Wine Wednesdays – A Day in Tokaj

One of the highlights of our time in Hungary was a day trip to Tokaj.  We debated whether to embark on the 5 hour round trip train ride when we had such limited time in the country but I’m so glad we decided to do it.  Our amazing experience had everything to do with our guide, Greg, from Tokaj Today.

We took the 7:30am train from Budapest and settled in for the 2.5 hour ride.  Greg picked us up and off we went to our first winery, Barta.  Labeled as a “mid-sized hobbyist” the Barta family bought and replanted one of the oldest and most prestigious vineyard sites in the region, the “Old King” vineyard, in 2004.  The site had been long abandoned and overtaken by the surrounding forest as no one wanted to put in the time and effort of cultivating by hand due to the steep terraces (quantity over quality was the name of the game throughout the communist era).

After a quick tour of the historic winery building we settled in to the tasting room by a roaring fire where Greg walked us through their offering.  We tasted 10 wines ranging from dry to sweet.  The wines were mostly made from the Furmint grape, a high acid grape that beautifully shows off the terroir of Tokaj (read about my first experience with Furmint here).  Depending on the style it can range from fresh and light to honey’d with notes of apricot and fresh melon.  We also tasted the sweet wine Szamorodni which must be made from 1 of Tokaj’s 6 authorized grapes, it can be made either sweet or dry in style.         

Greg pulled out a handful of those famous botrytised grapes, full of “Noble Rot” for us to taste!  Like the sweetest raisin you’ve ever had.

Next up, the wonderful world of István Szepsy, one of the more world-renowned Tokaj producers.  István rarely does tastings himself anymore, but we were lucky enough to actually meet him as he was dropping off some wine at Barta!

His daughter Kinga has created a restaurant and tour and tasting option that offers the full “world of Szepsy”.  Greg instructed us to get in to our own Gator tractor and follow him out to the vineyards.  We stopped at 3 different vineyard sites and tasted the wine from that site, such an incredible experience!   

We tasted two dry wines (one younger, 2015 and one older, 2009) and one sweet to really get a sense of the range of these wines.

It was quite a thrill rolling through the hills of the vineyards!  All that tasting certainly worked up an appetite, we were ravished once we returned to Percze.  The meal was one of the best during our time in Hungary all paired with more delicious wines from Szepsy.
Duck leg with beet puree and mint sauce and panko crusted cabbage rolls! 

All paired with more delicious Furmint. It’s amazing how these producers can take the same grape and create so many different wines with nuances you can taste!

Our last stop was a taste of “Young Tokaj” with winemaker Péter Rôbert, the owner of Ábrahám, a “garage winery” established in 2006.  Péter and his wife are former philosophy students who decided to return home and make wine from the family vineyards.  
We had a quick tour of the barrel room before settling in to the cozy tasting room.  
Rôbert makes sometimes 20 different wines in one year from one lot of Furmint, playing with fermentation and aging style to create the different bottlings.  The labels are all different as well offering a fun update to traditional wines of the region.

Greg raced us back to the train station and we settled in for a much needed cat nap!  We ended the day with a delicious dinner at the oldest ruin bar in Budapest, Mazel Tov.

Tokaj is certainly one of the lesser known and experienced wine regions of the world but I would highly recommend moving it up on your destination bucket-list!

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1 Comment

  1. Ellitaria February 1, 2018 at 3:17 am

    It brings such good memories!!! We had almost the same tour of Tokaj and met these beautiful people!