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Tokaj, Hungary

History

The history of winemaking in the Tokaj region goes back much further than most people may realize. The Romans brought vines to the area known as Pannonia and by the 5th century AD, there are records of extensive vineyards in Hungary.  Following the Magyar invasion in 896, their Chief Arpad rewarded his followers with vineyards in Tokaj. The wines in Tokaj became a major commodity for the region in the 17th Century, as its export became a large source of income for the prince of Transylvania, to which Tokaji belonged. According to legend, the first aszú was made by Laczkó Máté Szepsi in 1630. However, mention of wine made from aszú grapes had already appeared in the Nomenklatura of Fabricius Balázs Sziksai which was completed in 1576. A recently discovered inventory of aszú predates this reference by five years. This wine helped make Tokaj known throughout the world as a major wine region. In 1703 prince Francis II Rakoczi, of Transylvania, gifted bottles of this wine to the French Sun King, Louis XIV, who was so pleased with the wine he declared it "Vinum Regum, Rex Vinorum" ("Wine of Kings, King of Wines"). This reputation helped propel Tokaj to the height of its prosperity in the 18th Century as a major exporter to Russia and Poland.

Emperor Franz Josef (who was also King of Hungary) had a tradition of sending Queen Victory this Tokaji Aszu wine, as a gift, every year on her birthday, one bottle for every month she had lived, twelve for each year. On her eighty-first and final birthday(1900), this totaled an impressive 972 bottles.


Today

Only six grape varietals are approved officially for production in Tokaj; Furmint, Hárslevelű, Muscat Lunel, Zéta, Kövérszőlő and Kabar. Furmint accounts for about 60% of the area and its the most important grape in the production of Aszu.  Hárslevelű makes up another 30% of the area and although that means 90% of the Tokaji vineyards are made up of only 2 varietals, many styles and types of wines are produced in Tokaj. Ranging from dry wines with low residual sugar, to some of the world's sweetest wines.