of 35000 euros. It is also known that the biggest customer of Royal Tokaji’s products, a certain individual from Shanghai, China, has already bought the first bottle.
With a poetic exaggeration, Hungary, in general, is like the 90000 square kilometres of vineyards and wineries. You can find world-famous producers in Tokaj or Villány, but there are countless fantastic wine producers at Lake Balaton as well. Previously, I collected some of the less known but superb wineries, that you can check out too. In case you feel hungry in Hungary’s countryside, you will also be recommended some of the finest Hungarian wines at these restaurants, surely including the sweet nectar from the Tokaji-hills.
Did you like the travel story?
Get more! Subscribe to our monthly inspiration newsletter.