The True Wine of Kings

Hungary’s Tokaji Aszú has been the wine of the famous, the powerful, the pious, and the noble. Its description as “the king of wines and the wine of kings” comes from the early 18th century, after Francis II Rákóczi, Prince of Transylvania, gave Tokaji Aszú to King Louis XIV of France as a gift, resulting in the wine becoming a regular favorite of the French court at Versailles (sorry, Sauternes). Next, Louis XV made it a special gift for Madame de Pompadour. Later, Emperor Franz Joseph (who was also the king of Hungary) developed a tradition of sending Tokaji Aszú to England’s Queen Victoria as a yearly birthday present—one bottle for every month she had lived. On her 81st birthday on May 24, 1900, she received 972 bottles (a significant present—and something of a shame, since this was her final birthday). Artists, writers, and musicians loved Tokaji Aszú—the wine was a favorite of Beethoven, Goethe, and Voltaire. Needless to say, Tokaji Aszú was a near-religious elixir as far as many popes have been concerned.

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