The historic Tokaj-Hegyalja wine-growing region is located in the northeastern part of Hungary, close to the borders of Slovakia and Ukraine. The area is only 275 square kilometers in size (55 km long and 30 km wide). Today the area under cultivation measures around 6000 hectares. Four percent of the area covers Slovakian territory. Tokaj-Hegyalja became a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 2002, and has the world´s oldest classification of vineyards.
The area forms the southern foothills of the volcanic Zémplen Mountains. Protected by the Carpathian mountain chain to the north, east and west, it is open towards the south for the warm air coming from the Hungarian Lowlands. The unique Tokaji Aszú comes into being here due to the synergies between climate and soil conditions. The major soil types of Tokaj-Hegyalja are loam, loess and clay – which is the best type. The most important feature of the soil is the volcanic trachyte detritus. The composition and quantity of each component determine the taste and quality of the wines from a particular vineyard, resulting in a varity of flavors among wines from the different hills.
The Tisza and Bodrog rivers and their floodplains cater for high humidity, while the climate is mainly dry. This climatic condition encourages the development of the noble rot called Botrytis cinerea, often favorably affected by a rainy period during late summer. The long and warm autumn often delays the grape harvest until November. Aszú is made only in good vintages, when it is worth picking and selecting Aszú grapes, which is done by hand. During one decade there normally are three excellent, four good and three decent or weak vintages.