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THE ANXIETY OVER THE TOKAJI ASZÚ
The prestige of the Tokaji Aszú is on the line and the Hungaricum name


Since centuries is the Tokaji Aszú wine the most well known Hungarian product in Europe, it recalls on the highest level of prestige and with the elevated aromas and flavours the Hungarian values. Only very few nations have a similar product with such a prestige, certainly France has its fantastic Champagne, which is throughout the world associated with success, victory, celebration and the elegance of the aristocracy.

Tokaji Aszú is an exceptional royal liquid (according to Louis XIV: „King of wines the wine of kings”), the beverage of the principality, the roots date back to the XVI. century Hungarian Royal aristocracy, to the values of the noblemen’s cuisine. The Tokaji Aszú wine from the XVII. century was one of the most sought after products from the Hungarian Kingdom in the European Royal Courts. Through centuries the fame and reputation of the Tokaji Aszú was attached to Hungary, it favoured the good reputation of Hungary, similar to Champagne which was the prestigious product of France, it referred to the elevated French lifestyle.

For all of the famous wines in the world the first emotional and quality determining factor is the origin, connected to the place of origin, which is obvious for everybody: Bourgogne can only be of French origin, Rheingau of German, Chianti Italian, Jerez Spanish, Porto Portugal
and Tokaji of course only Hungarian.

If for a fine wine the factor origin becomes unclear and for whatever reasons this would not be entirely obvious the prestigious value aspect would dramatically fall. The first protection of origin and quality classification in the world was introduced for the wines of Tokaj in the XVIII. century (1737- royal decree) which was later taken over by the French wines as „Classement des terroirs” (1855 Bordeaux classification) and the brought to perfection with the „Appellation d’Origine controlée” (controlled origin).

Tokaj and the Slovakian
Just imagine what would happen if we would not respect the laws of the controlled origin for instance for Champagne: a German sparkling wine producer would refer to a historical event (several of the famous Champagne houses were founded by Germans: Mumm, Krug, Roederer, Taittinger, Heidsick) and start to distribute their product under the name of Champagne on the European market. The French would immediately unleash a world wide scandal and would attack on every legal panel the Germans, the word Champagne is a protected origin and is a historical geographical term and within a short time the Champagne designation would continue to belong to the French and only to them.

Of course this is only a strong and exaggerated example, which would be utterly impossible in the world of wine. Yet, this unimaginable and impossible case still happened, unfortunately with the Tokaji Aszú wines: the Slovakians distribute also Tokaji Aszú wines “Tokajsky”, as a matter of fact lately with the origin of Tokaj, not only endangering the international prestigious value of the Tokaji (all prestige and fine wines can have only one place of origin: the aszú wines of Tokaj can not be Hungarian and Slovakian at the same!), but also the distinctive identity of the centuries old Hungaricum’s, the Tokaji Aszú wines.

 

Since the XVI. century the knowledge of the Tokaji Aszú wines it was always connected to the Hungarian soil and was associated by the fine wine community as Hungarian wine, that’s how it got elevated into the elite fine wine society and became one of the foremost member, wine regions only with century long history are members: Samos of Greece, Italy’s Tuscany, Champagne, Burgundy, Bordeaux, Jerez in Spain, Porto in Portugal, Germany’s Rheingau and of course the Hungary’s Tokaj.

Why do the Slovakian neighbours think, they could use the word and origin of Tokaj, as it’s clear for everyone, Tokaji is a Hungarian wine, as geographically Tokaj is in Hungary?

The Slovakian’s explain all this with the peace verdict of Trianon, as with the 1920- peace pact three Hungarian villages around Sátoraljaújhely got to the other side of the border, towns close to the Ronyva creek: Szőlőske, Kistoronya and Nagytoronya and according to the 1908 Hungarian royal wine law these 3 villages belonged to the wine region Tokaj-Hegyalja.

But the 1908 wine law is by no means enough to explain that the detached villages during the Trianon should call their wines “Tokaji”, as they do not take into count the historical fact that during the years the borders of the wine region Tokaj changed: some villages got included while others lost their status to produce Tokaji wine. Traditionally this was done by the Tokaj-Hegyalja wine region council, which villages, vineyards are allowed to use the designated origin of the Tokaj region. It is a sad fact that after the decision of Trianon three Hungarian villages around Sátoraljaújhely got to the Slovakian side and there for the strict Hungarian rules could not be enforced and therefore lost also the official title to the wine regions origin.

