Tokaj Wine Region Historic Cultural Landscape
Inscribed on the World Heritage List: 2002
The special climatic and environmental conditions of the Tokaj Region, also shaped by human activity exploiting these, gave way to a unique tradition of viticulture and wine-making (oenology). The Tokaj Wine Region Historic Landscape is situated in North-East Hungary, at the foot of Zemplén Mountain Range, along the River Bodrog, and at the confluence of the rivers Bodrog and Tisza.
The volcanic slopes and wetlands create a special microclimate that favours the apparition of the “noble rote” (Botrytis cinerea). The landscape is characterised by a rich variety of building structures (terraces, supporting walls, dry-built stone fences, water cisterns, etc.) The diverse socio-economic, cultural, ethnic and religious background of the population of Hegyalja (Tokaj Region), and last, but not least, the outstanding fame of Tokaji Aszú wine have contributed to the establishment of the rich and varied cultural heritage of the region.
The World Heritage site covers the administrative area of 27 settlements, with a total surface of around 88,124 hectares. Viticulture and wine-making probably date back to the Hungarian Conquest of the Carpathian Basin (896), and records prove the propagation of viticulture starting from the second half of the 12th century, with the arrival of Walloon settlers. Since the year 1561, the history of the region testifies to the fact that viticulture flourished in the triangle enclosed by the three “Tent Mountains” those of Tokaj, Abaújszántó and Sátoraljaújhely.
The landscape has developed in symbiotic interaction with the thousand-year-old wine culture. The wine region has been under protection since the year 1737, when a royal decree proclaimed the area as a closed wine region, the first of its kind in the world. Historic settlements have retained their settlement structure and interaction with each other and the landscape itself. Human activities concentrated mainly around grape cultivation, the making and selling of wine, still providing the basis for the renaissance of wineries of the region by using moderate tools of contemporary architecture. The leaf imprint of the indigenous plant species regarded as the common ancestor of all modern vine species, the ancient vine from the Miocene era (Vitis Tokaiensis) was found in the area.
The ancient vine species Vitis Sylvestris is still part of the wild flora of Tokaj-Hegyalja. In terms of both geological history and geography, the area has unique endowments. Crumbly volcanic and post-volcanic rocks have resulted in the formation of a great variety of soil types, having an impact on the yield capacity and mineral content of soils and their ability to absorb, store and reflect heat. Favourably situated slopes, high irradiation, the vicinity of the rivers Bodrog and Tisza, as well as a long autumn provide highly favourable climatic conditions for the Botrytis cinera mould fungi that cause the shrivelling of grapes (creation of “Aszú” grapes). The selection of shrivelled grapes from the clusters of grapes has been an established practice in Hegyalja since the early 1600s. Thanks to the unique micro-climate, cellar walls are colonised by a special cellar mould called Gladosporium cellare, which has a benigne influence on the maturation of wines. Sessile oak growing in the higher ranges of nearby mountains provides an excellent raw material for wine barrels, which is a decisive factor for the maturing process, aroma and colour of the wine.
World Heritage Management Body: Research Institute for Viticulture and Oenology, Tokaj (RIVOT)
Site manager: Zoltán Bihari, director
Address: Könyves Kálmán utca 54. 3915 Tarcal Hungary
Telephone: +36 47 380 148