The world knows French, Italian and Portugal wine brands. Slovakia makes its first steps in the wine industry. Even so, this region has its old wine traditions that can be compared to Hungarian ones.
The popularity of Slovak wine is not limited by the neighboring states. The quality of local wine brands is almost equal to the quality of wines coming from South regions. Beautiful nature, great location, and soft climate provide the development and expansion of the winery industry in this small equopean country.
Tokaji wine –the poetry of an excellent taste
The sweetness and strength of this wine review humans. Is makes all the gyruses to work hard. The wine launches a beautiful firework of wit and joy in the soul. Those are the words of Voltaire about the Tokaji wine, which he was impressed by. If you ask Slovaks about their most tasteful and original wine, they will name you Tokaj and they are right.
But Tokaj is a Hungarian winery region, isn’t it?
This is true but the kingdom of Bachus has its secrets.
Let’s take a look at the history of this region. All Tokaj lands was owned by the Austro-Hungary Empire. There was no clear boundary between Slovak and Hungarian enclaves. Even today you can’t find definitive distinctions here if skipping countries’ borders.
The Hungarian part of the region, which is covered with wineries is called Tokaj. White wines are produced there. This is the biggest part of the region. The smallest part is owned by Slovakia. This country is directly connected to Tokajske wine.
However, if Slovak wine has a Tokaj word on its label, it means that the quality of this wine was approved in neighboring Hungary. This country has the right to approve the authenticity of all Tokaj wines and to provide the protection of the brand, which is the visit card of Hungary.
Competition or lawsuit?
Seven Slovak villages with wineries are located in the Tokaj region. Hungarians were buying almost all wine, produced in this part of the regions and were selling it under their own brand name. In 1989 Tokajske vino appeared on the Slovak market. This event led to longterm lawsuits between the bordering countries. It is to mention that the case is still actual and while the disputes are unsolved, Slovak Tokaj wines conquer other countries’ markets as they are cheaper than Hungarian Tokaj wines.
Important Note. It is to mention that the right to exclusive “Tokaj” brand is a matter of surviving in these competition conditions. Hungarians wineries made producers of Alsace wine “Tokaj Pinot Gris” to rename their brand to “Pinot Gris d’Alsace”. There is a similar problem of using the Tokaj brand in Crimea.
What is classic Tokaj wine?
The taste and the quality of the wine depend on many factors including the region, weather, number of sunny days during the year, maturing, and others. The process of winemaking and storage is also very important. Tokaj region is famous for its Furmint, Lipovina, and Muskat Zlty grape varieties. Those three grapes varieties are known worldwide.
What are their specifics?
Those wines are famous for their ability to increase the level of sugar with the help of Botrytis Cinerea. Local wineries know well the properties of this mold. They use the mold to produce the most tasteful wines for ages.
How to increase sugar concentration and create this authentic taste of Tokaj wines?
The special type of mold impacts the upper layer of grapes and this results in moisture evaporation, increase of wine aroma, and sweetness. Tokaj grape is the ideal “raw material” for raisins with exceptional taste. It is due to the morning moisture in the autumn.
The variety of wine cards of South Slovakia. Regional winery specifics
Tokaj wineries are located in two separate states. 90% of them are in the Northern part of Hungary (about 5500 hectares) while 10% are situated in Slovakia (about 900 hectares).
Tokaj region of Slovakia includes seven separate municipalities including:
- Malá Tŕňa.
- Veľká Tŕňa.
- Slovenské Nové Mesto.
This territory is called Zemplin. This is the Northern part of the Slovak Tokaj natural and geographical region. Frequent Southern winds favor the appearance of Botrytis Cinerea mold. The main grape variety in the region is Furmint. About half of the local winery is covered by those wineries.
- A small noble bunch.
- Cylindric form.
- Dense consistency.
Furmint can be easily distinguished from other wines by its acidity, lime, apples and pear aroma, original structure, and taste features.
Other wine varieties of the region
This is the second-largest grape variety in Tokaj region. It occupies about 30% of the territory. LIpovina has long and thin bunches and small grapes. The wine made of Lipovina has exotic taste and aroma.
