Royal Tokaji

Tokaj, Hungary

Biographies

  • Hugh Johnson

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    Born in 1939, Hugh Johnson began his life-long passion for wine as a member of the Wine & Food Society at Cambridge University, where he gained an honors degree in English literature at King’s College (a constituent college of Cambridge University) in 1960. Degree in hand, Hugh became a feature writer for Vogue and House & Garden.

    In 1963, as a result of his close friendship with the octogenarian André Simon, founder of The International Wine & Food Society, Hugh became general secretary of the society and succeeded the legendary gastronome as editor of its magazine Wine & Food. At the same time, he became wine correspondent of The Sunday Times in London and started work on his first book, “Wine,” whose publication in 1966 established him as one of the foremost English gastronomic writers. After a year as travel editor of The Sunday Times, he became editor of Queen Magazine, doubling the circulation in just two years. Hugh was invited to write “The World Atlas of Wine” in 1969. The research involved took Hugh all over the world; the result was a best-seller that might justly claim to have put wine on the map. It was during this travel period that he visited Hungary for the first time, in 1970, and was taken with Tokaji wines. “I thought they were the finest wines I’d ever tasted. They possessed a combination of richness and finesse with incredible age and just got better,” he says of the experience.

    After a move to Essex with his young family and wife, Judy, Hugh became deeply involved in the study of trees, and by 1973, published his first book on this new passion, “The International Book of Trees,” with new editions published twice since. By 1979, with the inspiration and challenge of restoring his fine but neglected gardens, Hugh wrote “The Principles of Gardening” (published in 1983; translated into six languages). He also founded The Plantsman quarterly in 1979. The garden and arboretum at Saling Hall have since gained an international reputation and are open to visitors during summer months.

    From 1975 to 2005, Hugh was editorial consultant of The Garden (the Journal of The Royal Horticultural Society). Since 1977, he has annually produced “Hugh Johnson’s Pocket Wine Book,” which has now sold more than eight million copies and appears in 13 languages. And from 1986 to 2001, he served as a director of Bordeaux first-growth Château Latour.

    In 1990, Hugh co-founded Royal Tokaji with a group of investors to revive the revered but almost-forgotten aszú wines of the Tokaj region in Hungary. It became a private limited company in 1993. Hugh and his partners, later joined by fellow Englishman Ben Howkins, have been credited with the renaissance of Tokaji wines and returning these decadent sweet wines to their noble, coveted stature. Hugh is joint owner of Royal Tokaji’s Mézes Mály Vineyard, one of Tokaj’s two great first growths, which he purchased in partnership with Royal Tokaji in 1993.

    Hugh was named a Chevalier de l’Ordre National du Mérite by President Chirac of France in 2004. In 2006, he released “A Life Uncorked,” an intimate autobiographical tour decanting his life in the world of wine. Hugh was named an Officer of the British Empire (OBE) by Queen Elizabeth II in the 2007 New Year’s Honours List for his services to winemaking and horticulture.

    Hugh spends much time updating his existing books. For the last 30 years he has also written a monthly column for The Garden under the pseudonym Tradescant. In addition to his duties with Royal Tokaji, he currently serves as editorial advisor to The World of Fine Wine magazine and writes a bi-monthly column for Decanter. He is considered the world’s best-selling writer on wine, with total sales of about 15 million.

    Hugh Johnson
  • Ben Howkins, Co-founder and Director

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    Born in 1942, Ben Howkins was educated at Rugby School, and Amherst College, Massachusetts. Upon his return to the UK, he started a winter sports travel business and in June 1961 joined Brown & Pank, the wine division of the Watney Mann Brewery in Northampton. In 1963, Ben became the youngest person to be awarded the Vintners Scholarship, given annually by the Vintners Company to enable the winner to spend six months amongst Europe’s vineyards meeting the leading owners and winemakers. For the next five years, Ben used this acquired wine knowledge to pioneer wine sales in the Midlands and in London.

