The dry szamorodni is a wine type currently catering to a narrow target audience. How did it become such an acquired taste? What are the prerequisites, what kind of ingredients are in it and how do the winemakers age it? How do the consumers relate to it? We try to answer these questions in the following article.
On our last walk, we got from St. John to St. John. Since then, a great many things have happened – the main square, officially called the Kossuth square is being reconstructed. According to current plans, the renovation is to be completed by the end of April and I promise to tell you what the final result will be like.
Many people think of winter as an unavoidable bad period, which we just have to survive. We cannot do anything against it, we cannot avoid it, thus we just have to get through this dark, grim and depressive season quietly, so we can be grateful for spring to come. But this is not true for the fanatic spin fishing anglers. December, January and February are the best months for aiming at one of the noblest fish of our domestic waters; this is the best time for fishing for zander with soft lures.
Only a handful of ethnic groups, the Hungarians, the eastern Slovakians, and a few dialects of Ruthenes use the „Karácsony” expression when referring to the celebration of Jesus Christ’s birth. Some theories claim that the word originates from incarnation, others say that the slavic „korcun” meaning „to turn, step” (winter solstice) is the root of the expression. Whichever theory holds true, it is surely a holiday that is the closest to our hearts.
What happened then?
Tokaj is a special wine region from several aspects. Unique areas, local grape varieties, particular wine categories and of course, a rich history. One thing that separates it from any other region in the world is the fact that every single year shows us just how different they can be in terms of the qualities and characteristics of the wine produced here. A favourite endeavour of everyday wine manners is the so-called „vintaging”, where the worldy and less informed consumers can’t always orient themselves easily, especially with so many years to consider. Fear not, this article will answer some questions like: what makes a year good or bad? What were the best years of the past decade? Is it worth to save these wines for my kid’s 18th birthday or not?
Autumn represents the end of something in public consciousness; it brings along the twilight of the summer holiday and summer itself. But a new era starts on the rivers too just like at school, since the first cool nights, and the rapidly falling water temperature entail the explosive uptrend of predatory fish’s appetite as well. Most fish consciously prepare for winter, and parallel with the changing weather, a change gets started in the mood and appetite of fish too. For the anglers who arrive to Tokaj in this period of the year, it is not worth missing those unique opportunities that the Tisza and Bodrog rivers can offer.
Much like the furmint, this one is an old Hungarian grape type most likely created via natural breeding processes. According to one of several genetics-based analyses, one of the grape’s parents is the Furmint. It was first mentioned in texts originating from the Tokaj region, in 1723. The name is probably derived from its leaves being slightly similar to that of a linden tree’s, as this is also the case in other languages as well (french „Feuille de Tilleul" german „Lindenblättrige") Funnily enough, its wine frequently reminds one of linden honey when it comes to its fragrance. Traditionally, it was planted in conjunction with Furmint in order to maintain the latter grapes’ tough, more acidic characteristics and balance these out, softening and enriching the aroma.
Although its origin hasn’t been confirmed via genetic research, most ampelographers have come to the consensus that the Romanian “Grasă” (Romanian for “fat”), or “Grasă de Cotnari”, and Kövérszőlő are one and the same grape variety. Altought this title has only been apparent since the 19th century and onwards among the Tokaj grapes.
The three most popular grapes of the Tokaj Wine Region, the Furmint, Hárslevelű and Sárgamuskotály, are all products of natural hybridization, could have happened hundreds, or even a thousand year ago. The potential ancestors of these grapes can nowadays be pinpointed via the assistance of modern genetic research. The origins of Zéta, a grape variety that is grown in the smaller area, are known to us, however: Dr. Ferenc Király and his colleagues created Zéta by crossing Furmint and Bouvier in 1951, in Pécs. It’s a sort of „half-sibling” to the Zengő, Zenit and Zeusz.
Although there are more than 200 grape varieties called Muscat, a majority of them aren’t actually related to Sárgamuskotály or the Muscats of Alexandria or Ottonel. When it comes to the ancient origin, popularity and intense smell of a grape, Sárgamuskotály is and always will be the absolute winner.
Events in Tokaj and Hímesudvar
We have long been dreaming about a wine festival in Tokaj which doesn’t pull people into the city’s main square among wooden sheds, continuously supported by large-stage shows and concerts which all make real and authentic interaction with the guests and the winemakers almost impossible. Instead, like many other settlements (Etyek, Mád, Erdőbénye), we’d prefer to invite lovers of wine from around the world into cellars, gardens and wineries where they may taste the delicacies of the region in a friendly and, most of all, genuine environment, while enjoying the local cuisine in the middle of a more personal, smaller concert.