This is totally logical as the Council of Tokaj Hegyalja can only give the use of Tokaji for those who followed the wine law used in the wine region Tokaj-Hegyalja and further on bear the same semantics, wording and represent with their quality the spirit of the Hungaricums. The quality classification of the Tokaj-Hegyalja wines during the history shows this clearly:

The classification of the towns and villages within the Tokaj-Hegyalja wine region
1603
In 1603 the county halls of Zemplén and Abaúj those in noble and bourgeois orders gathered together to control the vine growing and wine making. Seven towns of the wine region Tokaj-Hegyalja were present at this meeting, the (minutes) secretary of Mád writes the following: “The seven towns of the Foothills (Hegyalja) agreed with each other on the vine growing borders and the salary of people who work in the vineyard.”
The seven towns of the wine region:
Tokaj        Tállya
Tarcal       Szántó
Mád          Tolcsva
Bénye
1641
In 1641 the committee of the wine region had a meeting in Mád and the following towns/villages were present:
Tokaj              Ond
Tarca              Rátka
Mád                 Bénye
Tállya              Tolcsva
Szántó             Liszka
Zombor           Keresztúr
Szerencs
During the meeting regulations with 48 points were passed. It is surprising that Sárospatak, Sátoraljaújhely are missing and will join only later.
1700
In 1700 Pál Kele had listed the following towns under the Hegyalja wine making act:
Tokaj                    Keresztúr
Tarcal                   Szerencs
Mád                       Szántó
Tállya                    Rátka
Sárospatak          Zombor
Sátoraljaújhely  Horváti
Tolcsva                  Olaszi
Erdöbénye            Monok
Szegi          Golop
Liszka          Ond
1730 the classification of Mátyás Bél.
Regarding the Tokaj Hegyalja classification Mátyás Bél wrote the following:
“Hegyalja or the word Tokaji can be used by all wines which are produced from the Tokaj hills and from the hills Tarcal, Zombor, Mád, Tállya two miles North until (Abaúj)Szántó, and further on towards east within three miles Keresztúr, Szegi, Erdöbénye, Liszka, Tolcsva, Zsadány, Bodrogolaszi, Sárospatak until Sátoraljaújhely. There are some who do not want to include the wine from Pataki and the Újhelyi wines and some who include the ones from Szerencs everyone values the wines according to their taste. But if some one looks deep into his heart he cannot deny the quality of the Patak and Újhely wines, which are produced in the best sites. No body denies that also Szerencs can produce good wine, usually similar but leaner as a Tokaji (in a less good vintage), but it can not be compared with the fame at all.
The 1737 secret command of the king regarding the protection of origin
On the 13th November 1736 the king’s council in Sárospatak created a Committee which goal was to stop wine fraud. The chairman of the Committee is count Karancsberényi Tamás Berényi main priest of the county. The Committee has seven members, representatives from the following counties: Zemplén, Abaúj, Sáros, Szepes, Szabolcs, Borsod and Gömör. The Committee discusses the production of the Tokaj wines and their trade and does a submission on the 16th December 1736 to the council. The Council understands the tight and strict control and forwards this to the king- emperor Karl the VI./III. on the 9th March 1737. Later the year on the 11th October 1937 after approval, ratification by the king it will be published to the whole country, it contains the following:
The Committee led by Count Tamás Berényi decided to distinguish the different villages by marking at the bottom (with an abbreviation) of the barrel the origin of the wine
The law approved by the king says all the wines from the wine region of Tokaj-Hegyalja should be treated equally:
As the wines from: Tállya, Golop, Rátka, Zombori, Ond, Tarzcal, Keresztúr, Kisfalud, Szegi, Bénye, Vámosújfalu, Tolcsva, Liszka, Zsadány, Olasz, Patak, Újhely, Kistorony, Zemplén counties and further on Szántó and Horvát, Abaúj-Counties should not be classified separately, as their quality is similar to the wines of Tokaj.
Foreigner were not allowed to make aszú wine, only those who had vineyards in the wine region of Tokaj Hegyalja
Grapes for the purpose of Aszú wines were not allowed to be brought in by foreigners
Cultivation and new plantings must only be allowed by the county.
In the kings order it’s the first time that the name of Kistornya appears under the wine region of Tokaj-Hegyalja.
The Worlds first vineyard classification according to the 1772 survey.
Antal Szirmai published a book in Buda on 1803 which had the title: “NOTITIA TOPOGRAPHIA, POLITICA, INCLYTI COMITATUS ZEMPLÉNIENSIS”
This book determined to the very first time in the world, before any other wine region in Europe, the vineyards according to their classification based on communities established by the 1772 survey.
On the kings’ order, an iron stamp was made which was to be used to prove the origin (protection of origin) by the merchants.

