Anglers see all seasons from the point of view of an angler. While „others” wait for the warm weather to come, the sight of green trees and flourishing meadows, or the opportunities deriving from the lengthening of the days in the springtime, the fisherman’s mind clicks most of the time on the expansion of the fishing possibilities. The season starts indeed in March and April – this is the time to dust the fishing rods, reels and tackle fed up with the winter break! But is it true that spring really promises thriving opportunities for all kinds of fishing methods? Is it worth going spin fishing in March too?
The answer is clearly YES! Although the third and fourth month of the year are full of prohibition periods concerning our predatory fish. From the 1st of March it is forbidden to fish for zander, asp, perch, and Volga zander. At the same time, the ban on pike fishing, that started in February, is still in effect too (ending on 1st April). Therefore, this period of the year is truly difficult for spin fishermen, but it does not mean that we should entirely give up artificial lure fishing.
Most of the fanatic spin fishermen either hunt bass (which count as alien species) in this period of the year on intensely stocked lakes, or they walk about on the shores of rapid (and often rhapsodic concerning water level) creeks and streams hoping that they might catch a good-size chub. However, the lovers of big rivers and wild waters do not have to lose heart either, since there are two fish species that are not protected by catching prohibitions in March, and it is easy to prey them in the quickly warming waters too. And these two species are ide and the European catfish (Wels catfish).
Those, who visit Tokaj in early spring have the chance to catch both species indeed, since River Bodrog is famous for its huge ide fish, while the catfish population of River Tisza is highly exceptional. Thus, nature-loving spin anglers can spin fish here for two species, even on the same day, that behave quite different, and that provide an entirely different fishing experience for those who deserve this.
Let’s start with ide (orfe), which is basically not a bream fish, since it is a member of the Cyprinids family. However, even this attribution of it cannot stop them from hunting prey fish in a predatory manner all year long, but especially in spring and autumn. By the way, besides small prey fish, they feed on almost everything; most of their diet is made up by bugs and insects falling into the water from trees, but they also consume crayfish and leeches too, furthermore, in the summer, they even collect the fruit of wild mulberry trees that fall on the surface of the water.
We must prepare with ultra-light tackle for ide. Our spin fishing rod must be capable of casting small lures. Fishing from a boat, we prefer rods shorter than 2 meters, with casting weights approximately between 1-10 grams, and small, size 1000 or 2000 reels, with 0,06-0,08 mm diameter line (preferably either nanofil or braid) on the spool.
The mouth of the ide is small; thus, we can spin fish for them effectively with smaller-size lures, 2-5 cm wobblers, soft baits, or metal lures (like spinners and spoons). When choosing the color of a lure, we should prefer darker colors and lifelike patterns!
In this period of the year, we may find ide fish in deeper water (too). At spots where the current of the river pushes out to the shoreline and the depth of the water is sufficiently deep enough (2-4 meters), that is where we should search for the ide group. Here, the current constantly drifts nourishment in front of the fish stuck in the coastal lane, which is particularly advantageous for orfe.
Ide is not a lonely fish; where we catch one, probably there are more, but we must know how to deceive them. And we must be quiet and careful during their fishing, since they are extremely clever and cautious fish, and their eyesight is very good into the bargain!
Despite ide, the other predatory fish that can be caught in this period of the year, the largest fish in our waters, the top predatory fish in freshwaters, is the Wels catfish (Silurus glanis). Fishing for catfish, considering the size of it, requires extremely strong equipment. Thus, we must choose heavy tackle, rods, reels, and line which were designed expressly for catfish fishing. Besides the harmony of rod & reel, we must pay special attention to every little element of our rig, e.g.: the snap, the lure, the trebles on the lure, the split rings on the lures, because if we do not do so, catfish will most probably find the weak link in our tackle, and, as a consequence of this, we might lose the fish of our lifetime!
Catfish begin feeding more and more actively due to the warming water. As soon as the temperature of the water reaches 6-7 Celsius degrees, we have a good chance of catching them with artificial lures too. Then, when the water temperature goes above 8 Celsius degrees, they start feeding like crazy, and from this time on, they also react well to the sound of the ancient catfish luring tool, called clonk. Obviously, these measures are not regularities, but experience underlines that they are certainly true to River Tisza.
This is the period of the year – until the water temperature reaches 14-15 Celsius degrees – when most of the large catfish are caught here on the Tokaj Tisza section too. In this period, they attack aggressively wobblers, soft baits, and other kinds of artificial baits too, which action is to their liking and which enters their attack zone.