The decision makers here in Tokaj have yet to make this a reality.
Surprisingly, it was actually the Covid-19 situation that helped the locals open up a little bit, and in contrast to the original plans, the festival will take place in multiple locations and span across multiple events this time – almost every winery and restaurant has planned some programme or idea.
We hope that everyone can find their favourite places and their favourite tastes here – this involves musical taste as well!
Come visit, explore a bit, and above all, have a great time!
We’ve invited József Csurkulya dulcimer (cimbalon) player to treat us to a little show on Saturday afternoon of the festival. It won’t be his first time here at Hímesudvar, as he has visited us before.
Having graduated at Franz Liszt Academy of Music, he incorporates several genres into his style, becoming unique and easily enjoyable for everyone – not to mention he plays on a one-of-a-kind instrument with an extreme demonstration of skill and talent.
According to current regulations, a proof of vaccination is not needed while residing in the garden. However, if bad weather decides to greet us, we will be forced to move inside the store, therefore requiring a proof of vaccination from everyone who wishes to stay for the concert.
For the duration of Saturday – during the show as well – Kisfalucska Mansion and Bistro will provide us the gastronomic part of our day with the following: mangalica ham, salami, different sausages, local cheese types, kápia paprika, cornichon and fresh loaves of bread straight from the oven.
We look forward to seeing you!
translated by Áron Várhelyi
We often find ourselves in trouble when we wish to come up with a smart and suitable gift for one of our friends, acquaintances, family members or business partners. Our new giftcards can help you if you find yourself in a similar situation; the article below describes the two types of brand new giftcards we’ve recently introduced.
If we know – why wouldn’t we – our giftee’s likes and dislikes, a giftcard is a great choice for demonstrating our affection, since they may choose anything their eye catches according to the given selection, let that be sweets, cosmetics, entertaining electronics or wine.
We offer them fine tokaj wine, of course, waiting to be opened by curious hands and to provide a momentary or life-long tasting experience to those who try them.
Many times it’s in the last moment we realise that it’s someone’s birthday or anniversary – awkward! The store has already closed and if we order online it will never arrive in time (especially that which we haven’t even figured out yet).
For these „last minute” situations, we recommend the superfast WEBSHOP GIFT CARDS. You only need to input the correct name of the gifter, the giftee and their email, and after a successful online credit card or PayPal transaction, the giftcard will land in your acquaintance’s inbox within a matter of seconds, in the form of a neat letter. The letter includes a code which they may use to purchase anything from the webshop within the gift’s limit.
Idea: if we wish to surprise someone as a group – but separately –, this can also be done efficiently. The received giftcards’ amounts will add up into a balance, which the giftee can access via a unique link, and they may use their available currency in a single amount or in multiple, small purchases.
The other, traditional CARD can also be quite speedy, since it becomes accessible directly after your purchase completes. You can download and even print it if this option is suitable enough for you. We can also send you this version of the card in the form of a 350 gram printed paper if you’re a fan of the face-to-face method of gifting. Don’t forget to indicate this in the ’comment’ section during your purchase!
The only drawback of this card is that it cannot be used in the webshop automatically, but it can be used via email orders.
The cards aren’t exclusively for ordering wine. They also provide the same value when purchasing accessories, books, and even tasting programme or vineyard tours, which provide long lasting experiences in the Tokaj region.
Hopefully we can ease your gifting troubles or dilemmas soon with a TOKAJ giftcard.
translated by Mara Várhelyi
The most recent news regarding opening schedules, service availability and other traffic information are all included in this article, which we will update regularly. Before you start making your way here, make sure you check it out.
From 2021 May 2
Last year, Tokaj’s main bridge had begun to be renovated, mostly the pedestrian walkway and the bicycle road receiving a lot of attention. The renovation of the roundabout is also still under way, therefore, this section of the road is controlled by traffic lights, which slow down the overall speed of approaching from the other side of the bridge. We recommend heading to Tokaj from the direction of Miskolc or Sárospatak and through the town of Bodrogkeresztúr.
Based on our experiences, it’s quite smooth to approach the bridge on weekdays, but the weekends can be rather problematic in terms of traffic jams. Be sure to calculate your trip accordingly!
