The Tokaji wine is not merely a noble drink it is also the centuries old symbol of the Polish-Hungarian connections and friendship. The special and unique character of the two nation’s relationship is shown by a number of Polish proverbs. A Polish saying in Latin language speaks about wines of Tokaj and Eger, once mellowed in vine cellars in southern Poland, it rhymes with the work of the 2011 Hungarian and Polish Presidencies: “Hungariae natum, Poloniae educatum” translates to “Born in Hungary, grown up in Poland”.
Bound to history and to our common past by so many ties, the Tokaji wine was presented in a barrel, which was prepared specifically for this event, is a symbolic element of handing over the Presidency. The five main stages of the series of these special events were the construction, filling up, departure, transportation and handing over of the barrels – displaying many gestures and occasions for strengthening the historical friendship and collaboration.
The construction of the barrels (Salánk)
In the spirit of the Eastern Partnership, the barrels were constructed in Ukraine, more specifically in Salánk (Salanki, Шаланки), which is a renowned Sub-Carpathian village. Sándor Sipos, master cooper constructed the barrel from a century old oak tree, forming the split batten by hand tools, cramping it by black steel hoop. A local master of wood carver, Elek Pólin decorated it with the Hungarian coat of arms of Hungary, Poland and Ukraine.
Salánk is a historical, Sub-Carpathian settlement with Hungarian population, and the place from where on 21st February 1711, Prince Francis II Rákóczi set off to leave Hungary for Poland, after the lost war of independence. The prince, surrounded by the particular attention and esteem of the Polish nobility, spent nearly two years in the town of Gdansk, where Prime Minister of Poland Donald Tusk, was also born.
Donald Tusk, Polish prime minister received a 100-litre barrel, decorated with the Hungarian coat of arms on the one side, and the Polish one on the other. For the occasion of the symbolic handing over of the Presidency on 1 July 2011, a miniature version of the barrel of 10 litres was also constructed. Ukrainian Prime Minister Viktor Yanukovych, also received a 50-litre barrel. The finely fabricated barrel, filled with Tokaji wine, features the Hungarian and the Ukrainian coat of arms on its sides.
A 70-litre barrel was also constructed with the Hungarian Presidency’s logo on the one side and Hungary’s coat of arms on the other. This barrel will be part of the Hungarian National Museum’s Hungarian Presidency collection in the future.
The filling up of the barrels (Tolcsva)
The elaborate oak casks, which were constructed in Salánk were filled up with Tokaj Wine trade’s dry 2002 Tokaji Szamorodni on 24 June 2011, in Tolcsva, in the Tokaj-Hegyalja wine region. The grape for the wine filled in the barrels was harvested exactly in the year of 2002, when Tokaj-Hegyalja gained World Heritage Status.
Szamorodni wine is a widely known symbol of the Polish-Hungarian relationship, since the name “szamorodni”, denotes a wine that has been popular for centuries, derives from the Polish language (sam się rodzi, samorodny), meaning: “the way it was grown”. According to Hungarian traditions, the term “szamorodni”, refers to the fact that this wine is produced without separating healthy and botrytis grape on the cluster, they are actually processed together. The dry or sweet character of this wine is determined principally by the proportion of grapes affected by noble rot.
It was in the last third of the 15th century during the age of Matthias Corvinus, when the commerce of the largely unknown tokaji wine began to prosper. The development was generated mainly by the free royal cities [Kassa (Košice), Lőcse (Levoča), Bártfa (Bardejov), Kisszeben (Sabinov)]. The inhabitants of these cities started to buy vine, in Tállya, Liszka, Tolcsva and Tokaj among others. The important and fortunate element of the 16th century from the point of view of Tokaj-Hegyalja, was the fact that it was the golden age of Poland. The luck of the Polish people was also fortunate for Tokaj-Hegyalja. The classes of Polish people demanding wine was widened, which expanded the market potential of Tokaj-Hegyalja. A great demand rose for wines that satisfied the taste of Polish customers. At the beginning of the 18th century, by the diplomatic and economic relations of Prince Francis II Rákóczi, the commerce of Tokaj wines continued to grow.
