Barreled brews last post from Adam Arlen and Rachael Liggett-Draper. Thanks you two!
This week: Top vineyards of Tokaj.
Can you go deeper than the Great First Growths? What makes each of them special?
The top sites in Tokaj are mostly south-facing and characterized by their varying proportions of clay and loess soils. Since fostering the best conditions for botrytis is the key, clay is slightly preferred, especially when compacted enough to enhance water retention. Similar to Burgundy, the vineyards located in the mid-slope area were historically the most desirable. High quantity of large rock covering is also favorable for its heat retention.
The classification initiated by the Price Rákóczi in 1700 presumably graded vineyards for their ability to reliably produce aszú grapes, as the desirability of botrytis had been entrenched there for about 150 years. Subsequent classifications also occurred in 1798 and 1867. This is widely considered to be the first vineyard classification in Europe. Three different classes were created: Great First Growth, First Growth, and Second Growth.
Two vineyards were graded as Great First Growths: Szarvas and Mézesmáj (aka Mezes Maly), both located in the commune of Tarcal. Szarvas was an imperial holding originally of the Rákóczis, later confiscated by the Hapsburg kings, and eventually taken over by the state. It was never privatized after the fall of Communism, and is currently owned by the Crown Estates Winery, formerly the state-run wine operation. Szarvas was frequently the source for any Eszencia produced during the Communist era. Mézesmáj is currently owned by Royal Tokaji, Hugh Johnson, and the Gróf Degenfeld Winery. Historically it was also an Imperial vineyard.
Different vineyards were classified as First Growths throughout the various classifications. Notable vineyards include Szent-Tamás, Disznókõ, Oremus, Király-hegy, Cserfás, Becsek, Ciróka, Szerelmi, Gyarpáros, and Hétszõlõ.
For further information, I highly recommend Miles Lambert-Gócs's amazing tome Tokaji Wine: Fame, Fate, Tradition. It is an amazing reference to which all wine educational writings should aspire.