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Book Highlight: Miles Lambert-Gócs - "Tokaji Wine - Fame, Fate, Tradition"

Tokaji Wine: Fame, Fate, Tradition: A Journey into Tokaji Wine History - a book that Wine Spectator called "the most comprehensive reference book on Tokaji available in the English language."

How did a wine from a remote corner of Europe gain unparalleled fame worldwide?  This is the central question answered on virtually every page of Tokaji Wine: Fame, Fate, Tradition, a new book that promises to be a touchstone for all future writing on Tokaji. The world's first botrytis wine, Hungary's Tokaji won an enviable reputation centuries ago. But never before have the development of its winetypes and the story of its ups and downs in fame and prestige been presented so fully in English. Everything from Hungary's founding in the 10th century through the recent communist period is covered.

Besides being an outstanding reference work, Tokaji Wine is sprinkled with fascinating notes and bacchic humor that make it a delight to read. Lambert-Gocs sets the information out in encyclopedia fashion, with easily digested A to Z entries in four categories: People; Places; Vineyard-Tracts; Grape Varieties and Wine-making. Each section concludes with essays that tie the entries together:

  • Part I – Populace and Actors:  146 entries about peoples, clans and persons, such as the Magyars who founded Hungary, the Poles and Russians who eagerly purchased Tokaji, the Rákóczis who brought Tokaji into its modern era, the Habsburgs who ruled Hungary for three-and-a-half centuries, and even Herodotus
  • Part II – Gazetteer:  115 entries about all the locales relevant to the story of Tokaji’s rise, featuring the history and attributes of the more than 30 communities

that have belonged to the appellation region, but also all the places north towards Poland that traded in the region’s wine and secured its place on the market

  • Part III – Wine-Growing Hills and Tracts:  295 entries addressing the history and quality classification of nearly 700 sites that have borne their own identity over the centuries, featuring renowned ones such as Szarvas, Mézesmáj, Ciróka, Cserfás, Dereszla, Hétszőlő, Kincsem, Makovica, Megyer, Oremus, Pajzos, etc.
  • Part IV – Ways and Means:  86 entries discussing past and present grape varieties, wine types, techniques and characteristics, including the Balkan/Aegean roots of Tokaji and contemporary research into its long-famed health benefits      

Each part is followed by a 9-10 page essay that ties the A-Z entries together.  Also, an addendum essay provides an overview of Tokaji during the communist era.  These five essays are unprecedented in the literature on Tokaji.

Tokaji Wine: Fame, Fate, Tradition (July 2010), (ISBN: 978-1-934259-49-8)

What the Critics are saying:

  • “It is extraordinary…It is both readable and scholarly, and packed with accessible information. It is THE source on Tokaji.” - Gerald Asher
  • “…what must be considered the most comprehensive reference book on Tokaji available in the English language.” - Wine Spectator
  • “If you’re a Tokaji wine connoisseur, this book is a must read!...[it] is one of the few books that focuses exclusively on this subject in such extensive detail.”
    -, Canada
  • “A must for Tokaji fans…this historical account will definitely leave you informed.”
    - Decanter, UK
  • “…the reader will be astonished by the breadth of the scholarship that went into this book.”
  • “Absolutely the best and most informative work hitherto about Tokaji…well-written, entertaining…It is delightful how Lambert-Gócs has succeeded in setting out a tremendous amount of information so cogently and usefully.” - Vinbladet, Denmark

What Readers are Saying (5 stars on Amazon!):

  • "Let's assume you enjoy wine and perhaps even look forward to a fine cognac or brandy after that special meal. Well then, you must get a copy of the new book TOKAJI WINE [pronounced TOEkai] by award-winning wine writer Miles Lambert-Gocs. In this his fourth just-released and best book, the well-traveled author chronicles the storied history attached to this unique golden-wine from Hungary.

    What do you mean you've never heard of it?

    Connecting his research, expertise and Hungarian lineage with great enthusiasm Lambert-Gocs offers the reader an unconventional but wonderfully readable four parts, each in A to Z subject format preceded by a brief introductory essay. The alphabetical listings contain many cross-references, which can become addictive; you will unconsciously find yourself flipping pages to read it like a mystery novel.

    The first part, for example, entices you with history dating back to the year 896 when Magyars, who were to become modern-day Hungarians, arrived from southern Russia. He reveals how Tokaji evolved down through the centuries, snaring many wine lovers in its grasp, including Thomas Jefferson for one, who had it shipped to Monticello.

    To find out why Jefferson and so many other famous men and women became enamored with this fruit of the vine, check the wine list or after-dinner drink menu at your favorite restaurant.

    Try it for yourself.

    And of course, the author concludes with modern times and tells you how to identify the good stuff. - TMG
  • "Looking for a perfect present for a wine enthusiast, a friend or relative of Hungarian descent, or anyone considering a trip to Hungary? This is the book for you, and for them.

    Written in a unique format, the author presents an encyclopedic amount of information in A to Z order interspersed with introductions and essays in various categories of data relevant to Tokaji Wine. With numerous fascinating cross references, it is difficult to read the book straight through, but like the wine, this is not really a book to be taken all at one gulp, but enjoyed in sips, frequently but not too much at one time.