The Tokaj Wine trade’s dry 2002 Tokaji Szamorodni wine was produced by processing furmint grapes, which were affected and unaffected by noble rot, together with linden-leaf grapes of late harvest. It obtained its character as a result of aging in oak casks. The wine has a light golden yellow colour, heavy scent with aromas coming from botrytis and the oak cask. Its fleshy and long after tastes are combined with balanced acids. Its alcohol content is 12.5%. It contains 3g/l residual sugar and 6.2g/l acid.
The departure of the barrels (Sárospatak)
The barrels filled with dry Tokaj szamorodni, departed from Sárospatak on 26 June 2011, from the court of the Rákóczi Castle to Warsaw. The decorated carts that carried the barrels were led up by hussars. The goods were marked with the wax seal of Tokaj Wine trade. The barrels were accompanied by Richárd Hörcsik, Chairman of the Committee on European Affairs and Helga Gál, the Presidency’s sommelier. László Brenzovics, Vice President of the Hungarian Cultural Association of Sub-Carpathia was also present during the departure of the barrels, representing the county of Sub-Carpathia.
The transportation of the barrels (Sárospatak-Warsaw)
The barrels reached the two capitals, Warsaw and Kiev on a carefully planned, cross-border transport route, which included several historical wine-districts. One of the important stopping-points during the wine transportation to Warsaw, was the castle of Ungvár (Uzshorod, Ужгород) on 28 June, which is one of the most famous monuments of Sub-Carpathia. Prince Francis II Rákóczi received delegations from Poland and from other places several times until 1711.
In Sub-Carpathia, the route of the barrels on their way to Warsaw also included Szerednye (Szvedernikó,Середнє), which was a vinicultural region, even back in the 15th century. This is where the famous commander of the Castle of Eger, István Dobó deceased in 1572. The estate was passed on to the ownership of the Rákóczi family, after the Dobó family.
It was here, in Sub-Carpathia, where the barrels were stamped with the wax seals of the consuls of Hungary and Poland, as well as the seal of Sub-Carpathia, interlaced with ribbons signifying Polish, Hungarian and Ukrainian national colours. The precious shipment left Ukraine in the direction of Uzsoki mountain pass, right through the valley of the river Ung; it left Ukraine and reached Poland at the first Polish-Ukrainian border post, and it finally arrived at the Polish capital, Warsaw on 30 June.
The handing over of the barrels (Warsaw)
On 1 July 2011, Friday, Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orbán, handed over the 10-litre barrel to Polish Prime Minister Donald Tusk, during the official press conference of the handing over of the EU Presidency.
The larger, hectolitre-sized barrel was handed over in Warsaw, on the stage that was set up under the aegis of the Polish Ministry of Culture, the Municipality of Warsaw and the Polish National Audiovisual Institute responsible for the EU cultural programmes in Poland, before the concert of the Hungarian folkloric group Téka. The barrel was delivered by Richárd Hörcsik, on the stage to Professor Roman Kuzniar, Chief Ministerial Adviser responsible for EU Affairs of the Presidency of the Republic of Poland. Beside the stage, pavilions were set up presenting the various national cuisines, including the delegation of Hungarian National Tourist Office (Magyar Turizmus Zrt.) to Warsaw.
The handing over of the wine had a symbolic value, it truly expressed the traditionally close interstate, historic and cultural relationships between the two countries, and it also refers to the sayings on the friendship of the two nations. Perhaps the most famous one of these is the following:
"Pole and Hungarian — two good friends,
joint fight and drinking are their ends.
both are valiant, both are lively,
Upon them may God's blessings be."
(The saying in polish:„Polak, Węgier, dwa bratanki. I do szabli, i do szklanki. Oba zuchy, oba żwawi. Niech im Pan Bóg błogosławi”.)