The Tokaj Wine Region
In the northern grape-growing zone of the Carpathian basin, grape growing of outstanding importance took place as early as the 16th century, but according to contemporary sources, Tokaj mountain was even surpassed in quality and quantity by the wine regions of Mátraalja, Bükkalja and Zemplén.
According to our knowledge today, the name of Aszús grape wine, which founded the world career of Tokaj wines, first appeared in written sources around 1570. In the preceding decades, its production may have been of decisive importance in the image of the wine region. During this period, other grape-growing regions of Hungary, such as Sopron, Szekszárd, Badacsony and elsewhere, also experimented with making aszú wines. However, due to its special quality, Tokaj wine soon gained a leading role: the Rákóczi estate in Hegyalja was already documented as the domestic wine in the first half of the 17th century. it was the center of Aszú winemaking.
Becoming the country's leading wine region, the population support power of Tokaj-Hegyalja, which was already precisely defined in a royal document in 1737, increased spectacularly. In the second half of the 18th century, it was already the most densely populated region of the country, but the locals were still unable to meet the labor demand for viticulture. However, during larger works, harvesters and harvesters came from faraway places. In this period, the catchment area of Tokaj-Hegyalja extended to 80-100 settlements: the people of this region obtained their needs in the markets of the Hegyalja towns and undertook work in the Hegyalja vineyards.
Tokaj-Hegyalja, which included 20-22 settlements in the 18th-19th centuries, and 32 today, is now a white wine region based on three varieties. The oldest of the three grape varieties is the yellow muscat, which has been known since ancient times - but became known in our country through German mediation - and which has been gradually pushed into the background by furmin and linden over the past two hundred years. Furmint, grown in 70% of the wine region today, is most likely of Italian-French origin, and came to the Tokaj Mountains from the famous southern wine-growing area, Szerémség. Lime-leaved also comes from the south, presumably of Slavonian origin. Although there was an attempt to prohibit the cultivation of linden leaves in a decree - which did not suit the domestic taste in all respects - in the middle of the 19th century, it was already the second most common grape variety in the Tokaj Mountains. The most suitable variety for making the world-famous aszú is furmin, which has always been combined with varieties that produce softer wine, such as head grapes and purcsin. The old grape varieties beyond the main varieties, including those that produce red wine, stubbornly held their own for a long time. Unification took place gradually starting from the phylloxera epidemic in the 19th century.
The order of quality of Tokaj wines remained unchanged for centuries: ordinary table wine was followed by the main wine, which was later called szamorodni, then aszú and finally essence.