This grape has a noticeable aroma and original taste. It is one of the rarest and oldest in the region. It occupies about 10-15% of the territory covered by the wineries.
This is one of the most interesting Hungarian white grapes varieties. It was received during a long period of experiments with Bouvier and Furmint wines. This new variety is known in Hungary since 1986. Slovak catalogs do not offer this wine officially.
Tokaj wines types by form of harvest
This wine is produced from unsorted grapes. The grapes are harvested as they are. This process takes place in Octover-November. The rest is harvested in the period of frost.
Bunches are bandaged to prevent moisture. Grapes dries faster and becomes sweeter. It is necessary to give it some time after the pressure for fermentation. Later the fermented wine is added to this juice. The compound is poured to barrels for further storage in the cellars.
Raisins are sorted manually. This is the basis for the future wine. It may have a different level of sweetness depending on the volume of dried grapes, which is selected to be mixed with the ready wine.
Aszu is the wine of one grapes variety but grapes are collected in several stages. The first harvest takes place in Autumn or the end of the summer. This is the basis for the wine. The second period takes place in November when grapes are dried by the sun and winds. This harvest is milled and added to the barrel with the ready wine. It adds a taste of raisins for two days. Later Aszu is sent for long time storage.
This is a special wine, the honesty, and a clear example of the proficiency of local wineries. Tokaj Eszencia is made by smooth fermentation. Raisins like grapes are the basis for this drink. The wine is produced from the juice coming out of “raw material”. The volume of this juice is limited as it is produced from raisins without adding wine. There is much sugar inside, which turns this drink into a dense sugar mash.
Local wineries’ secrets. Special technology
The sweet and brave taste of the Tokaji wine is defined by the location of wineries, the ingredients, and the technological processes. Tokaji masters use acidity methods in producing wines. Other Slovak wines do not follow this technology.
What is the purpose of using this technology?
Grapes and wine processing with oxide allow adding bread aroma to the wine. This is a typical sign of this type of wine.
J&J Ostrozovic produces six types of original Tokaji wines using the acidity process. The high-quality grapes are used to produce these wines. Grey Botrytis Cinerea mold destroys the coverage of grapes. Grapes lose moisture and get sweetness and a special aroma. This is a unique technology, which is applied in this region only. This technology allows local wineries to use the Tokaji brand name.
What is the main feature of the sweet and dry Tokaji Szamorodni wines?
The name “Szamorodni” indicates on the technology of the wine production without calculating the volume of raisins in the wine. Bunches with a low number of dried grapes are taken primarily. This wine should be stored for two or more years. The wine should be stored at least for one year in a wooden barrel in a tuff cellar.
Grapes harvest features to produce Tokaji Eszencia
Workers used special Tokaji baskets to harvest Furmint, Lipovina, and Muskat Zlty previously. The so-called “putni” was a symbol of Slovak quality. This basket could contain 25-30 kilograms. Those baskets are not used anymore. They are substituted by modern buckets.
All harvested grapes go then to a container and moved to the refinery. Juice from that grapes is used for the production of Tokaji Eszentia. This unique “raw material” is used to produce a very expensive wine. Raisins’ maturity lasts about a day and a half. Later all juice is pressed out from this product. Finally, future wine goes through fermentation and storage in a cellar.
Tokaji wine can be sold after three years of storage (or two years storage in wooden barrels) in a special climate of cellars:
- Juice production is conducted with low pressure as juice should not contain extra substances.
- Pneumo press is used to receive juice.
- Fermentation process is slow requiring the same temperature.
All those technologies contribute to preserving local features of Tokaji wine.
Tokaji wines and storage process
Tokaji wine should be stored in a tuff cellar in a barrel made of oak. The wine receives a typical aroma there. Tokaji wine cellars are as famous as the local wine. This is a kingdom of Cladosporium Cellar, a mold absorbing wine evaporations.
Note. The temperature in the cellar varies from 10 to 12 degrees. As for the humidity, it should be more than 90%.
You can visit wine cellars and taste local wines. This type of tourism is one of the most interesting for active leisure in Slovakia.