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Louis XIV "Le Roi Soleil"

Prince Ferenc Rákóczi II of Transylvania (1676-1735), who owned most of the vineyards in the Tokaj region at his time, visited the French Royal Court quite often. During his war for independence from the Hapsburgs in the early 18th century, he tried to ally himself with influential European monarchs, amongst them Louis XIV of France. As the House of Hapsburg was on the verge of dying out in Spain, the French Royal Court was looking for allies in its fight against Austrian hegemony.

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Consequently, they established contact with Rákóczi and promised support if he took up the cause of Hungarian independence. An Austrian spy seized this correspondence and brought it to the attention of the Austrian Emperor. As a direct result of this, Rákóczi was arrested on 18 April 1700 and imprisoned in Vienna, but managed to escape and flee to Poland, where he was sheltered by the French ambassador. Three years later, the War of the Spanish Succession caused a large part of the Austrian forces in the Kingdom of Hungary to temporarily leave the country. Taking advantage of the situation, Rákóczi headed a new uprising, which finally failed in 1711.

"Sun King" Louis XIV of France
(1638-1715)

After refusing an amnesty by the Hapsburgs, Louis XIV offered Rákóczi exile in France in 1713 and paid him a pension. On the occassion of a feast in Versailles, when Tokaji wines had been served, the menu card showed His Majesty’s hedonistic quote „C’est le roi des vins, et le vin des rois“ (The king of wines, and the wine of kings). The successor Louis XV used to serve Tokaji to his famous mistress – Madame Pompadour. „Vinum Regum, Rex Vinorum“ - this famous line is used to this day in the marketing of Tokaji wines.

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Augustus II „The Strong“

The orientation in the vaults of the Saxon wine cellars in the Dresden Royal Palace was simple. All cellars got unique names: Burgundy cellar, Hofbier cellar etc. Augustus the Strong, one of the most illustrious monarchs of the European baroque period, often thought of his favourite cellar, the „Tokajerkeller“ (Tokay cellar), and loved to have a walk through it. The Saxon sovereign regularly bought Tokaji wines at fairs, in order to increase the stock, or received them as gifts from kings and noblemen. In 1697, when he was elected the King of Poland in Cracow, a lot of Polish princes and counts tried to win Augustus´ favor with expensive Tokaji - which was already wellaged at that time.

Augustus II „The Strong“ (1670-1733),
Elector of Saxony and King of Poland

tokaji augustus rex

tokaji cosel

Augustus „The Strong“ was not only famous for his immense physical strength, but also for having a soft spot for beautiful ladies. To one young lady, who initially rejected the terms of the official status of a mistress, he sent two barrels of Tokaji wine in June 1705. Shortly after she became his most famous mistress: Countess Constantia von Cosel. She even managed to make the amorous king to sign a marriage contract. This fatal document brought her almost fifty years of imprisonment, after Augustus became tired of her, and she refused to surrender the contract.

Anna Constantia von Cosel (1680-1765)

The successors of Augustus II had the same affection for Tokaji, the wine played a significant role at the Saxon Court for the next two centuries. Still in 1899, an impressive stock of 10.500 Tokaji bottles were stored at the Saxon „Hof-Kellerei“. At a banquet on 8 March 1896, that was held by Prince George of Saxony and attented by several European Royals, a Tokay from 1797 had been served.

In 1927 an auction took place in the Saxon capital Dresden on which 62 bottles of Tokaji from the Royal cellar of Augustus the Strong have been auctioned. After the death of his son Augustus III, these bottles made their journey from Warsaw to the Saxon Royal wine cellar in Dresden. A portion of these bottles came from the vineyards of the families Szirmay and Pottornyay from Erdöbénye. The bottle below shows the crossed swords of the Saxon Royal house, and the word „Hofkellerei“. The vintage is estimated between 1650 and 1690. This should therefore probably be the world's oldest intact Tokaji bottle ...

Certificate of origin for the Tokaji bottles on the Dresden auction in 1927
Certificate of origin for the Tokaji bottles on the Dresden auction in 1927, signed by the Foundation of the House of Wettin, which administrated the heritage of the former Saxon Monarchy.

Two similar bottles were opened at a tasting of historic Tokaji bottles in London in 2006, which was also attented by Hugh Johnson. Also the Swiss wine writer Sigi Hiss had the privilege to participate. He wrote about the second bottle:
„... dried vegetables, some vegetable broth, aldehyde, Madeira character. Then, after 15 minutes, lovely sweet taste with some bitter caramel, hint of dried fruit ... apple ... good depth and complexity. Much sweeter on the palate ... more complex but has slightly sharp acidity, then was really good after an hour, significantly longer finish with noticeable sweet caramel notes. Absolutely tremendous, both as a wine and as a piece of history ...“

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Just Said ...

„Another glass, Watson!” said Mr. Sherlock Holmes as he extended the bottle of Imperial Tokay. ... „It is a good wine, Holmes.” - „A remarkable wine, Watson. Our friend upon the sofa has assured me that it is from Franz Josef’s special cellar at the Schoenbrunn Palace.”
from „His Last Bow”

Arthur Conan Doyle
(1859-1930)

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