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Tokaj Wine Region Historic Cultural Landscape

Tokaj Wine Region Historic Cultural Landscape

The cultural landscape of Tokaj graphically demonstrates the long tradition of wine production in this region of low hills and river valleys. The intricate pattern of vineyards, farms, villages and small towns, with their historic networks of deep wine cellars, illustrates every facet of the production of the famous Tokaj wines, the quality and management of which have been strictly regulated for nearly three centuries.

Paysage culturel historique de la région viticole de Tokaj

Le paysage culturel de Tokaj témoigne de façon vivante de la longue tradition de production viticole dans cette région de collines, rivières et vallées. Ce réseau complexe de vignobles, fermes, villages et petites villes avec son labyrinthe historique de caves à vin, illustre toutes les facettes de la production des fameux vins de Tokaj, dont la qualité et la gestion sont strictement contrôlées depuis presque trois siècles.

المشهد الثقافي التاريخي لمنطقة توكاج المختصّة بزراعة الكرمة

يدلّ المشهد الثقافي لمدينة توكاج بصورة حية على التقليد القديم لإنتاج زراعة الكرمة في هذه المنطقة الغنية بالتلال والأنهار والوديان. وتجسّد هذه الشبكة المعقّدة من الأراضي المزروعة كرمةً والمزارع والقرى والمُدن الصغيرة الغنية بالتيه التاريخي لكهوف النبيذ، كل أوجُه إنتاج نبيذ توكاج الفاخر والمشهور الذي تخضع نوعيته وإدارته لمراقبة شديدة منذ أكثر من ثلاثة قرون.

source: UNESCO/ERI



source: UNESCO/ERI

Исторический культурный ландшафт винодельческого района Токай

Культурный ландшафт Токая служит ярким свидетельством длительной традиции виноделия в этом районе с невысокими холмами и приречными селениями. Хитросплетение виноградников, ферм, сел и небольших городков, вместе с исторически сложившимися системами глубоких винных подвалов, иллюстрирует все аспекты производства знаменитых токайских вин, которые строго соблюдаются в течение уже почти трех столетий.

source: UNESCO/ERI

Paisaje cultural histórico de la región vitivinícola de Tokay

El paisaje cultural de Tokay es un vivo testimonio de la larga tradición vitivinícola de esta región de colinas, ríos y valles. Está configurado por un complejo conjunto de viñedos, casas de labranza, pueblos y aldeas que poseen una red ancestral de bodegas, y es un vivo ejemplo de las distintas facetas de la producción del famoso vino de Tokay, cuya calidad es objeto de un control estricto desde hace tres siglos.

source: UNESCO/ERI


source: NFUAJ

Historisch cultuurlandschap van de Tokaj wijnstreek

Het historisch cultuurlandschap van de Tokaj wijnstreek toont de lange traditie van wijnproductie in deze regio van lage heuvels en rivierdalen. Het ingewikkelde patroon van wijngaarden, boerderijen, dorpen en kleine steden – met hun historische netwerken van diepe wijnkelders – illustreert elk facet van de productie van de beroemde Tokaj wijnen. De kwaliteit van deze wijnen wordt al bijna drie eeuwen strikt gereguleerd. In de labyrintische wijnkelders die uit meerdere verdiepingen bestaan, wordt wijn opgeslagen en gerijpt in vaten van zomereik. Het bekendste wijnkeldernetwerk is dat in de wijk Satoraljaujhely dat 27 kelders op verschillende niveaus verbindt.

Source: unesco.nl

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Tokaj Wine Region Historic Cultural Landscape © OUR PLACE
Outstanding Universal Value

Brief synthesis  

Located at the foothills of the Zemplén Mountains (in North-East Hungary), along the Bodrog river and at the confluence of the Bodrog and the Tisza Rivers, the Tokaj Wine Region Historic Cultural Landscape was inscribed on the World Heritage List in 2002. The World Heritage property and its buffer zone together cover the administrative area of 27 settlements (13,245 ha and 74,879 ha, so 88,124 ha in total). The entire landscape, its organisation and its character are specially shaped in interaction with the millennial and still living tradition of wine production. Documented history of the wine region since 1561 attests that grape cultivation as well as the making of the ‘aszú’ wine has been permanent for centuries in the area surrounded by the three Sátor-hegy (the Tokaj-hill, the Sátor – hill of Abaújszántó, and the Sátor-hill of Sátoraljaújhely). The legal base of delimitation of the wine region is among the first in the world and dates back to 1737 when the decree of Emperor Charles VI (Charles III, King of Hungary) established the area as a closed wine region.

