There are three things Hungary is famous for: wine, goulash and paprika. Since we like at least two of them we had to go there. Because we entered the country in the northeast from Skovakia, our first stop was the famous white wine region Tokaj. Our choice for a place to stay fell onto the namesake village of Tokaj (pronounced Tok – eye).
There are two campsites in this village: Tiszapart camping is part of the outdoor baths at the river Tiaza and Hegyalia camping is on the other side of the main road. We stayed on the second site since it had proper showers, toilets and nice shady spots for campers. It cost 3000 Forint (roughly 310 Forint are 1€; 346HUF are 1£) for the three of us and Trevor. The other very handy aspect is that we only had to walk across the bridge to get into the middle of the village (very handy for winetasting!). On the downside some ice hockey team had gathered there for partying three evenings in a row. We did consider wild camping but since the weather was hot and showery and shady camping spots were on offer highly we decided to stay. Strategic parking and keeping the toilet block between the party and us ensured bearable noise levels.
After setting up camp we walked into the old part of the center with the majority of shops, restaurants and wine bars. We were lucky to get a map and some info from the nice lady in the tourist office even though it was already officially closed. For our first Hungarian meal we went to the restaurant Bacchus at the main square opposite the church. The food was good and very reasonably priced. We also had a first taste of the local wines.
We had one day set aside for wine sampling so the next day we got right into it. One of the vineyards recommended to us was Himesudvar. It is a small family business located in an old converted royal hunting lodge up a small side street. The tasting offer consists of six wines (30ml each) covering the whole range from dry to sweet for 1500 Forint per person. The woman running it was very nice and gave us information leaflets about the types of wine, the production and the region and explained the speciality of the wines as we tasted them. We started off with a very dry Furmint (0g sugar per liter) and finished with a 2013 aszu at 161g/l. The aszu is what everybody knows as ‘the’ Tokaj wine. It is made only from ‘noble rotten’ grapes (grapes affected by a grey fungus called botritis cinerea). They are manually separated from the other grapes and production of this wine is different from normal wine.
Since the fungus requires long warm autumns and rain at certain times, the volume achieved varies greatly between years. There is even an essence, where aszu grapes are pressed purely by their own weight over a long period of time. The resulting liquid can contain up to 600g of sugar per liter!
We enjoyed our tasting experience very much and highly recommend this vinyard! The only other tasting offer we saw was for 3x50ml of wine and 100g of homemade cheese for the same price. There was no aszu or other higher grade wines included though.
After our morning tasting we went to a street on the edge of the village which had lots of cellars. We found five places open and went to four of them, trying different wines. Even though Matthias is not normally a white wine drinker, he found some wines he really enjoyed. Ted got charmed by a lovely lady but didn’t get any wine.
The Tokaji region was declared a protected region in 1757 by royal decree and there are strict laws governing types of grapes and wine production in the 29 villages of the area. This has lead to a distinct wine character. The whole region is lovely and not overrun by tourists so the villages still have their charm. You can spend a long time going to different vinyards and sample delicious white wines but we think 2-3 days is enough. We recommend visiting the region if you like wine and are visiting Slovakia or Hungary anyway.