I have just landed in Budapest, Hungary. I am on my way to explore the World Heritage Site region of Tokaji.
From Budapest we drive northeast on the M3 towards the Zemplén Mountains in the very northeast of Hungary. The region is close to the border of Slovakia near the confluence of the Tisza and Bodrog Rivers. The three hour drive takes us through flat countryside with fields of grain, wheat and corn. As we near Zemplén county, there is an uplift in the geology and the flat ground begins to move into rolling hills.
By the time we reach the town of Tokaj the terrain changes from rolling hills into grapevine studded foothills. Tokaj-Hegyalja is the historic name of the region; Hegyalja translates from the Hungarian language to “foothills”. Viticulture was well established in these volcanic hills by the 9th Century. The vineyards of Tokaj were some of the first vineyards in the world to be classified into a quality hierarchy. In 1757 the Habsburg Emperor organized the vineyards of Tokaji into an official classification. The vineyards were placed into three quality classes; First, Second and Third class sites.
The official grape varieties of Tokaji are:
The grape varieties Furmint and Hárslevelű are indigenous to Hungary. There are 14,500 acres in 27 Hungarian villages that can produce Tokaj wines.
The Tokaj villages: Abaújszántó, Bekecs, Bodrogkeresztúr, Bodrogkisfalud, Bodrogolaszi, Erdőbénye, Erdőhorváti, Golop, Hercegkút, Legyesbénye, Makkoshotyka, Mád, Mezőzombor, Monok, Olaszliszka, Rátka, Sárazsadány, Sárospatak, Sátoraljaújhely, Szegi, Szegilong, Szerencs, Tarcal, Tálya, Tokaj, Tolcsva, Vámosújfalu.