We can also utilize their greediness. At first, we can find them only in deep waters and steep drop offs, but later, as the weather gets warmer, they start moving to shallower and shallower water as they are following their prey fish, which visit the rapidly warming, 2-3 meters shallow waters in springtime.
We apply two very effective methods. When they are stationary in deep waters, we find more of them in relatively small but easy-to-locate spots. In this case we anchor above the spot and cast our soft baits towards them. We move our lures nice and slow above the bottom, trying to deceive these refined fish. In case we use the other method, we do not anchor the boat, but utilizing the current of the river, we let the flow drift our boat, and we keep moving our baits vertically right under the boat. We apply this technique when – due to the warm water – fish are already scattered around, and not concentrated on one special spot, but they might occur everywhere along a longer river section.
So, there is life beyond zanders and pikes for the lovers of predatory fish, we do not have to leave our spinning rods in their stands in spring either. The essence is that we must aim consciously at these predatory fish (ide and catfish) with the proper tackle and lures, and we must fish at the right places. In Tokaj – in a unique way – we have good chance to catch both species! And after a tiresome day we spent with spin fishing on the rivers, the best relaxing program is to visit the cool wine cellars of Tokaj.
Appointments for fishing trips in the spring are now available!
If you need a local and professional fishing guide, feel free to contact me!
There are varying accounts regarding its origins. Based on historical and linguistic evidence, the most common theories claim french, italian or syrmian sources, although its diversity with many subvarieties located on Tokaj-Hegyalja claim the region to be the source. The most recent genetic research claims that its parents are the Gouais blanc and the Alba imputato, the natural cross-breeding of the two being the result of it appearing until the 16th century.
Taxonomy dictates that the grape is a subtype, specifically belonging to the pontian subgroup, of the common grape vine (Vitis vinifera). Along with the currently grown White Furmint, collections preserve the Red and the Variable Furmint types as well. The latter receives its name from the berries’ early green colours changing into red, then shifting into a shade between greenish to golden yellow, not unlike the White Furmint.
Ampelography is the discipline which works with the detailed description of grape types. I won’t delve into the Furmint’s total ampelographical explanations here, but I’ll mention some of the more significant details; first, its upright sprouting system greatly helps regarding the ’green-work’ of the grape, which consists of the shearing and other handiwork up until the harvest arrives. Thanks to the fact that the shoots growing from the buds grow vertically upwards, the foliage are much easier and convenient to maintain, at least compared to other unruly and spreading types (such as Sárgamuskotály). The Furmint’s shoots also fortunately tend to stay nestled inbetween the wiring that keeps the foliage together. Later on, the first tendrils above the clusterzone twist around the wires, ensuring that the shoots are safe from being blown out or simply broken by a stronger wind. The leaves’ edges are serrated yet lacy, its teeth rather pointy, therefore with some experience it may be told apart from the Hárslevelű’s lacy, rather round and dull teeth.
The stamp of the 1972 I. World Wine Competition held in Budapest. A stylized Furmint cluster and leaves hide behind a popular aszú bottle, the background showing Tokaj and its traditionally cultivated vineyards from the other side of the Tisza. The stamp was made by József Vertel, one of the most employed hungarian stamp designers. Note the berries’ differing hues, potentially indicating overtly ripened grapes or even the appearance of aszú.
Regarding its ripening tendencies, it is considered a late type, placing its harvest to the second half of October. In its complete ripeness it appears greenish yellow and, if exposed to the sun, a distinct golden yellow hue. The most important qualities include defined acid and high alcohol contents in the balanced overcropped plantations, but also a high susceptibility to shrinking and therefore ’aszú-ification’. Although the Furmint doesn’t have any characteristic primary aromas (let’s mention the muskotály type as a counter-example and as Irsai Olivér), during the process of fermentation the secondary flavours can include apple, pear, peach, white flowers and other similar evocative qualities. Most Furmint enjoy being fermented in oakwood, which ensures tertiary aromas to enrich its already versatile taste.
Ripened clusters, also beginning to show signs of aszú. Furmint is susceptible to ’scrubbiness’, meaning that if the badly fertilized, small (runt) berries find majority on a cluster, it can significantly decrease the yield of the grapes. The left image, however, shows the positive side of this phenomenon, providing healthier, looser clusters, which are more suitable for creating dry wine. The large, stuffy, blistery berries on the right image (Hólyagos Furmint) are much more susceptible to aszú.
