The wine guild

The History of Tokaj’s "Vinum Regum Rex Vinorum" Confrérie des Chevaliers de Vin

The origin of wine-guilds and confréries dates back to the middle ages. Confréries were established in most noted wine growing regions to foster traditions and to celebrate the joys of wine.

The Confrérie of Tokaj Chevaliers de Vin (Knights of Wine) was formed in 1987, in the Rákóczi Cellar in Tokaj, the place where knights from Transylvania and beyond the River Tisza elected János Zápolya King of Hungary in 1526.

Prominent among the founders are Dr. Sándor Bodnár, the former Grand Maitre, András Bacsó, László Kubus, István Müller and János Porkoláb.

On 27th May 1987, delegates from the National Association of Bacchus Wine Confréries visited us and our first initiations took place. Since then members of the Tokaj Confrérie have been active in the National Association of Hungarian Wine Confréries.

In 1999 the Tokaj Confrérie reformed its Grand Assembly when it joined Tokaj Renaissance. The Assembly now consists of twenty members, and the following members were elected to special functions:

Grand Maitre: Tamás Dusóczky

Chancellor: Dr. Sándor Bodnár

Master of Ceremonies: Zsolt Kálmán

Chief Cup – Bearer: János Porkoláb

Ambassador: István Müller

The Tokaj Confrérie has an established code of ethics to which members are expected to abide. Ceremonies follow a strictly defined order, and evoke a sense of solemnity and pageantry which is reinforced by the Confrérie’s elaborate costumes, its flag, and the venue chosen for the meetings: the very cellar where Zapolya was elected king in the 16th century.

New candidates must have their applications backed by each member of the Grand Assembly. Only those who are dedicated supporters of Tokaj wine, who believe in its future and are prepared to make sacrifices on its behalf will be considered for membership. Thus far the Confrérie has around 160 members, notable among whom are Jacques Delors, Otto von Habsburg , Egon Klepsch, and Robert Tinlot (president of OIV), to name but a few. Initiations take place the last Saturday of May every year.

Today the confrérie is run by the Tokaj Renaissance Association. The initiation ceremony – by far the most important event in the annual life-cycle of the confrérie – follows a long established custom. Candidates are put through an ancient wine-making trial – requiring them first to rack the new wine into barrels, then knock the hoop firmly into place around the staves with a cooper’s traditional hammer. If and when the trial is passed, the candidate is invited before the Grand Maitre to take the pledge with the following words:

I solemnly pledge that I will abide by the rules of the “Vinum Regum Rex Vinorum”, the Confrérie of Tokaj. I swear that I will work to further the interests and fame of the great wines of Tokaj. I believe and will help others to share in my belief that Tokaj is the Wine of Kings and the King of Wines and will empty my glass with the grateful words of Pope Benedict XIV:

Happy is the queen who sent you
Happy is the soil that made you
Happy am I who’ll drink you.”

Now the Grand Maitre inducts the successful candidates with an aszú paddle. An elaborate certificate testifies that the candidate has successfully passed the trial and has been thus admitted into the Confrérie of Tokaj. The guests are dismissed with the following words of the Grand Maitre:

Ladies and Gentlemen!

I hereby announce that our Confrérie has been enhanced with new members, who are ready to work for the fame of Tokaj wine. I announce that our ceremony will be terminated by our withdrawal.

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