Tokaj-Hegyalja is a famous wine-district of Hungary acknowledged all over the world. Even the first Magyar settlers of Hungary found grape-vines in this region, though the first authentic reference to vine-growing was found in the deed of foundation of the Turóczi provostship of 1251.
What makes the wines of the region surrounded by the Sátor-hill of Abaújszántó, the Kopasz-hill of Tokaj and the Sátor-hill of Sátoraljaújhely excellent? The answer is extremely complex. The volcanic soil, the area protected by the chain of the Carpathian Mountains, the southern exposure, the autumn weather promoting the grape to turn into aszu (raisin), the closeness of the Bodrog and Tisza rivers, the Furmint, Hárslevelű (Linden-Leaf), Yellow Muscatel and Oremus grapes, the late vintage at the end of October, the special treatment of the wines, the Gönc and Szerednye barrels as well as the cellars of Hegyalja covered with noble mould, all play an important role in this.
The special mode of preparing the dry and the sweet Szamorodni, the 3-6-butt Aszu as well as the Aszu essence and the nectar has been applied by the wine-growers of Hegyalja for many generations. According to the legend of the Tokay Aszu, at Easter 1630 Máté Szepsi Laczkó offered the wine prepared from the grape of the Oremus strip to Zsuzsanna Lorántffy. Though we can find references to the Aszu wine even from earlier times, the origin of the Tokay Aszu is traditionally dated in the year 1630.
The history of Tokaj-hegyalja has always been closely interwoven with the wine. Many Hungarian nobles (the Báthory's, the Bethlen's, the Rákóczi's and the Thököly's) had their own cellars in Hegyalja. The most famous among them, the Rákóczi-cellars of Tokaj and Sárospatak still receive visitors. The Tokay wine was well-known and very popular as early as the 12th century. King Louis XIV. (the Sun King), Cromwell, Tsar Alexander the Great and Tsarina Catherine were all lovers of the Tokay wines. (The Russians even stationed a small garrison in the surroundings of Tokay to ensure continuous supply.) The curative power of the wines of Hegyalja was acknowledged also by the doctors of pope Pius I.: they ordered him to drink Tokay wines regularly to protect his health.
After several decades of stagnation following the second world war, the Hegyalja wine-district began to awake at the beginning of the nineties. In the course of privatisation, several domestic and foreign companies tried to get a foothold in the Mecca of sweet wine production. As a result of French, Japanese, German, Spanish, British and American capital inflow, several imposing investments have been realised, all now playing an important role in the region. On the other hand, domestically owned small and medium-sized wine cellars have not been pushed into the background either.