The variety identifying as a "Hungaricum" is located on around 4000 hectares in the country, most of it being in the Tokaj Wine Region itself. The most recent data suggests that out of the 5603 total hectares 3726 (67%) is home to its most significant grape.
It’s also on the list of traditionally grown grapes in many other regions, such as the Somló Region and around Pécs and Balaton, amongst several others. The Sopron Region has contained much of its plantations some time ago but today it has almost completely disappeared from there. Beyond our borders it is widely represented in Slovenia, Croatia, Slovakia and Austria.
translated by Áron Várhelyi
Looking out the window, there is no snow – but who knows? By the time you read this, the weather could turn quite nasty. However, it’s winter in Tokaj and very quiet. Is it worth it to come to Tokaj during these times? Considering that the museums are closed during quarantine and the restaurants only offer take-out? The answer is yes.
It is worth it, for a breath of fresh air and to take a long walk to clear our heads. Where should we start? Towards the mountain or down the riverbank, or shall we just walk along the city? Each locale can provide us with at least 2-3 hours of exploring.
We arrive by train. From the station, along the end of the Szerelmi cellar range, we can start off in two different directions. (The range is quite approachable by car as well, but parking can be tricky.)
Going straight along the paved road, we reach the Hétszőlő trail. According to our stamina and mood, we may choose one out of 3 color-marked paths; red, green or yellow. They follow the vineyard together on paved pathways, eventually forking out. There might be vehicles working on the way, so proceed with caution!
The green square barely elevates, only surrounding a small vineyard. The yellow one has a few more exciting parts but we can take a breather at any of the information boards or resting sites. While finding our strength we may learn a thing or two about the local grapes of Tokaj. Our destination is the Hétszőlő sign, from which we descend back to our original starting point. Following the red square brings us onto a very steep journey all the way to the top of the property, reaching the Kusajd vineyard. A beautiful view greets us at the top of the Hétszőlő vineyard, panning to Tokaj’s southern area as well as the Taktaköz. If the weather is good enough, we can even see the chimneys of the Tiszaújváros Chemical Works.
If we’re hungry for adventure or just obsessed with nature, turning towards the mountain at the end of the cellar range brings us to Szerelmi vineyard along a semi-paved road. The first part of the path consists of gentle serpentines, but the last straight part rises to a more serious uphill walk. Reaching the end of the former and keeping right, we reach Tehéntánc top. Following the instructions of the guiding signs here, we may go to the TV tower, or keep on towards the Finánc Hill Overlook (although this area isn’t precisely marked). From here on we can decide to decend via the Overlook’s stairs or take the concrete road leading downward. Taking the first leads us to the Erzsébet bridge, while the second takes us to the Employment Center’s parking area, behind the Tokaji Ferenc High School.
Find the vineyards on the map here!
From the Szerelmi range and choosing the green tourist trail, we end up at Szeles top. If we seem less tired and more energetic, we may head east and marvel at the rivers slithering on the Alföld, the Great Plain. From Szeles we have three choices: 1) follow the red sign towards the TV tower. 2) Moving along the green marking and moving around Hideg-side vineyard we reach the Fesztiválkatlan, descending back into the city next to Torkolat lodging, which used to be the city’s northern gate some time ago. 3) The red tourist sign leads us to the cemetery on Dózsa György street. This area has a very steep elevation, making it difficult to travel through in, or after bad weather. However, it’s worth it to take this path, since the doors of Hímesudvar open to this very street, inviting weary travelers in to rest and have a glass of wine in the welcoming garden.
Going back to TV tower, following the asphalt road takes us to Tarcal. From Tarcal, we can return to Tokaj by either taxi or train. Going down the same road leads to the ski-range. Unfortunately, the city has no snow cannons, but in ideally snowy weather, the range is great for beginners.
The Borostyán trail, which eventually forks into the green trail, starts from Szerelmi cellar row as well. A rest may be taken at any of the marked resting sites, where one can find more information on the Kopasz mountain’s flora and fauna.
For these trails I definitely recommend the appropriate clothing, perhaps even a hiker’s stick. Straying from the signs is not advised, since deep trenches and tide-washed crevices aren’t far from the hiking trails.
From the „large” parking lot on Bajcsy-Zsilinszky Endre street one is met with many opportunities to explore. For those who only wish to climb a bit of th emountain, the Finánc Hill Overlook is the closest landmark, although the staircase leading up to it can be slippery and is a little steep. The correct footwear, safe for keeping the ankles in place is highly recommended for this one. The overlook provides a wide view of the Tisza and Bodrog rivers’ fork and the neighbouring settlements towards the east.