Village Community TOKAJ:
“The vineyards were classified into three categories according to their positioning:
I. (first) class those who are facing South, towards the sun, Mézesmál, from the border of Tarczal to the town. Then Paksi, Gyöpös, Német-szölö, Hét-szölö, Barát, Szerelmi, Tapasztó, Bornemissza, Kismézes-mál, Kun-hegy, Kótság, Kendös, Nagy-szölö.
II. (second) class the vineyards facing East: Kis-Ösze, Zúgó, Melegoldal, Aranyos.
III. (third) class West and North facing sites towards the Bodrog-Keresztúr borders: Zúgó, Péchy, Boglyos, Marjás, Keskenyág. On this hills there are only three sources and according to the pro-verb: “the lack of water, nature tries to regulate with wine.”
Village Community: TARCAL:
Today (in 1805) the town and Tokaj is part of the Kings’ Chamber and have the same right as Tokaj. Yet the Counts of Károlyi and Rádai have properties in here. The South facing sites which get a lot of sun and praised so often are: the Szarvas, Mézes-Málé, Cserfás, which the emperor likes very much, Felsö-Turzó, Laistrom, Szilvölgy, Deák, Király-Mály, Agyag, Csuka, Köbánya, Tárczi, Paxi, Rigó, Görbe, Barát, Árokháti, Forrás, Baxó and Terézia-hill, which bears the name of Maria Teresia, planted during our time.
II. class sites are which facing north: Nagy- and Kis-Termö, Bodonyi, Zombory, Elöhegy, Farkas, Nagy- and Kisbajusz, Vinnay, Püspöky, Ponncy, Nyavalya and Kis-Váradi.”
Village Community TOLCSVA (“Nagy-Tolcsva):
The vineyards in Tolcsva are the following:
I. class: Cziróka, Paczotrh, Kutpataka and Gyapáros
II. class: Elöhely, Várhegy, Nagykö and Bikkoldal. The soil is everywhere loose and rich, subsoil is red flint and a little bit of gold and silver is visible in the stones but too little to be of any good.
Village Community MÁD:
The vineyards in Mád are the following:
I. class: Perczehegy, Nyúlászó, Makovicza, Szent-Tamás, Kövágó, Királyhegy, Becsek
II. class: Birsalmás, Hóldvölgy, Hintós, Juharos, Úszhegy, Kis-Vilmány
III. class: Veres and Sarkad
Village Community ERDÖBÉNYE:
The most famous hills are: Tolcsva, Verömály, Zsabás, Barnamály, Öszvér, Mulatóhegy and Várhegy”
Village Community ZOMBOR:
Vineyards:
I. class: Csojka, Hangács, Virginás, Lajos, Zombori-király and Disznókö.
II. class: Messzelátó, Galambos, Kereknémahegy, Csákány, Nagy-Köves, Felbér, Bokond and Borkut
III. class: Hegymegy, Harcsa, Köporos, Kis-Hangács and Makkos.
Village Community TÁLLYA:
“Some of the most prestigious vineyards sites here: Patocs, Heteny, Medgyes, Kövágó, Dongó, Hegyes, Bányász, Hasznos, Görbe, Bahomállya, Tökösmál, Remetehegy, Sashegy, Nyereghegy, Polota, Cserepes, Tállykiköhegy, Halastó, Csikhegy and Várhegy.”
The town of RÁTKA:
“The vineyard hills run under the name of “Rátki elöhegy” exception is only in the Istenhegy which belongs to the Merczer family.”
Village Community BODROGKERESZTÚR:
I. class vineyards: Csókamál, Sajgó, Kakas, Kövágó, Messzelátó, Ujhegy and Henye.”
KISFALUD:
“Várhegy vineyard with it round shape has some ruins from Ottoman time (records of Kaszner- 1822).”
Village of SZEGI:
“…some of the best vineyards elevated behind the village: the Somos, Pkolos, Mézpest, Göböly, Lapis, Csirka, Czigány, Aranyos, Hosszúmály, Varjas and Hatalos.”
Village Community OLASZLISZKA:
“The Rány and Elöhegy are I. class sites, but also having vine the Mezses, once called Mescces.”
Village of ZSADÁNY:
Vine growing sites: Zadányhegye, Elöhegy, Szár-hegy, Szent-Ignác all of them South facing producing good aszú quality grapes.”
Village of OLASZI:
Vineyards are in: Magoshegy, Somos, Mandalin and Kantha.”
Village Community SÁROSPATAK:
“The two Village Communities (Nagy- and Kis Patak)´s most famous sites: Királyhegy, Megyer, Szögfü, Darnó, Hosszúhegy and Szenvince…followings are separated towards North the Somlyó which has vine planted in all directions.”
Village Community SÁTORALJAÚJHELY:
“The town can certainly be proud of their fantastic hills and vineyards. The highest of them is the Magoshegy once an active volcano, then the Sátor which looks like a tent from the top. The others are: Várhegy, Szárhegy, Bányay, Feketehegy, Köveshegy, Boglyoska, Veresharaszt, Tompa, Melegoldal, Némahegy and Cepre.”
In the classification there is no mentioning of the detached, Slovakian villages Szölöske, Kistorny and Nagytornya.

