So is the cute little town in north-eastern Hungary Tokaj or Tokay?
Well, that depends....
And is that liquid gold wine they make in Hungary Tokaji or Tokaj or Tokay?
How you spell the name of the town or that sweet white wine depends on whether you're spelling in English or Hungarian.
Tokaj or Tokaji is how you'll see the wine in Hungary, and the wine region is Tokaj-Hegyalja.
We make a little wine ourselves, and we always like to explore beyond the big cities…. makes travel more fun don't you think?
We wanted to see the region and taste the wines for ourselves, so we rented a car in Budapest, and drove to the little town of Tokaj.
It's a small town, but it is on tourist maps because of the wine.
We do have to warn you that even
though it is cute, the main reason to visit is to taste and learn about
They have been making wine in this region for a thousand years. The whole area is designated as a UNESCO World Heritage Site.
The quality of the wines has had its ups and downs through the centuries, but it is definitely on the rise now.
The most prestigious and famous wine is the Tokaj Aszu... and it's been famous for a long time.
We've heard that King Louis XIV of France liked it so much that he called it "The King of wines and wine of Kings."
(Though we've also heard that Tokaj shares this label with Barolo in Italy... good company to be in!)
The famous brand
of Royal Tokaji is made in a neighboring little town of Mad. We drove
straight to Mad hoping for a tour, but alas, the winery was closed on
the day of our visit.
We stayed in Tokay where there is more going on.
Since the drinking and driving laws are very strict...
...as in zero tolerance...
...it was more
convenient to have a hotel in Tokaj and walk around to taste.
We didn't know much about Tokaji wines before we went except that we liked it.
One thing that surprised us was that besides the sweet Tokay Aszu, there were other types of Tokay wines.
The way we understand it, Szamorodni is made with the same grapes as the Tokay Aszu... but it is not quite as sweet.
There are also dry white wines made with the Furmint and Harslevelu grapes as separate varietals.Learning about all of them was fun....
I mean you had to walk around and talk to
people and try the wine. What could be more fun.
There are several commercial cellars where you can taste Tokaji.
In these you can compare the Tokaj Aszu wines of different age and sweetness...
They're scored with a kind of star system...
...from three puttonyos to six for the best.
(What happened to one and two? We never discovered that.)
You probably can't try the top level known as
Eszencia which is rated above six puttonyos because of its amazing
sweetness and small, small production.
Back down to earth.... in fact under it...
It also seems like everyone has a cave behind their house, and many of those are open for a taste too.
There will be a little sign at the front door... just ring the bell and someone will come and welcome you into their cellar.
You'll pay a small fee for the tasting, and you can buy some if you like.
Yes... Well, you taste in glass, but...
Locals bring plastic bottles to fill!
If you want to buy a bottle, the owner can probably provide a plastic bottle for you too...
We did! (It was the Szamorodni.)
Some proprietors speak English... however, many don't, so be prepared for using a lot of sign language...
But don't be shy...
One language you will have in common is the wine... Tokaj or tokay...
If you ask to
taste, they'll be glad to serve you. Just smile a lot and let them know how good it is.
There are several hotels and B&Bs to choose from and plenty of restaurants.
There is even a "castle hotel" just a few miles from the little town. They'll shuttle you to town so you don't have to drive.
You can get to Tokaj by train or drive as we did.
It was about a 4 hour drive from Budapest... freeway
much of the way and good roads for the rest.
Whether you want to call it Tokaj or Tokay... if you love wine, you should plan a visit.