Taking off to the south from the parking area, on Széchenyi walkway, along the Tisza’s ramparts, we may move on behind the once Salt Customs Building / Rákóczi-Dessewffy castle and continue near the football field. In front of the ÉVIZIG headquarters is the monument of the flood, which commemorates the great rising of the Tisza in 2000. The record level of 928 cm is still unbroken. Moving south from here won’t allow us to see any other impressive landmarks, although the fishing lakes further away from the city or the Ively-stream’s pass can be exciting in their own ways. However, those who venture this far will be met with the serenity of the Kopasz mountain’s looming presence and the quiet calm of nature. If one happens to be by car, we may drive along the riverbank to reach the neighbouring settlement, Tiszaladány.
Going north from the parking lot takes us to the „old town”. Until the 19th century – when the city’s southern area was built, called Kis-Tokaj – this was the only place which was known as Tokaj by multiple names (Tisza-Tokaj, Nagy-Tokaj). In the old town, every building has its story – but this is for another time
The beauty and atmosphere of the hikes can only be experienced if you take them yourself, so put your boots on - Tokaj awaits!
Translated by Áron Várhelyi
The rapidly changing natural and economical environment poses multiple challenges to our current grape-producers and winemakers – global warming and the quarantine caused by Covid-19 and its drastic changes in everyday life represent such challenges. Located in Tarcal, the Tokaj Wine Region’s Research Institute for Viticulture and Oenology handles several grapegrowing region’s research while also exclusively dealing with Tokaj’s wine related topics as well. In the following article, I’ll briefly describe the Institute’s activities and elaborate on more of them in the coming few months.
The Tokaj Wine Region is home to a unique structure of varieties. Out of its six allowed the most dominant is Furmint, which – most likely originating from the region itself – is the most common plantation in Tokaj-Hegyalja. The multifarious Furmint’s „clones” – artifically propagated types – require constant preservation and research; the same can be said about Hárslevelű, a similar ’hungarikum’. Along with other older, hungarian grape varieties, the above two are preserved in a single hectare Variety Collection on the Szarvas-vineyard, located in Tarcal and available to analysation. In order to keep up the spectrum of variety, my colleagues located close to five hundred old, valuable vines across the Tokaj Region. These will eventually be reproduced to grow the collection – after years of research, of course.
Our plant protection expert utilises an automated meteorological station to help warn us against the dangers of insects and infections which could harm our vineyards; along the „traditional” illnesses, including powdery mildew and other types of mildew, each year presents new issues to our grapes, like black rot or even invasive ladybugs. Protection against these is one of our most important tasks. However, our region has a special connection to the so-called gray rot, since in the correct conditions, this fungus, called Botrytis cinerea can produce noble rot – which means the appearance of precious aszú.
The production of healthy and delicious grapes begins from the ground up and the original roots of our desired species – the subject – are also highly important. In order to protect against phylloxera, our European species are planted onto North-American species, which are located just below the ground under the vines. Certain rootstocks ensure protection against dryness, while others can speed up or slow down the process of ripening. Choosing the ideal rootstock variety is as important as the soil’s nutrient contents, the well-being of the soil-microbes’ community and preserving the structure of the ground, which is tended to by our colleague expertising in soil science and nutrient management.
We’re currently making our first moves in two vital areas: the highly resistant grapetypes’ newest generation is appearing today in several vineyards. In about 20-30 years, they will become a topic of much discussion and study regarding the evaluation of them as „Tokaji” wine and cross-breeding them with other types and species. Geographic information systems and automatisation represent the precision-based area of the winemaking field, although these systems are still not as widespread as the large-scale production of plants. Despite this, the sight of drones and harvesting machines might be an everyday sight in Tokaj’s future vineyards.
Our new microbiology and wine lab serves the Tokaj Region’s winemakers with high quality instruments and tools, since every step in the process of winemaking requires the appropriate analytical studies, which are required high quality production. These studies include the research of different strains of yeast found in Tokaj’s cellars, the different treatments’ effects on the nature of wines and older grapes’ microvinification; growing these in extremely small amounts. Ecological grapegrowing and organic winemaking – producing organic grapes and wine – requires the thorough and precise study of all of the above fields and demands a sort of „system theory” from the winemaker. We consider not only the gathering of information on these topics to be important, but also passing them down to the next generation and providing them with experience and knowledge of the past.
