Home to the legendary aszú sweet wines, Tokaj is the oldest classified wine region in Europe. The traditional viticulture here dates back to Roman times (300 AD), and most of the area’s wine cellars were built between the mid-1500s and the late 17th century. Set at the confluence of two mysterious, slow-moving rivers, the Tisza and the Bodrog, this Unesco World Heritage site of Hungary in the foothills of the Carpathians is, at the same time, one of the smallest wine regions in the world. Nestled among some 400 volcanoes, the unique micro-climate of this moist and moldy area is a haven for fungus: both the black mold, Cladosporium cellare, which thrives in its wine cellars, feeds on the alcohol fumes evaporating from the wine barrels, and dresses the bottles and oak barrels in what looks like black fur, as well as Botrytis cinerea, the so-called “noble rot” that shrivels grapes in the vineyard, are one of the secrets to Tokaj. This magical symbiosis produces a stunningly distinctive and delicious flavor. These vivifying wines are full of natural anti-oxidants and have long been used as medicine. Praised by emperors, popes, writers and composers throughout history, King Louis XIV of France finally proclaimed the aszú as the “wine of kings, king of wines” which has for centuries been the world’s most sought-after and most expensive wine.

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