About: The first Tokaji Asz? (toh-KAY ah-SOO) wine was created in the 1600s, perhaps by accident – a harvest delayed by threat of enemy invasion. In 1700, Tokaj became the first European region to have its vineyards classified, its uniquely varied terroirs and climates rated Primae Classis, Secundae Classis, Tertius Classis (“1st Growth, 2nd Growth, 3rd Growth”) by Prince Rakoczi of Transylvania. This classification system is still used in Hungary today. Louis XIV of France (1638 – 1715) declared Tokaji “the wine of Kings and the King of wines”, while in the 18th century, Catherine the Great stationed soldiers in Tokaj to protect her vineyards.
Quality production ended with World Wars I and II and the Communist takeover of Hungarian winemaking. Asz? grapes were used for mass production in factories, with vineyard distinctions lost in giant tanks. Tokaji’s renaissance began after the collapse of communism with the Royal Tokaji Wine Company (RTWC) in 1989, inspired by well-known wine author, Hugh Johnson, and others. RTWC’s founders started the winery in an effort to preserve what they considered a dying art. “I couldn’t resist bringing back to life a wine that had been so renowned centuries ago,” says Johnson.