On our last virtual trip we took our rest at the „great” parking lot next to Bonchidai inn and I promised to write another time about the „old town”. Let’s brace ourselves again and walk further!
Going north from the parking lot – towards the main bridge – we come across several notable sights already. On the side of a large building we can an artwork made of iron by Tibor Tenkács called „Harvesters”, which was created in 1973, and for a long time was located next to the train station. It was moved to its current spot in 2012. This piece of art shows that as we walk around Tokaj, the essence of grapes, wine and the harvest can be felt throughout the whole city.
Next to the staircase leading up to Finánc-hill, and opposite the Erzsébet bridge we can see St. John of Nepomuk’s statue, who is the protector and saint of rivers, bridges and rowers. A few steps further is the statue of Ferenc Németi, who was the former captain of Tokaj’s castle in the 17th century. Moving on, we reach a flight of stairs and a model of some of the Rákóczi family’s castles and fortresses: Tokaj, Sárospatak, Regéc, Szerencs. At the beginning of Rákóczi street, one can still see the volcanic rocks at the foundation of the houses and buildings that were once used to support the city’s port and ferry system. This is also why the city was formerly called Kőrév (Kuurev) – literally: Stoneport – back in the 11th century.
Let’s walk directly up to Óvár street in order to evade all the people who are trying to do their daily business like shopping. The narrow street doesn’t contain any special sights but legend has it that the 1890 fire that raged across the town started from this very street, originating from inside a quilt factory.
Moving around 300 meters further we arrive at the birthhome of Ede Paulay, the former director of the National Theatre. The renovated house is now home to the Paulay Winehouse.
Further north along the Óvár street we arrive at a smaller junction. From here, we may deviate towards the main square between the pharmacy and the Rákóczi cellar, but let’s head to Dózsa György street instead.
A patinated tablet on the corner reminds us that Sámuel Helm, a painter of Tokaj – for now unknown to the history of arts – has lived and worked here. Even further on the left side we can the Roman Catholic parish built in 1693 and the former Lutheran garden, whose renovations for touristic purposes has already begun. We come to a small square and another junction. We see yet another statue of St. John of Nepomuk, created in 1802, although its original location was next to the head of the bridge. Here, we may take a short rest on one of the benches on the small Oestrich-Winkel square, then turn to our left and head up towards the mountain.
In the springtime, during the blossoming of the cherry trees or during the colourful season of autumn, this street is easily one of the most beautiful places to walk along. According to some plans initiated by the World Heritage Centre, this street is getting renovated to make it even more magical than it already is. On our right, the Calvinist church can be seen, built between 1802-22. (I hereby promise to write up a separate virtual walks which tours the temples, churches and other religious buildings in the city). Opposite we may observe the Dobogó cellar’s vine-covered walls and on the other side of the street is a bust of Gyula Alpár Veress and the statue of the Grapestomping girl, both of which making the environment of the street quite pleasant. Although, according to tradition, it was mostly men who stomped the harvested grapes in wooden tubs or tanks, the creator still decided on depicting a young lady in this piece of art. It is also worth observing the statue’s details, especially the hairstyle and clothing.
Not far from the statue is a memorial written in Hungarian and Polish about the the winetrader Robert Wojciech Portius of Krosno, who was allegedly of Scottish origin as well. He was one of the first large-scale importers between Poland and Hungary, having brought many other European royal courts Tokaj wine.
For those who decide to stop here, they can turn to their right and head in and up to the garden of Hímesudvar, moving through a gate-like entryway and climbing a flight of stairs. The winery welcomes all sorts of hikers, even those who aren’t necessarily experts on wine.
And to those who still have some energy left inside them, they may follow the red tourist path and move on towards Szeles-top and the other tourist paths (see my previous post), or from the end of Aranyosi street they can look back onto the city and the Great Plains.
That’s it for today, I hope you enjoyed our walk! Next time, we’ll start again from the main square. Have a nice rest and enjoy your wine!
translated by Áron Várhelyi
The Tokaj Guide, one of the region’s most important guides and the most wine-friendly writing has finally released. Its popularity is proven by the fact that this is its fourth release.
Author Gergely Ripka was honoured by the critical acclaim given to him at the start of this year, as his work was nominated on the Gourmand Awards among the 4 nominees in the „European wine” category.
The bilingual (Hungarian-English) guide is a handy start for beginners, adepts, tasters at home and on the road.
Gergely has supplied us with the first copies after the online premiere of the book on Friday. You can purchase your own copies or receive them as extra if you order the special wine collection below.