is the most well-known region of Hungary. Its whole name is Tokaj-Hegyalja and it became
famous for its vineyards and wine cellars worldwide. The historical wine district spreads
from the Sátor Hills of Abaújszántó to the Sátor Hills of Sátoraljaújhely. As the
Latin says, "Incipit in Sátor desinit in Sátor". The region was usually closed
throughout the centuries, chiefly to preserve the local wine's quality. Only a handful of
communities, 10, later 21 but not more than 32, had the privilege of belonging to the wine
Even the Hungarians' first historian, Anonymus, wrote about the region, its vineyards,
wine and natural beauty in his Gesta Hungarorum. Some say he could have descended from
this region himself for he could name every hill, park or creek.
In the mid-16th century Tokaj-Hegyalja became the main vineyard of the Turkish occupied
Syrmia. Its golden age was during the 17th and 18th centuries when a number of market
towns was established in the region: i.e. Szerencs, Tállya, Mád, Tarcal, Tokaj,
Abaújszántó, Erdobénye, Tolcsva, Bodrogkeresztúr, Sárospatak and Sátoraljaújhely.
In the Middle Ages a valuable addition to the dominant Hungarian population was the
Wallons (Italians). "Italian" translates to "olasz" in Hungarian and a
few communities retained this in their name: i.e. Olaszliszka, Bodrogolaszi, and Tállya.
From the 17th century this area became a melting pot of different nations. Proof of
Ukrainian, Slovakian and Polish presence is obvious as their descendants still live in the
region; in addition, documentation and historical objects have also been found from
German, Greek and Jewish merchants. Traces of all these cultures still abound in the Greek
Orthodox church, in old buildings and living quarters, in Jewish cemeteries, in the folk
customs and in the local ethnic vocabulary.
Tokaj-Hegyalja has inherited a rich cultural and historical background. This region has
nourished Hungarian Reformation, Protestant Schooling and Hungarian Literature. Famous
pastors and preachers were born and raised in Hegyalja county.
Szkhárosi Horvát András in Tállya was the most expressive reformist composer,
Batizi András was the preacher of Tokaj, Kálmáncsehi Sánta Márton argued his points
on the differences of religions and Dévai Bíró Mátyás, the Hungarian
"Luther", spread the teaching of the new religion in Sátoraljaújhely. Bencédi
Székely István was a School Master in Abaújszántó and in Liszka, Geleji Katona
István studied in Abaújszántó, Sátoraljaújhely and in Sárospatak. The most
impressive achievement of Hungarian Literature was the translation of the Holy Bible which
was completed in Abaúj-Zemplén County by Károlyi Gáspár.
The freedom fights of the principality of Transylvania and the Hungarian efforts
against Habsburg oppression (by Bocskai, Thököly and the Rákóczi klan) often brushed
Hegyalja and sometimes even began there. The region provided economical support and large
numbers of troops were recruited from there. The volunteers of these market towns played
an important role in the 1848/49 Hungarian uprising against the Habsburgs. Rákóczi
Ferenc II. and Kossuth Lajos were born in this county as well.
Above all, the Hegyalja is famous for its wine. "Vinum regum rex vinorum" -
the wine of kings and king of wines. The particular climate, volcanic soil, special
cellars and centuries old experience together produce the spectacular wine, the Furmint,
the Lindenleaf, the Muscat, the Szamorodni and the Aszu. "Let the land that grew it
be blessed, and the Lady who sent it, and let me be blessed that I was able to taste
it" - Pope XIV. Benedict praised the Tokaj wine and the Habsburg Queen Maria Terezia
the donor in such manner.