translated by Áron Várhelyi
Surely, you’ve come across different types of ratings, medals, badges, different stars and other systems when you read about wine in the media or test results in our webshop. But what does it mean if a wine is 85 points? Well, if you’re looking for a precise answer, you might end up being a little disappointed. The ugly truth is that the number of culinary presses, wine judges and competitions roughly equal the amount of rating systems there are. Although those that possess education on the area, or have learned about the subject of tasting, do share some sort of common judgment. Since this is a rather subjective genre where everyone has their own system about measuring quality, it’s therefore more convenient to talk about “common grounds” where the generally balanced and excellent wines turn out to be awarded with critical acclaim. Of course, there are those with more refined tastebuds and whose words weigh more than others’; various magazines, critics and judges will be discussed in this article.
The abbreviation OIV (International Organisation of Vine and Wine) has since long ago been the most applied scale when it comes to rating a particular wine. It is primarily based on appearance (clarity, color), smell (clarity, intensity, nature), taste (clarity, intensity, nature) and a general impression which all contribute to the final scoring of the wine. During the appraisals, a jury of multiple judges do blind taste tests (covering the label) and rate the wines according to the average of points given to each one. For the sake of avoiding a drastic gap in the evaluation, a “tuning” wine is tasted before any other, in hopes of tuning the judges’ style and tastes. The local competitions and international inspections also use this rating system – with varying strictness.
It’s visibly a 100-point scale, although the sensually vague and uncertain wines reside at or below 70 points (moldy smell/taste, questionable barrel quality). As a rule of thumb, it can be safely said that the wines we would truly like to drink start at 80 points – when someone offers it at a house party, for example –, while we ourselves would consider bringing an 85+ to a house party. A 90+ would not see the light of day. Depending on the competitions, 94-100 is given a great gold, 87-94 gold, silver goes to 76-87 and bronze to 60-76. On most Hungarian competitions, much of the 90+ products are sweets from Tokaj, although sometimes a dry wine can be found up there.
Of the world’s most defining judges the American Robert Parker (Wine Spectator) and the Wine Enthusiast both use the 100-point system. Along many others, it’s also used during the Decanter World Wine Awards and by the Debreceni Borozó, Borigo Magazin, Winelovers and Wordpress Top100 wine evaluations here at home.
The formula is simplified
Since the OIV system isn’t entirely widespread, several others started to use their own methods of scoring and evaluation. This is how numerous 20-point scales were created (at the famous Jancis Robinson the 16+ wines become interesting). These are much more understandable and clearer to judge than a bleak “85” rating. The Hungarian Vince Magazin also tests in a 20-point system.
Even simpler is the 10-point system, made common by MűveltAlkoholista, a scale that is also used by Borrajongó and TáncolóMedve. A wine that stands at 5 or above means a generally fine level of enjoyment.
Stars, glasses, vines
Like medals and badges, stars can also be found when browsing through taste tests (in the GaultMillau restaurant and wine guide we can see vines while other places use glasses, hearts, etc.). The most famous one is the British Decanter (and the Hungarian Vince Magazin), but Michael Broadbent and The Wall Street Journal’s 5-star scales also work in this method. The Decanter Award of 5-star wine truly means high quality and it isn’t even awarded on most general tests. The Italian Gambero Rosso’s 3-glass rating is the peak, and if we return to Tokaj, the TokajGuide’s 3-star is the highest level of acclaim, like a 3-star Michelin Guide rating to a restaurant.
Not all that glitters is gold
The question ‘does a 100-point wine even exist?’ is clearly irrelevant. Anyone who has rated or sat behind the judging table knows that the point isn’t finding the perfect wine, whiskey, or brandy, but rather rating each product accordingly and in consideration of their own categories. In view of all competitions and awards, it is a general rule that consistency and years of achievements mostly rate the awarding party and not so much the wines and wineries. Sadly, we sometimes see PR-riddled or dilated competitions; several acclaimed and famous wineries don’t even sign their products up for these tests, as they have no need for the critical ratings and their wines are selling rather well either way. This obviously begs the question if these competitions are really the larger businesses’ playgrounds or not. Despite this, it can be said that those wines which performed well on multiple evaluations are truly of high quality and they confidently represent their makers, making them extremely valuable to acquire. However, with more and more conscious consumer choices becoming widespread, wine starts to be a product based on trust; personal experiences dominate the preferences over one wine or the other, disregarding badges or awards.
A month after your Webshop purchase, you too can rate our wines – with a maximum of 5 stars at your disposal.
translated by Áron Várhelyi