Royal Tokaji was founded in 1990 by a small group of investors, including Hugh Johnson, together with 62 small local growers. Hugh was inspired to help revive one of the world's truly original and great white wines by his research into the region for his World Atlas of Wine and by tasting a sample of Aszu produced in tiny amounts by a small producer for family and local consumption.
The growers provided the grapes and Royal Tokaji would make and market the wine, building a new winery and taking the wine into world markets. Thus it became the first foreign company ever to invest in the region and was the catalyst for the renaissance of post-communist Tokaji, reviving the forgotten wine of Europe and restoring the fine style and quality that historically had earned Tokaji the reputation of the most desirable white wine in the world. Considerable further investment followed, particulary from French insurance companies, as the Hungarian government privatised the wine industry in search of much-needed funds.
To begin with, Royal Tokaji decided to focus on producing single vineyard wines made from 1st and 2nd growth vineyards only. The objective was to remind people that Tokaji is, like Burgundy, among the world's great wine regions that recognise and demonstrate the importance of terroir and also to focus on the top end of the market. The wines were made in a traditional manner, with extended extraction and barrel ageing to add colour, richness, aroma, and complexity to the wine.
Over the past 21 years the company has of course changed and developed considerably. It now owns 107ha of prime vineyards around Mad and Tarcal, 85ha of which are in production with a further 10 ha currently being re-planted. A new €3.25m state of the art winery was opened in 2010 providing greater quality, modern technology and flexibilty, and increasing the capacity from 30,000 3 litre cases to 60,000 - double the size but still small. Under the expert eye of winemaker Karoly Ats, Royal Tokaji's style has evolved over the past 10 to 15 years and is now a blend of the traditional and modern - fresher, lighter, and fruitier than 20 years ago but still with the traditional virtues in mind. The wines continue to be aged in the deep and cramped 13th century cellars underneath the winery. Single vineyard wines are still produced and together with the legendary Essencia remain the finest expression of Tokaji.