Vineyard areas: Tokaj Hill and the Mád Basin
The dominant soil type of Tokaj Hill vineyards is loess – thus, wines from Tokaj Hill are sometimes called ‘loess wines’.
Loess is a sedimentary deposit consisting mostly of quartz particles. Yellowish in color and of varied mineral content, it’s prone to crumble and drains exceptionally well. Wines from Tokaj Hill’s loess sites are characterized by a light, fresh acidity and fruity aromas. This is not to say that these wines are not mineral in nature; rather, they develop and age easier (and faster) than their mineral-driven Mád counterparts. While Tokaj Hill wines of the past trended toward lighter, less complex structures, a recent upswing in their popularity has given way to very elegant and complex wines. Developments these past few years, especially near the towns of Tarcal and Tokaj, have proven that certain winemaking styles can actually benefit from this type of dry soil. Furmint played a key role in this process since dry Furmint varietals allow for easy comparison of differences and individual characteristics between various soil types.
The boom in the popularity of Tokaj Hill loess wines was helped by the rediscovery of such historically renowned sites as Szil-völgy, Hétszőlő, Nagyszőlő, Szarvas, Mézes-mály, Zafir and Terézia Vineyards. Szil-vögy has, over the past few years, become the area’s most dynamically progressing winemaking areas.
Mád Basin wines have historically been among the region’s very best. One reason for this is the rich diversity of the volcanic subsoil – and conditions have not changed one bit over the years. Mád wines are typically very mineral in nature, even acidity-driven. They typically require longer aging than the loess wines. Based on winemaking tradition experience, it’s safe to say that Furmint is the cultivar best suited to display the diversity of the region’s various subsoils.
As noted earlier, Mád Basin boasts highly renowned traditional vineyard sites, nearly all of which produce benchmark wines on an annual basis. Some of these exceptional wines deserve additional distinction, having developed semi-cult status within wine expert circles over the past fifteen years. In particular, wines from Úrágya, Szent-Tamás, and Betsek vineyards have achieved much prestigious acclaim. Conversely, some historically highly regarded vineyards, abandoned during the country’s Communist rule, are just now being brought back to cultivation with lots of hard work and effort. One definitely worthy of mention is the upper part of Király Vineyard, one of the most spectacular sites in Mád Basin, and a symbol of Tokaj’s revival and resilience.