The Tokaj area is one of Hungary's most
famous wine producing regions as vineyards have been cultivated here for
CENTURIES. One of the highlights of our 2-day sojourn here was visiting
a 400-500 year old cellar that was part of the Hapsburg king's private
reserves. The popularity of Tokaj wines began in the Middle ages, and
Louis XIV is attributed with calling the sweet aszu wines, "The wine
of kings, the king of wines."
The region is long famous for its white
wines, of which some are so delicate that all of the grapes must be picked
by hand. We were lucky enough to visit some very old cellars, walk the
vineyards, and visit with local pickers & makers, thanks to Kasshawna's
very cool husband in the wine biz, Andras Kato. An interesting note, the
hand-picked grapes are all gathered by women as men are said to be not
patient enough for the task.
The first wine maker we visited with was the
Patricia estate. The fall colors made the area truly spectacular.
This is pict shows the golden color of the aszu
wines (aka the King). The wine is a sweet dessert wine that is
very popular with Hungarians and much of the wine consuming world.
The above picture shows the results of 30 workers
days' labor. As you can imagine, the wine is quite spendy with
the intense labor needed for harvesting.
Why do they the grapes need to be picked by
hand? Part of the unique flavor of the wines comes from a fungus
which is one of those strange things that sounds quite gross but
turns out to be a delicacy. The green fuzz on the aszu berries
picked above is what the rant of Tokaji wines is all about.
This picture shows the grapes and the aszu
berries. The berries must be the right softness in order to make
the quality wines that the price affords.
You know who these people are.....
The tasting room at the Patricia Vineyards.
This vineyard has only been producing for 200 years or so, but
the facilities have been recently renovated and enhanced. The
tasting room has a killer view...
This is the view from the tasting room. We
were able to look out over the village of Tokaj as the sun set
and sip lovely golden wine. We really suffer over here....
The next day featured an outing to the actual
vineyards. On a warm fall day, it was quite pleasant. .
This is the Kato family. From right to left
its: winemaker Chilla; wineseller and brother of Chilla, Andras;
winemaker Rick, and my buddy Kasshawna. Chilla & Rick are
working the harvest in Tokaj this year, although they have been
making wines in Napa Valley for the last few years.
The workers of the vineyards are a combination
of local Tokaj valley residents, winemaker volunteers (like Rick
and Chilla above), and migrant workers. Pay is equivalent to $20
Another woman picker hand-selecting the dark
purple aszu berries from the green grapes. The green grapes remaining
after the berries are picked are later used in the Tokaji Furmint
dry white wine, which I hate to say it, was actually my favorite
of the region.
This archway is on the property of the Kiralyudvar
Vineyards, one of Tokaj's largest producers and also rich in history.
This cellar has been producing wines since the Middle Ages and
was the private cellar of the Hapsburg rulers. Very cool.
This door leads down to cellars used for the
past 500 years, by ruling Hapsburgs and Hungarian kings hence
the name "Kiralyudvar" or palace of kings.
The cellar keeps the appropriate musty-mold friendly environment
for again wine. You can see the mold that has flourish
on these bottles that have been here only since 2003. Can you
imagine the mold over centuries?
Here we are after our 10 am tasting of more wine. We look quite
happy don't we???
Local Area Pictures
Traveling by horse cart through
the back vineyard roads
The Jewish cemetery near the village of Mad.
Village of Mad, with cemetery
in foreground. The cemetery is abandoned as the Hungarian population
of Jews was devastated during WWII. Some entire villages were
completely destroyed due to fascist extermination policies.