For many people when Tokaj is mentioned images of sweet luscious dessert wines from Hungary are conjured. For those in the know they might think of the grape variety Furmint, or the puttonyos level.
Most certainly don’t think about dry wines, or the Lipovina grape variety, and especially not wines that come from Slovakia.
But it’s true, as I found out last month. And a rather controversial topic too.
Visiting the Tomas Macik winery on a beautiful warm afternoon, we soon had our opinions of what Tokaj is turned on their head.
It turns out that certain areas in southern Slovakia (which border the Hungarian Tokaj region) are allowed to use the name Tokaj, so long as they conform to the Hungarian quality laws.
Malá Tŕňa, where the Macik winery is based, is one of these places. We headed down to the damp, mould encrusted cellar – a key to allowing the wines to develop in the slow, oxidative manner which makes Tokaj taste so unique. Here, we settled down, huddled under some blankets and began to taste.
The first wines we tasted were actually dry examples of Tokaji. We tried each grape variety separately, which really allowed the each variety to express its own character.
Along with the main grape of Furmint, they also often use Muscat and Lipovina too. When the three are blended together they make great combination, whether they are used to make the drier styles of Tokaj or the really sweet ones.
Slovak Tokaj has not got the best reputation though. The Hungarians have long slandered their wines, saying that even if made according to the same regulations as Hungary, the wines simply aren’t as good quality.
I can happily say that after tasting them, they are wonderful. In fact, we enjoyed them so much that we left with a haul of several bottles, a testament to their greatness.
Afterwards we enjoyed the wines with a real feast of local foods – duck legs, red cabbage, knedlik and stuffed cabbage leaves. The drier styles were a great match for these dishes.
Unfortunately, they’re pretty tricky to get your hands on out of Slovakia, so you better start planning a trip to Eastern Slovakia sharpish!