There are only five localities in the world where grapes can be grown to produce naturally sweet wine. One of them is the Tokaj region in eastern Slovakia. In the middle of the wonderful scenery of vineyards, tree rows, and fields of the Tokaj wine route, you will lose track of time.
Follow the footsteps of the almost honey-flavored wine that Voltaire, Cromwell, and Napoleon liked as well. The unique properties of the wine formed thanks to the volcanic subsoil and the specific microclimate of the Tokaj vineyards. The long sunny autumns there with morning mists enable the formation of cibéba, which are grape berries attacked by a noble mold, which starts increased sugar production in them. Cibeba grapes are collected by hand in wooden container called putňa. Three to six of them are then put into one oak barrel (the more putňas in the barrel, the sweeter the wine is). They are then poured with sweet cider, pressed, and left to mature for several years in tuff cellars.
Photo: Košice Region TourismFor the king of wines to the royal premises
The traditional production of natural Tokaj wines will show to you in any of the seven villages of the Slovak part of the famous wine-growing region, which Slovakia shares with neighboring Hungary. For local inhabitants, viniculture is not only a hobby but also a life mission passed down from generation to generation. This is confirmed by dozens of family wineries scattered throughout the region, which invite you to a tasting. If you want to enjoy wine in style, the most valuable bottles of which often fetch five figures in euros, head to the Chateau GRAND BARI wine complex in the village of Veľká Bara. The terraced modern building, embedded in the sloping terrain, promises a unique experience. You will stay here in a luxurious apartment, in the restaurant you will be served catfish perkelt with butter gnocchi or halásle, richly seasoned fish soup, and in the lookout tower with the bell, you will have a view of the picturesque vineyards. Descend into the underground labyrinth of tuff cellars for a tasting. They once served as hiding places from Mongol raiders, today they stand out as ideal conditions for the maturation of the beneficial juice. Don't be afraid of the black mold that grows on the walls! As they will gladly explain to you here, this mold also lives in symbiosis with Tokaj wine and has a significant share in its high quality.
Fabulous accommodation and gourmet delights await you in the nearby village of Borša. Enter the restored 16th-century Renaissance mansion and through an action game in virtual reality hear the story of the leader of the last anti-Habsburg uprising, who was born here, Adventurous experiences will be deliciously complemented by lunch at the Reštaurácia u kňažnej (Restaurant of the noblewoman). Among the regional specialties, we especially recommend the grilled rabbit liver with Tokaj quince sauce and caramelized grapes - of course, in combination with a delicious sip of the bright amber drink. By the way, do you know why Tokaj wine has that color? It is thanks to the traditional oxidative method of production, based on the constant access of air, which also contributed to its typical bread wine taste.
Experiences with design of an oak barrel
With a bit of exaggeration, we could say that in Tokaj you can not only enjoy wine like Dionysus but also live like Diogenes. If you want an original experience, try glamping in a barrel. Stylish wooden cabins with an unusual style (and also an apartment house with a sauna) can be found, for example, in the village of Malá Tŕňa, right in the area of an elite winery. It is the wines from Tokaj Macík Winery that represent Slovakia in the famous Cité du vin park in Bordeaux, France. The nearby lookout tower also has the shape of a barrel. Thanks to the lighting, this 12 m high steel beauty with massive wooden joists will easily entice you to stargaze at night.
Photo: Košice Region Tourism
Penzión Zlatá Putňa (the guest-house) in the village of Viničky also offers experiential accommodation in Sudový domček (Barrel House). However, your senses will also be captivated by the restaurant, whose menu respect the Slovak-Hungarian culinary tradition. How about trying goose pate with orange-grape jam or groats risotto with forest mushrooms and sheep cheese? If you want to move, hiking trails will reliably lead you to the horseshoe-shaped dead arm of the Bodrog River, where you can enjoy boating and fishing on pleasant sunny days. Or get on an electric bike and head along the easy Dolnozemplínska Cycle Route to Čerhov, where the House of Traditions will introduce you the Tokaj farming life, including a demonstration of traditional weaving. Be sure to stop in the village of Veľká Tŕňa on the way. There are up to 33 portals, each of which leads you into an intertwined network of underground cellars approximately 2.5 km long. Tasting the wines in the mysterious atmosphere of hundreds of oak barrels, illuminated only by the flickering flame of a candle, has an extraordinary charm.
Photo: Košice Region Tourism