Alsace surrenders 'Tokay' label to Hungary

17th October 2006, Comments 0 comments

PARIS, Oct 16, 2006 (AFP) - The French wine-growing area of Alsace on Monday officially surrendered to Hungary the label 'Tokay' which has been used for several hundred years to designate a local variety of white.

PARIS, Oct 16, 2006 (AFP) - The French wine-growing area of Alsace on Monday officially surrendered to Hungary the label 'Tokay' which has been used for several hundred years to designate a local variety of white.

Hungary — where the Tokay wine region is a UNESCO-designated world heritage site — has been pressing for decades for the sole right to use the name for its range of dry to ultra-sweet white wines, and finally won the case when the country joined the European Union in 2004.

The handover was formalised at a ceremony at the Hungarian embassy in Paris, where Andreas Mahr — Hungarian secretary of state for economic affairs — was offered a Baccarat glass bowl in the form of a bunch of grapes.

"We thank Alsace for this gesture. It is very important for Hungary because Tokay has been part of our country's history since the third century," he said.

As long ago as 1926 France agreed to phase out the trade-name in return for a Hungarian commitment to stop making 'cognac' — but the deal met insuperable resistance in Alsace where reportedly since the 16th century 'Tokay d'Alsace' has referred to wine made from the 'pinot gris' grape.

Until recently Alsace was producing some 16 million bottles a year with the name 'Tokay' but producers have already begun to drop the label, and there is little fear of a commercial impact from the ban, according to the Interprofessional Council of Alsace Wines.

Technically growers can keep using the term till next April.

Hungary has also won agreement from Italy to stop use of the name 'Tocai Friulano' for a variety of grape grown in the north of the country, and under a deal with neighbouring Slovakia "Tokay" can only be used for wine produced in a small area along the Hungarian border.

Hungarian Tokay was made famous in France at the start of the 18th century when King Louis XIV was sent a supply by the Prince of Transylvania. He reportedly described it as a "wine of kings, and a king of wines" — a slogan used in marketing campaigns ever since.

Hungary currently produces 1.2 million bottles of Tokay every year, out of total wine production of five million bottles.

Copyright AFP

Subject: French news

 

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