It is hardly known that in 22nd October 1956, leaving behind the grape harvest in Badacsony, Imre Nagy returned to the buzzing capital. He did not expect to make the most important decisions right after the joyful amusement of the harvest. The new order seizing power after the fights has separated itself from the revolution, from the year and even from the number 1956. Winemakers only whispered about the excellent 1956 vintage that has a rightful place next to the paramount 1949 and 1972 vintages. But everybody remained bashfully silent when 1956 was mentioned. Like it was the wine that should have been ashamed instead of those descendants who denied the year and vintage as well. Later, when the rare good quality of the wine has predicted the strength and power of the aszú they started to cheatingly call it the 1957 vintage. Aszú wines labelled as 1957 vintage and other secrets were revealed following the democratic transition. The history of this vintage clearly reflects the then dominating political relations and issues. 1956 aszú wines are currently stored in Tolcsva as part of the National Wine Asset under the supervision of the Ministry of Agriculture.
Based on the weather at the beginning of 1956 nobody predicted particularly good vintage. Considerable icy flood run through the area during spring while hails created havoc in summer. Extreme weather conditions dominated the year. Nevertheless, heatwaves at the end of summer favoured the ripening of Tokaj grapes. Good quality products and wines as well as the prospective excellence of aszú wines were first declared in Szabad Föld (Free Land) published in 9th December. Hot summer days were prolonged for September as well; for instance in 2nd September temperature reached 32 °C and the heatwave lasted for ten more days. Also in the first days of October the weather remained unusually warm. Afterwards temperature dropped significantly and rain fell all around the country. In order to calm down winemakers Szabad Föld in its 9th December issue announced that wine buying would be initiated. SZÖVOSZ (National Alliance of Cooperatives) Centre tried to appease all wine growers that the target price would be the same as set prior to the revolution but higher price can also be achieved for good quality wine. Despite all suppress and lies grape harvested during the days of the revolution and the wine made from it provided one of the most outstanding vintages of the century.
Damage has not been made in vineyards of Hegyalja during the revolution, all grapes were orderly harvested; grape juice was transferred to the cellars. At the end of the month (and year) – in 30th December – Szabad Föld clearly announced the existence of promising 1956 vintage of aszú wines in an article titled “Wines are better” – although they did not clearly know what to praise: “based on expert estimation and the result of first racking approximately 60 percent of the yield is suitable for further maturing – so-called schooling – so that they could be marketed as excellent quality wines in 4 to 5 years.” According to this report the best vintage of the decade has been harvested in vineyards of Tokaj-Hegyalja. Brix value of 25 or 27 was rather common, moreover, in one vineyard of Tarcal Model Farm grape with 34 Brix value has been harvested. After the first racking it became obvious that even poorer quality wines reached significantly better quality than the best wines from the previous three vintages. Little did they know that one of the century’s greatest, finest and most beautiful aszú wines matured in the “Gönci” wooden barrels. Thus these wines became the gift of the Hungarian revolution as well.
We would like to call the attention to the events of 1956 within the framework of a special programme enhancing the national image. The Tokaji aszú 1956 – History in a Bottle programme introduces the most important turning point of Hungarian history in the 20th century via a world-renowned Hungaricum. On the one hand Tokaji aszú, as our shared value, draws attention all around the world since it is the most famous and oldest dessert wine. On the other hand wine consumers know that a dessert wine gets nobler with time, therefore a bottle of wine is not only a product but also a brief moment of history closed in the bottle. 1956 was an important vintage as regards of the aszú wines as well since excellent quality wine were made in that year. Harvest started on 22nd October – only one day before the outbreak of the 1956 Hungarian revolution. It was an outstanding and incredible vintage. Thanks to this some rare and unique bottles of 1956 Tokaji aszú wines can be found in the historical inventory managed by the Ministry of Agriculture. These wines preserved their quality and this makes them worthy of accompanying the celebrations and festive events connected to the 60th anniversary of the Hungarian revolution. Approximately 140 bottles of aszú wine have been carefully selected from the available reserves as part of the tender. These bottles have gone under quality checks and evaluations before being rebottled to play a key role, as symbols of collective memory, in events organised within the framework of the celebrations. Programmes proposed within this tender are connected to the preparation and presentation of these wines matching the expectations regarding the special anniversary. Taking into account that the wines have been maturing in the cellar for 60 years they shall receive new image, presentation and packaging that suit the rank of the commemorating events. But all these processes are obviously preceded by the strict quality control related to the national certification. The tender aims to spread this limited edition 1956 Tokaji aszú wine so it could represent Hungary everywhere calling the attention to the excellence of the country, its wine and people as well as their heroic perseverance while serving their homeland. The wines are to be used in formal ceremonial events, gala dinners and other international and national programmes connected to the memorial year.
Implemented elements of the programme:
- Quality control and rebottling of 1956 Tokaji aszú wines under the supervision and evaluation of the National Food Chain Safety Office Directorate of Oenology and Alcoholic Beverages (NÉBIH BAII)
- Presentation of the 1956 Tokaji aszú wine for media representatives within the framework of a press conference
- Presentation of the 1956 Tokaji aszú wine in a wine tasting event held for diplomats assigned to Hungary
- Photo exhibition in the Museum and Library of Hungarian Agriculture commemorating both the wine sector in 1956 and aszú wines
- Creating festive image, publications, videos, photos and a website to record the events
- Elaborate a study regarding the situation of Tokaj in 1956, the harvest of grapes; recalling the issues of wine sector in that era
Following careful examination experts selected 140 bottles of 1956 vintage Tokaji aszú wines stored in the National Wine Asset cellars in Tolcsva for rebottling. The wine has been transported from the cool cellar to the laboratory of Dereszla Winery. Bottles were opened in sterile environment. The wine was tasted and rebottled under the professional supervision of the National Food Chain Safety Office (NÉBIH), the Ministry of Agriculture and the National Wine Expert Commission.
Mr. Sándor Fazekas, minister of agriculture and Ms. Mária Schmidt, ministerial commissioner and co-chair of the Memorial Committee for 1956 ceremonially presented the unique appearance Tokaji aszú rebottled for the occasion of the memorial year under the egis of the National Wines of Excellence Programme.
The ceremonial wine tasting has been held in the exclusive restaurant of Várkert Bazár where the 1956 Tokaji aszú wine was presented for the representatives of foreign countries assigned to Hungary. Among others the ambassador of the United States of America and that of Austria participated in the event.
Archive photos evoking the past of Tokaj wine district as well as pictures capturing moments of the "Tokaji aszú 1956 – History in a bottle" programme have been displayed in the exhibition established in the Museum and Library of Hungarian Agriculture.
Study for the posterity about the year 1956 in Tokaj.
"Palackba zárt történelem" video
Record of www.magyarforradalom1956.hu
Online and printed realeses