 

Wine regions of Hungary in 1897:

In 1897 the Hungarian Ministry of Industry and Commerce declared 22 wine regions with its decree number 53850, the strictest of grape plantings were applied here, the varieties are still the Furmint- Hárslevelű — Sárgamuskotály.

The 22 wine regions:
Sopron-Ruszt-Pozsony, Pest-Nógrád, Buda-Sashegy, Somló, Neszmély, Eger-Visonta, Miskolc-Abaúj, Tokaj, Szerednye-Ungvár, Beregszász-Nagyszőlős, Érmellék, Arad-Ménes-Magyarád, Versecz-Fehértemplom, Szekszárd, Villány-Pécs, Badacsony, Balatonmellék-Somogy, Erdély-Marosmente, Erdély-Küküllő, Erdély: Torda-Aranyos, Alföld, Fiume

The following towns were classified within the wine region:
From Zemplén County: Bekecs, Erdö-Bénye, Erdö-Horváti, Golop, Józseffalva, Károlyfalva, B.-Keresztúr, Kisfaludi, Legyes-Bénye, Mád, Monok, B.-Olaszi, Ó-Liszka, Ond, Petrahó, Rátka, Sárospatak, Sátoraljaújhely, Szegi-Long, Szerencs, Szölöske, Tállya, Tarczal, Tokaj, Tolcsva, Kis-Torony, Vámos-Ujfalu, Vég-Ardó, Zombor, B.-zsadány (all together 30). From Abaúj-Torna County Abaúj-Szántó.
Recommended grape varieties:
Whites: Furmint, Muskotály, Hárslevelü (only)
Reds: not allowed
Szölöske and Kis-Tornya appears in this list.
.

The role of the Tokaj Hegyalja wine region council
During all the centuries Tokaj-Hegyalja had the following communities all the time classified: Tokaj, Tarcal, Zombor, Mád, Tállya, Tolcsva, Bénye, Szántó. And there were towns which got simply declassified or not made it to the classification, like the villages around Sátoraljaújhely which got attached in 1920 to Slovakia like Szőlőske and
Kistoronya.
The classification can change in the future according to the quality and value. But what never changes is the determination of origin, the value of the Hungaricums.

In the wine world only those wines will reach the highest prestigious position which can communicate the individuality, quality, tradition, typical wine symbolical values and their origin is obvious to understand.

 

This can only be ensured by the protection of origin, protecting the Hungaricum Tokaji. The in Slovakia produced “Tokaji” is threatening the reputation and questions the international recognized prestigious values of the Tokaji wines.

The wines of Tokaj are one with the Hungarian cultural values since many centuries, which we can not give up, as a nation cannot give up its’ soul and national roots.

To be of origin of Tokaj and be a Tokaji meant in the last centuries that the aszú wines were produced according to a special method, only those towns and villages received this privilege which obeyed the strict quality rules. In all circumstances the council of the wine region Tokaj-Hegyalja decided which are the towns worthy to have the Tokaj origin and Tokaji name, judged by their quality.
This must be the case in the future as well!

The towns which got detached to Slovakia: Szőlőske, Kistoronya and
Nagytoronya appeared only infrequently in the classification of Tokaj-Hegyalja. It did indeed appear in the classification of 1908, this is the only argument what Slovakia brings up when it comes to the use of the protected origin, the Tokaji.

But since 1920 the council of the wine region Tokaj-Hegyalja can not control the quality of the Slovakian towns and therefore these wines “de facto” and “de jure” dropped out of the classification of the Tokaj-Hegyalja wine region council and lost their status of controlled origin and are not to be called Tokaji.

To restore the former prestige of the fine Tokaji wines it would be important to solve the problem quickly as possible, the word Tokaji can only be used by the towns in Hungary, controlled by the wine region council of Tokaj-Hegyalja. The new Hungarian government must do everything in their power to make sure that the European Union’s legal institution will make a favourable decision for the Tokaji Aszú wines and Hungary

                                               Dr. Cey-Bert Róbert
                                                  4 May 2010

 

 
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