“The soil, the aspect, the rock, the climate, the stone terraces, the past, the present and the winemaker: for us this is terroir”
On your way from Szerencs to Mád the spectacular view of one of the most imposing and steepest vineyards on King’s hill (Király-hegy) is bound to catch your attention: Old King vineyard (Öreg Király-dűlő). Not only its exceptional position, but also the continually constructed terraces built stone by stone over the centuries make it stand out in the beautiful landscape. Vines were already cultivated on this land way back in the 13th century, and one of the most highly prized Tokaji wines originated from here, a nectar that captured the powerful Rákóczi family too. However, as for everything unique, suffering is involved too: the stony ground and steep slopes make this land extremely difficult to tend.
The grapes grown here were always of special quality but, as they did not satisfy the needs of quantity-driven grape production, this vineyard was abandoned after World War II, and was gradually reclaimed by the black locust forest. Most of the area was purchased by the Barta family in 2003, and then began the replanting that continues to this day.
Visitors can be witness to the interesting contrast of young vines lined between the several-hundred-year-old terraces. South-, southwest-facing, the Old King vineyard (Öreg Király-dűlő) extends over 10 hectares. And the Barta Winery owns another 17-hectare south-, southwest-facing, mostly fallow, plot in the Kővágó vineyard, 3.5 hectares of which was brought back to production in 2017.
The vineyard soils are stony: volcanic rhyolite tufa with some zeolite and red clay. Some 80 % of the land is planted with T85 and the old-type small-bunch Madárkás Furmint clones, and the rest with Hárslevelű, Sárgamuskotály and Kövérszőlő. About half of the estate is planted with cordons at 1.4 x 0.8 m and 1 x 1 m and can only be cultivated by hand. The other half is low-cordon at 1.8 x 1 m density. The number of vines varies between 10 000 and 5 800 per hectare. We do not use herbicides or systemic chemicals in this vineyard we cultivate traditionally.
We are happy to take our guests for a tour of our vineyard, the Old King (Öreg Király), so they can have a glimpse into the mysteries of vine and soil cultivation, discover the history of the vineyards and enjoy the superb view and, naturally, our Tokaji wines too.
“The vineyard is first mentioned in 1664 as Old King vineyard (Eöreg Király) as a Rákóczi vineyard in an estate inventory.”
1280: First written mention: Király-hegy (King Hill) is first mentioned in a document as part of the royal estates.
from 1338: Partly as a royal gift, partly as inheritance, the Szent Egyed Order of St Paul monastery in Sátoraljaújhely owned it right up until the arrival of Protestantism, after which it became part of the Sárospatak aristocratic estates.
1459: Much of the hill became the property of the Szapolya family and was joined to the Tállya castle lands.
1530: The Habsburg allies, the Serédy brothers, occupied it from the Szapolya family adding it to their Tokaj and Tállya estates.
1557: After the male line of the Serédy died out, the Alaghy and Mágochy aristocratic families became the largest vineyard owners on King hill.
1635: The Mád and Király vineyard names become inseparable from the Rákóczi family when György Rákóczi I, ruling governor of Transylvania, and count Pál Rákóczi became the new owners of the Király vineyards.
1664: First mentioned as Eöreg-Király (old spelling of Öreg Király, that is Old King).
1674: Due to their participation in the Wesselényi conspiracy, one branch of the Rákóczi family fell out of favour and the Treasury gifted their Old King vineyards to the Sátoraljaújhely Order of St Paul. Loyal to the Viennese court to the end, the descendant of Pál Rákóczi, Julianna Rákóczi and the Aspremonts, however continued – without interruption – to own the vineyards on Király-hegy. Then they became the property of the Orczy family right up until nationalisation after World War II.
1737: The land was classified as first growth by Mátyás Bél. The 16 subsequent classifications also classed the vineyard as a first growth or premier cru.
1786: After the dissolution of the Order of St Paul, their King hill vineyard passed to the Treasury and to the Piarists in Sátoraljaújhely, right up until the 20th century.
1960: A kaolin mine was opened in the centre of the then state-owned Old King. At the same time the vines were cut out and cultivation abandoned.
1989−1992: After the change in political system the vineyards were part of Tokaji Borkombinát, the state-owned cooperative winemaking company.
2004−2005: The Barta family replanted the vineyards.
The Öreg Király and Kővágó vineyards on the Zemplén County Tax Office maps in 1876