The unique combination of topographic, environmental and climatic conditions of the Tokaj Wine Region, with its volcanic slopes, wetlands creating a special microclimate that favours the apparition of the “noble rote” (Botrytis cinerea), as well as the surrounding oak-woods have long been recognized as outstandingly favourable for grape cultivation and specialized wine production. All these features have enabled the development of vineyards, farms, villages, small towns and historic networks of wine cellars carved by hand into mostly volcanic rocks, which are the most characteristic structures in Tokaj: that of King Kalman in Tarcal is known to have been in existence as early as 1110. There are two basic types of cellar in Tokaj: the vaulted and the excavated. The socio-cultural, ethnic and religious diversity of the inhabitants, together with the special fame of the Tokaji Aszú Wine has contributed to the rich and diverse cultural heritage of the region.

Criterion (iii): The Tokaj wine region represents a distinct viticultural tradition that has existed for at least a thousand years and which has survived intact up to the present.

Criterion (v): The entire landscape of the Tokaj wine region, including both vineyards and long established settlements, vividly illustrates the specialized form of traditional land use that it represents.


The attributes of the Outstanding Universal Value of the property are sufficiently intact. These include environmental conditions (geology, morphology, hydrology and climate) favourable for specialized vine- growing, historic vineyards /terroirs, long established settlements and their network, rich cultural heritage reflecting ethnic diversity, diverse types of cellars and a great diversity of other buildings contributing to the character of the landscape and related to vine-growing and wine production (e.g. terraces, built stone walls and hedges, reservoirs). The property embraces most of the attributes necessary to express the Outstanding Universal Value. However, the relationship between the property and its buffer zone needs further review as well as the external boundaries of the buffer zone. Within the context of changing economic demands, the continuity of traditional land use is sustained. In the long term, disappearance of wetlands and the expansion of built-in areas as well as climate change should be considered as potential threats.


Concerning the built structures, frequent military incursions and fires have resulted over the centuries in the destruction and rebuilding or reconstruction of a substantial proportion of the historic buildings. However, scrupulous respect for international standards in conservation and restoration, in conformity with the Venice Charter, have ensured that over the past half-century, the level of authenticity in the surviving historic buildings fully conforms with the requirements of the Operational Guidelines. The historic settlements have also conserved their basic urban layouts as well as their interconnection, both with each other and with the landscape. Wine has been produced in the Tokaj region and vineyards have been worked here for more than 1000 years. The resulting landscape, with its towns and villages serving the productions of the famous Tokaji Aszú wines, has not changed in its overall appearance throughout that period.

Protection and management requirements

Since 15 February 2012, the entire World Heritage property with its buffer zone is legally protected as a ‘historic landscape’ under the Act on the Protection of Cultural Heritage, thus significant interventions affecting the property and its buffer zone must follow the expert advice of the Government’s County District Construction and Heritage Protection Agency. The purpose of this territorial protection is to preserve the historic buildings and the natural environment, to sustain traditional land use, as well as to ensure the sustainable management of the Outstanding Universal Value of the property. 61% of this historic landscape belongs to the Natura 2000 network, hence enjoys EU-level protection as a natural site of community importance. A great number of historic monuments within the property and its buffer zone are also individually protected. Furthermore, there are several nationally protected natural areas fully or partly within the property and its buffer zone.

The historically diverse ownership of the property (ranging from private individuals owning small vineyards to local authorities, Churches, the State and private companies possessing large estates) is part of the attributes of the property and is at the same time a serious challenge for management. Based on the national World Heritage Act of 2011, a new management plan will enter intoforce as a governmental decree and will be reviewed at least every seven years.

A Regional Architectural and Planning Jury, composed of territorially competent State Chief Architect and members appointed by him/her, will assist in the realization of high quality developments adapted to the values of the property. Based on the World Heritage Act, the appointment of a management body by the Minister responsible for culture is under way. The new management plan and the management body will provide transparent governance arrangements with clear responsibilities, where the different interests can manifest themselves and where the institutional framework and methods for the cooperation of the different stakeholders are available.

