SUNDAY, 8.4.13

Sunday, which is always our day off in Sarospatak, provided me the opportunity to go out and explore the region. There were a couple of excursions offered to us through the Crescendo Summer Institute (i.e. the program that ‘Don Giovanni’ came to fruition under). In the end, I decided to go on a wine tasting and explore to Tokaj region, where Sarospatak is located.

Tokaj is knowns for a few major products, as I’ve mentioned before. However, the main export Tokaj is known for would be wine. We traveled to Disznókő, a winery that is over 280 years old. The name, loosely translated, means Boar’s Head (in relation to the rock at the top of the winery). In 2002, the winery became part of the World Heritage Site of Tokaj.

The drive there gave me a much better understanding of the scale of the Zempleni Mountains, and the agricultural significance of the Tokaj region. For the blog, I’ve also been reading Round About the Carpathians, by Andrew Crosse. Interestingly enough, the book still reflects some of the things that I observed in rural Hungary (it was written in 1878). On the soil, Crosse says it is “capable of growing any number of crops in succession without dressing.” From a purely observational standpoint, this is certainly indicative of what I observed on my way over.


(Sunflowers and wheat)


We had a four-course meal when we arrived at Disznókő, with a variety of traditional Hungarian food. Of the food, I would say that rather than ‘heavy’ or ‘light,’ it is ‘substantial.’ My Hungarian counterparts at the festival chose the word, and I would agree. A great deal of it is pork, fried cabbage patties, fish, and fried cheese (so much cabbage and fried cheese. So much). Goose/Duck liver pâté is also something they’re known for, shown here:



The Wine itself is very interesting; both the flavor, and the care that goes into making it. Tokaj has very specific laws that protect the grapes for the wine, and the making of the wine itself. There are 7 types of grapes used, of which the two most common are furmint and hárslevelű  (pronounced ‘Hash-eh-lev-eh-leiu’). These grapes make up the dry wines for the region, taken from full grapes.

Sweet wine is what Tokaj is really known for though, and that is a much more complicated process.  It is called Aszú (pronounced ‘oso’) and it is based on a point system called Puttonyos (‘poon-tai-yosh’). The puttonyos system ranges from 1 to 6, 1 being a little sweet, and 6 being very sweet (they take their sweet pretty seriously). They mix withered grapes with the dry wine in barrels in order to make this type of wine. I’ve actually attached a video below from our tour guide that explains what harvesting grapes in Tokaj is like:

The last type of wine is called Essencia. It is the actually syrup that comes of the withered grapes as they make Aszú. I didn’t get to try any, the reason being that it costs 500 euro ($666.80) for half a liter (16.907 ounces).

Overall, it was a great experience. I acquired an understanding for the cultural significance of Tokaj, Hungary. Wine is a big deal, culturally, socially, etc. Not only that, but on returning to Budapest I realized how much the wine actually goes for outside of Tokaj (let’s just say the price change was significant). So Egészségedre to all my friends out there! (‘egg-eh-sheh-geh-dreh’ meaning “to your health”). If you have any more questions about Tokaj wine, feel free to comment and ask me!