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Published:  23 July, 2008

By Darrel Joseph

The Tokaj region in Hungary has been declared a UNESCO World Heritage site. The region, home of Tokaji Asz, was added to UNESCO's World Heritage list as a Cultural Landscape because of its distinct, 1,000-year-old viticultural tradition. Tokaj was chosen for more than its wine production; it is a wine production culture,' said Lia Bassa, from UNESCO's World Heritage Committee office in Budapest. The network of towns and vineyards, the deep, carved cellars, even the oak barrel production in the Zempln Hills, represent a way of life in Tokaj that has passed from generation to generation.' Asz was invented in Tokaj several centuries ago and its vinification method, recorded in 1630, is still used today. Production of this wine also led the region to develop the world's first vineyard classification system, in 1772. According to Andrs Egedy, director of the Tokaji Renaissance Association: The status can generate more interest in the region and especially Tokaji wines, and it may facilitate subsidies to help maintain and even develop the region further. But the status can also help ensure that development does not take the wrong direction. Mass tourism or other activities that go against our special viticulture must be prevented.' Renowned Tokaji producer Istvn Szepsy added: I don't think the World Heritage status will help us make better wine, but hopefully it will attract more investment to the region.' Since 1990, more than $100 million in foreign investment has been pumped into the region. According to Szepsy, this is approximately 10-15% of what is required.