Mount Tokaj is a fairy tale spot. In the fall, vineyards of golden grape vines rise above the mist. From the summit, you can see as far as Slovakia and Ukraine. If there is a jewel in this crown, Tokaj really sparkles on its southern slopes. The Royal Imperial Estate of Tokaj-Hétszolo has owned the most fertile land and the best vines there since 1502. This is a noble estate with a reputation for making some of the world’s great wines. Tokaj has been protected since 1772 as the world’s first Appellation of Origin, awarded 83 years before Bordeaux’s first classification system. Under the AOC, the Estate’s vineyards were classified as Tokaj Premier Grand Cru.
The superior qualities of Hétszolo can be explained in part by the soil here: volcanic rock covered by a thick layer of mineral-rich loess. The south-facing slopes benefit from optimum levels of sunlight and long growing days, while the parcels near the Rivers Tisza and Bodrog enjoy the perfect microclimate for noble rot. In addition to botrytized Tokaji Aszú, dry and late-harvest wines are produced. The estate has been harvested by hand for 500 years, and sources its oak barrels from artisans in Hungary’s Zemplén Mountains.
From the beginning, Hétszolo has practiced organic viticulture. Herbicides, insecticides, and artificial fertilizers have never been used. While grapes were not tended on the slopes of Hétszolo between 1950 and 1990 (this was the Soviet era, not exactly a period encouraging sustainable viticulture), when the land was replanted in 1991, building healthy soil was critical. Organic certification was awarded in 2009, and the first Certified Organic wine was produced in 2014.