Tokaji – a sweet story

Do you think you know everything about the sweetest wine? Nowadays something is changing with the new generation of winemakers and the new trends, less oak and oxidation towards more freshness and fruitness. So…
Tokay region is in the NE part of Hungary at the foothills of the Carpathian mountains near the Slovakian border. The vineyards have a southerly exposure which ensures a large and warm period of ripening until late autumn. These conditions combined with the early morning humidity from the rivers Bodrog and Tisza creates the perfect place for the development of the noble rot.

The harvest of the TOKAJI FURMINT ( the most widely planted) is traditionally hand made and usually the pickers pass through the vineyards several times and separates the grapes in 3 categories from which are made a wide range of wine styles.

– individual aszú (rotten) grapes

– bunches with only a few berries affected

– unaffected bunches

This way we have the NON BOTRYTIS DRY WINES which can vary a lot in style from simple, unoaked and fresh which have to be consumed young, to the concentrated oaked ageworthy premium wines.

The second category is TOKAJI SZAMORODNI ( which means harvested “as they come”) can be dry (szaraz) and sweet (édes) in base of the percentage of noble rot present. The wines must be aged in casks for at least 1 year and be 2 years old before release (most of them are aged longer). The casks for the dry wines are not completely filled to encourage the flor-like yeast to form.

The third category is TOJAJI ASZÚ which starts from a base wine from healthy grapes. During or after fermentation, the aszú berries are macerated in the base wine sup to 36 hours. This mixture is pressed and the wine sis matured for at least 3 years, 2 of which in oak barrels.

The unit used to express the level of sweetness is the PUTTONY and the scale runs from 3 to 6 as follows :

– 3 puttonyos ( 60 g/l)

– 4 puttonyos ( 90 g/l)

– 5 puttonyos ( 120 g/l)

– 6 puttonyos ( 150 g/l)

The Aszú Eszencia is the sweetest category and requires a min of 180 g/l of residual sugar. It is an expensive wine made in the best vintages. Traditionally were matured in barrels between 3-6 years and they had an oxidative character like Sherry Fino.

Classic Tokaji is deep amber with high acidity and intense aromas with hints of orange marmalade, apricot and honey.

There is now a trend among the young winemakers to age less. Modern styles sweet wines are gaining importance and the producers are increasingly make also top quality dry wines.


  

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