    The text is well written and a pleasure to read, well documented with respect to reference materials without being overly scholastic in tone. Every paragraph of prose or alphabetical entry is like a grape for the reader to enjoy at leisure, with an extraordinary amount of detail about the region and its wines, their history, and details about wine and winemaking in general, and also a fabulous amount of annotation in Hungarian, as well as in Greek and other languages. (The author is also one of our foremost experts on Greek wine - hopefully they will put his stellar "Wines of Greece" back into print one of these days!)

    To make a long story short, this book has quite a bit going for it: interesting, informative, and fun on many levels. And I have never even had a sip of this famous wine! You can be sure that I am going to buy the first bottle I find if it's not too expensive, which I expect it won't be, from all I have heard, and read, so far. At this price the book is certainly a bargain!" - Henry Noland
  • "I've read just about every book that Miles Lambert-Gocs has written and have loved them for their soulful presentation--you can tell that Miles feels passionately and deeply about his subject matter.

    In this book, Miles takes us to Hungary's fabulous past and stimulating present centered around one of the most famous and talked about wines throughout history...and speaking of history: Miles knows his stuff.

    I recommend this book to all vinophiles, but especially to those among us who write about wine and always need a good reference book in our library. - Hammondsport

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Related News:

Tokaji (Hungarian for "of Tokaj" and pronounced took-uh-yee) is a centuries-old sweet wine that was much admired by King Louis XIV of France who called it the "Wine of Kings, King of Wines." The Tokaj wine region has enjoyed the status of protection since 1737, when a royal decree announced its status - the first time in the world - as a closed and protected wine region. This status, of course, entailed obligations as well: the production of wine in the region has been operating under strict legal regulations for nearly 3 centuries. Due to huge territorial losses after the Treaty of Trianon, Hungary's historic Tokay Wine Region today encompasses northeast Hungary and stretches into today's Slovakia. This has caused issues.

PressEurop: "The War of the Tokays" - "For more than 40 years, Hungary has been fighting to have the Tokaj wine region recognized as a protected designation of origin (PDO). Having battled with the Soviet Union, France and Italy, it is now in dispute with neighbouring Slovakia, which is putting up stiff resistance." [read more]

WineSearcher - Judges Reject Hungary's Tokaji Case: The European Court of Justice has rejected a lawsuit brought by Hungary against Slovakia over the disputed naming of wines from the Tokaj region, which straddles the border between the two countries. [read more]

About the Author

Miles Lambert-Gócs has spent over 30 years researching Tokaji’s history in Hungarian source materials from various eras and has now drawn it all together in a comprehensive and highly original treatment of the subject.  “I was motivated,” says the author, “by the realization that Tokaji would not be able to make an authentic recovery and reclaim its renown after communism if we did not have a firmer and broader grasp of its past than was available to date.  Nothing less than a new approach to that past was needed.”

He has written numerous acclaimed books and articles including "The Wines of Greece," (1990); "Desert Island Wine" (2007); "Slovakian wine: new horizons" (an article from: Wines & Vines 2005); and "Wines and Greek Salad: A Dionysian Travelogue" (2004). All are available on the AHF Amazon Store! Help AHF by purchasing products using the AHF Amazon Store!

Miles Lambert Gocs was born in NY (Brooklyn) in 1946. His mother's parents (Gocs) were from Hungary, and he lived with them until he was almost seven as his father was a career Navy-man. Both maternal grandparents came from Eperjes, (now Presov in East Slovakia after annexation), in the first years of the 20th century. His grandfather's family originated in Transylvania, but then came to what is now the border area between Hungary and Slovakia, just north of Satoraljaujhely. "By locating a distant relation, I found out that the family had a vineyard on a Ritka Hill, just south of the village of Alsoregmec. My grandfather's family apparently used to go there to help with the vintage and get some wine in return... Grandmother was an outstanding Hungarian cook and needless to say, food was his major intro into Hungarian culture!"

Although the grandparents spoke Hungarian with his mother, they usually talked to me in English. Still, his ear became attuned to it and in graduate school (Columbia U) he studied intermediate Hungarian. He progressed further by reading, with more and more of his time spent on wine topics. The author writes: "Now, my Hungarian is 'inactive' since I have no one with whom to speak in a casual way. But, as you'll see from the book, my book could not possibly have been written without doing loads of research in Hungarian-language sources. Until this book, most of my writing had been about Greek wine and Greece. I became enamored with Greece after a brief visit there in 1963, and also went on to teach myself Modern Greek."

His interest in wine comes from unlikely sources. Joining the Navy during Vietnam, he spent 3 years aboard the USS Enterprise homeported in Alameda, CA. This provided several opportunities to visit Napa and Sonoma to feed his wine interest.  Following his discharge in 1973, he went back to Columbia University to complete his Master of International Affairs degree, with specialization in East-Central Europe. The latter was excellent preparation for his interest in the wines of southeastern Europe, from Slovakia southeastward through Greece. Beginning in 1974, he started working for the US Dept of Agriculture, where he held various positions with the Economic Research Service and the Foreign Agricultural Service, with several positions concerning East Europe. He retired from USDA at the end of 2002.

The author reflects on the loss of his daughter who died in a horrific accident in 2006, "'Tokaji Wine' was absolutely a labor of love, and I sometimes felt as though my daughter was on my shoulder during the year that I plugged away at it, since she had known of my intention to write such a book for most of her life.  After years of diddling around with the project, I finally got serious, buckled down, and worked on the thing every single day.  It is dedicated to my grandfather Gocs, who made wine in the basement in Brooklyn (I had dedicated the previous book to my daughter)." He now lives in Williamsburg, VA.

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