Based on the World Heritage Act, the state of conservation of the property, as well as threats and preservation measures, will be regularly monitored and reported to the National Assembly. The overall aim of the management is to maintain and enhance the environmental, social as well as economic conditions for viticulture, wine production and related sectors that have always been the economic engines of the region. The living cultural landscape must remain an asset for the benefit of the sustainable development of local communities.

Once the Management Plan is approved and finalised, the revision of the boundaries of the property and its buffer zone shall be considered, in order to enhance the integrity and the appropriate protection of the property. The revision of the boundaries must bear in mind the challenges posed by the transformation of wetlands, the expansion of built-in areas and global environmental challenges such as climate change. Special attention should be paid to the impact of mines, quarries and other mineral exploitation industries. It is important to carry out a comprehensive conditions review and impact assessment on the effect of mines on the Outstanding Universal Value of the property. A careful and strategic approach has to be followed concerning traffic management, road constructions and improvements. Transboundary extension of the buffer zone is to be considered with reference to World Heritage Committee decisions and based on the excellent cooperation of the Hungarian and Slovak authorities of cultural heritage.

Long Description

The entire landscape of the Tokaji wine region, including both vineyards and long established settlements, vividly illustrates a specialized form of traditional land use and represents a distinct viticultural tradition that has existed for at least 1,000 years and which has survived intact to the present day.

The Magyar tribes who entered the area at the end of the 9th century assigned special significance to the region, as they believed (with some justification) that it was the centre of the empire of Attila the Hun, with whom they closely identified themselves. It became a protected refuge for Hungarians in the centuries that followed in the face of pressure from invading Mongols and others, as well as an important commercial crossroads for Polish merchants travelling to the Balkans and elsewhere. Settlers were welcomed from as early as the 12th century, when Walloon and Italian immigrants were invited in, joining the Germans who had been there since the beginning of the Hungarian kingdom. In the 16th century the region came under Bohemian Hussite domination for a while, but was reunited with the Hungarian kingdom by the last great Hungarian king, Hunyadi Matyas (Matthias Corvinus). It was during the Ottoman period that the Tokaji Aszu for which the region became world famous was first produced. Legend has it that fears of Turkish raiders delayed the harvest in Lorantffy Mihaly's domain until the grapes had shrivelled and Botrytis infection had set in, creating the 'noble rot' (pourriture noble ). Nonetheless, the pastor Szepsi Laczko Mate made wine from them, presenting the result to the daughter of the overlord.

The mild climate makes coupled with the soil quality and aspects of the slopes make Tokaj perfect for cultivating grapes. The settlement system and forms of the Tokaji Wine Region are dictated by the morphological and hydrographic features of the area. There are two main axes of settlement, one the river Bodrog and the other the Szerencs stream and the river Hernád at the western edge. There is a chain of settlements along the right bank of the Bodrog as it meanders at the foot of the Zemplen mountain range.

Other settlements are to be found in the valleys of the streams that feed into the Bodrog, which in its turn joins the Tisza at Tokaj, an ancient crossing point of the main river. The Szerencs opens wide into the Takta and has settlements on both banks. The name 'Tokaj' is derived from an Armenian word for grape that came into the Hungarian language as early as the 10th century, thus giving a date for the creation of the settlement. It is also evidence that viticulture was already being practised here at that time.

The built heritage of the region is symbolic of its history and its socio-economic structure. There are to be found medieval Roman Catholic churches (one in each settlement), 18th- to 19th-century Orthodox churches, and Jewish synagogues, princely and aristocratic castles and mansions, and more humble houses, wine stores, and workshops. Evidence of early settlement is the 12th century Romanesque church at Bodrogalszi (in the buffer zone). There are ruined 14th-century castles at Tokaj and Tallya in the nominated area and Monok, Sarospatak, and Szerencs in the buffer zone. Noble mansions from the 18th and 19th centuries are to be found at Tarcal and in the buffer zone.

The most characteristic structures in Tokaj are the wine cellars: that of King Kalman in Tarcal is known to have been in existence as early as 1110. There are two basic types of cellar in Tokaj: the vaulted and the excavated. The former was essentially an open space below a residential building, excavated before the house was built and accessed from the porch. The grapes were processed in a room at the rear of the house, immediately above the cellar. The excavated cellars were not connected directly with the residential buildings. All that is visible on the surface is a stone entrance structure with a latticed wooden or steel gate. Cellars carved into the volcanic tuff did not require reinforcement by vaulting. Some 80-85% of the cellars in Tokaj were made in this way.