    When Grand Metropolitan absorbed Watney Mann in 1968, Ben was one of the first Brown & Pank employees to be transferred to International Distillers & Vintners (IDV). During the next two years,  he was brand manager for Gilbeys Gin and Piat Wines, and group product manager for Brown Gore & Welch’s agencies, Bols, Bouchard Père & Fils, and Croft.

    By 1970, Ben had passed both Part I and Part II of the Wine & Spirit Education Trust’s exams with distinction and was awarded the Williams & Humbert Sherry Scholarship. He was then invited to join IDV’s oldest company, the port producers Croft & Co founded in 1678, as export sales manager. He joined the board of Croft in 1972 as export sales director, introducing their products to the American and Far East markets, while continuing to grow European sales. In 1978, Ben became export marketing director of both the sherry and port operations, the year of the company’s 300th anniversary.

    During this time, Ben lectured on port at the Wine & Spirit Education Trust and wrote many wine articles for trade journals as well as consumer press. His widely acclaimed book on port “Rich, Rare & Red” was published by Heinemann in 1980. It was subsequently reissued in paperback by Christopher Helm.

    That same year, IDV appointed Ben managing director of Morgan Furze Ltd., the preeminent London wine merchants. Five years later, Ben was named a director of W&A Gilbey and was invited to join the Confrérie des Chevaliers du Tastevin in Burgundy, France, and Confraria do Vinho do Porto in Portugal. He joined the Livery of the Vintners’ Company in 1986, and became a member of the Royal Household Wine Committee in 1987.

    In 1989, Ben joined the independent port producers Taylor Fladgate & Yeatman, severing his 21-year stint with IDV. He also became chairman of the Wine Promotion Board in 1990 and launched the National Wine Week concept during his chairmanship. Ben also became a member of the Editorial Advisory Board of the International Journal of Wine Marketing, an honorary member of the Academy of Wine Service and was appointed to the Council of the Wine Guild of the United Kingdom, whose founder is Lord Montagu of Beaulieu.

    Ben was responsible for launching the Wine Cellars and Wine Shop at Lord Rothschild’s brilliantly restored, last-surviving Rothschild House at Waddesdon. The wine program has since grown in renown each year.

    In 1993, Ben joined forces with Hugh Johnson, the world’s most published wine author, and Peter Vinding-Diers, a Danish-born Bordeaux winemaker, to found Royal Tokaji — the first non-Hungarian company to invest in the region. Royal Tokaji is a founding member of the Tokaji Renaissance, dedicated to re-establishing Tokaji aszú as one of the world’s greatest wines.

    Ben Howkins, Co-founder and Director
  • Charles Mount, Managing Director

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    Charlie Mount was born in 1972. As the son of a British wine merchant, he was exposed to wine from an early age; the first wine he can remember tasting (at the age of 5) was Chateau d’Yquem 1971.

    After studying at Eton College, Charlie spent a year living and working in Florence, Italy before attending King’s College London and graduating with a degree in law.

    Charlie’s first job in the wine industry was with Majestic Wine Warehouses where he worked through his Wine & Spirit Education Trust Qualifications while driving a delivery van. He then joined Lea & Sandeman, a small, independent London wine merchant with exceptional agencies from Burgundy and Italy. He managed sales in UK restaurants and travelled to Italy visiting existing and potential agency partners.

    In 2003, Charlie joined Moët Hennessy Louis Vuitton as prestige sales manager with responsibility for UK Michelin Star restaurants and five-star hotels. He built a new area of the business focused on private clients and built a network of high-net worth collectors of Krug, Dom Pérignon, Hennessy and other LVMH brands. He also managed relationships with key corporate partners including the PGA European Tour.

    Charlie then moved from sales to marketing as brand manager for Champagne Krug. Here, he worked on the launch of Krug Clos d’Ambonnay and the expansion of the “Krug Room” private dining rooms from London to Hong Kong.

    Tokaji, and Royal Tokaji in particular, had long been a source of fascination for Charlie, and when the opportunity arose, he was delighted to join the company and is honored to be leading the next stage in the development of this unique wine brand.

    Charles Mount, Managing Director