Of special interest are the multi-level labyrinthine cellars with unsystematic floors plans in which wine was stored and matured in casks made from sessile oak. The most famous is the cellar network in the Ungvari district of Satoraljaujhely, the result of interconnecting no fewer than 27 cellars at different levels.

Historical Description
[in French only]

Les premiers signes de peuplement humain continu dans la région de Tokay remontent à l'ère néolithique. Toutefois, ce sont les tribus magyares qui s'y installèrent à la fin du IXe siècle qui donnèrent à la région son importance particulière, puisqu'ils croyaient en effet (avec quelque raison) qu'elle était au coeur de l'empire d'Attila le Hun, avec lequel ils s'identifiaient. Face aux pressions venues des invasions mongoles et autres, elle devint un refuge pour les Hongrois dans les siècles qui suivirent.

Elle était aussi un important carrefour commercial pour les marchands polonais en route vers les Balkans et ailleurs. Des colons s'y installèrent dès le XIIe siècle, immigrants wallons et italiens invités par les rois hongrois, et rejoignant les Germains présents depuis l'avènement du royaume de Hongrie.

Au XVIe siècle, la région tomba pendant un bref laps de temps aux mains des Hussites de Bohême, mais fut reconquise par le dernier grand roi hongrois, Hunyadi Matyas (Mathias Ier Corvin). La région de Tokay fut épargnée par l'occupation ottomane, qui portait pourtant sur une grande partie de la Hongrie, mais elle n'en demeurait pas moins une zone frontalière dangereuse, exposée à des raids fréquents.

La région de Tokay a été plantée de vignobles au moins dès le XIIe siècle. On suppose que la viticulture vient de l'est. Peut-être a-t-elle été introduite par la tribu kabar, qui s'installa dans la région des Carpates avec les Hongrois au IXe ou au Xe siècle. Ce n'est toutefois qu'à l'époque ottomane que le « Tokay Aszu » qui a fait la renommée mondiale de la région fut produit pour la première fois. Selon la légende, la crainte de raids turcs retarda la récolte dans le domaine Lorantffy Mihaly, tant et si bien que les raisins se flétrirent et que la Botrytis Cirenea s'installa, créant la « pourriture noble ». Cela n'empêcha pas le pasteur Szepzi Laczko Maté de fabriquer du vin avec ces raisins bothrytisés et de présenter le résultat à la fille du seigneur.

Le vin de Tokay fut une source de revenus importante pour la dynastie transylvanienne des Rakoczi, qui prit le pouvoir au début du XVIIe siècle. Il joua un rôle important dans le combat pour l'indépendance hongroise que mena Ferenc II Rakoczi, qui le présenta aux autres souverains européens, tels Louis XIV, et assura ainsi l'élargissement de sa réputation. Lors de la défaite finale de Ferenc II Rakoczi et de son exil, en 1717, les Habsbourg reprirent ses domaines.

Sous l'empire austro-hongrois, la région de Tokay fut prospère, grâce au renom grandissant de son vin. En 1870, la population vivant au pied des collines de la région était la plus dense du pays, et supérieure à celle de la France ou des États allemands les plus développés. Des immigrants originaires des régions avoisinantes - Slovaquie, Ruthénie et Macédoine grecque - s'installaient à Tokay. Les Macédoniens de Grèce étaient pour la plupart des négociants en vins ; à partir de la fin du XVIIIe siècle, ils furent progressivement remplacés, dans leur grande majorité, par des Juifs polonais, qui jouèrent un rôle décisif dans le commerce du vin de Tokay.

Cependant, le XIXe siècle fut le témoin d'un lent déclin, allant de pair avec le rétrécissement du marché du vin de Tokay. La situation se détériora encore avec la destruction quasi totale des vignobles de Tokay, décimés par le phylloxéra au tournant du XIXe siècle. À la fin de la Seconde Guerre mondiale, la région viticole de Tokay était au plus bas : l'Holocauste avait décimé la communauté juive, et le régime de la communauté avait aboli la propriété privée des familles nobles et bourgeoises. Le moteur du succès de la région disparut brusquement, et ce n'est qu'avec les changements politiques de 1990 en Hongrie que commença la lente mais régulière réhabilitation de la viticulture et de la production du vin de Tokay.

Source: Advisory Body Evaluation
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