Tokaji for a Celebration

I love Tokaji.  Frankly, I love dessert wines in general and find them to be the most nuanced and complex wine category in the world, and woe to the wine drinker who poo-poos so-called sweet wines.  You are missing out!  I also love the history of Tokaji wines and have been in love with the wines from there since my first introduction relatively early in my wine career.  If you love Tokaji too, you should check out the ultimate Tokaji wine reference by Miles Lambert-Gócs Tokaji Wine: Fame, Fate, Tradition.  It is one of my favorite specialized wine books and is a really unique style of wine writing that is so completely thorough without going into producer profiles, that I find myself constantly returning to it to glean more information from this incredibly information-dense tome.  I found myself looking to enjoy some Tokaji recently that I picked up from work.  I had never had any from Disznókő and was excited to reward myself after an intense period of study leading up to my Burgundy Master-Level Program exam.  I know, I know.  I should have celebrated with some Burgundy, but I had just got this in at work and was excited to try it.

I won’t spend too much time with the “beginner-level” information about Tokaji, but want to go to the next level with some more advanced Tokaji tibdits.  I made a chart below that features the requirements for the major categories of Tokaji and included a few other notable dessert wines from other parts of the world as a point of comparison:

Style Min. Potential Alcohol Min. Achieved Alcohol Residual Sugar Levels
Aszú 3 puttonyos 12.54% 9% 60g/L
Aszú 4 puttonyos 14.31% 9% 90g/L
Aszú 5 puttonyos 16.11% 9% 120g/L
Aszú 6 puttonyos 18.53% 9% 150g/L
Aszúeszencia 16.62% 6% 180g/L
Eszencia 27.75% 1.2-8.0% 450g/L
Riesling Auslese 88° Oechsle 7% No required minimum
Riesling Beerenauslese 110° Oechsle (13.8%) 5.5% No required minimum
Riesling Trockenbeerenauslese 150° Oechsle 5.5% No required minimum
Riesling Eiswein 110° Oechsle (13.8%) 5.5% No required minimum
Ruster Ausbruch (Austria) 27° KMV 5% No required minimum

Tentatively, there have been recent legislative changes that have removed certain categories of Tokaji, namely 3- and 4-puttonyos wines as well as the Aszúeszencia category.  The aim, I suppose, is to further align Tokaji identity with heavy botrytis influence, though this seems contrary to recent endeavors by many producers to produce dry white wines based primarily on Furmint or Hárslevelű. Perhaps we will see separate designations for these economically important, though recently developed, wine styles.   However, in Lambert-Gócs’s book, his research seems to indicate that the identification of Tokaji with botrytis-affected wines has not always been traditional, though historically the most highly-regarded wines were those affected by noble rot.

Disznókő holds a very important and historical position in Tokaj.  The wines of Tokaj were among the first to be classified and delimited.  Disznókő was a highly-regarded vineyard tract that was mentioned in the classifications of 1798 and 1867 and rated “1st Class” (Lambert-Gócs 142).  It is located on the southern face of the Perlitdomb hill of the Mezőzombor commune, which is one of the most southerly villages of Tokaj-Hegyalja.  While Disznókő has been Mezőzombor’s most notable vineyard, other 1st Class rated vineyards include Csojka, Hangács, and Zombori-Király (89).  Disznókő  is currently the largest single vineyard tract in the Tokaji production area.  It is a 150ha vineyards that is planted with 104ha of vines.  The soil is dominated by clay over volcanic-derived tuff, though undoubtedly there is a great deal of variation over such a large vineyard area.  According to their website, which is chock-full of great information, their vineyard is planted to 60% Furmint, 30% Hárslevelű, 9% Zéta, and 1% Sárgamuskotály (aka Muscat Blanc a Petits Grains).

IMG_20141029_095213The example that I was able to try was the 2007 vintage 5 puttonyos example.  2007 was reported to be an ideal year for aszú wines, with a prolonged and warm summer with rains arriving at precisely the right time in the autumn, fostering good botrytis growth.  The wine was a very fresh and modern example of Tokaji Aszú.  The fruit profile was very fresh and tropical, in contrast to other examples that I have had that feature more dried and preserved fruit flavors and also tend to have a mildly oily texture.  Bright pineapple, red papaya, tangerine, yellow apple, and quince flavors were carried by a very refreshing acidity that kept the texture light and fresh.  White flower and honey notes were also present, but the fruit character was really at the forefront.  The aforementioned acidity kept the wine far from the cloying character which occasionally plagues the category of dessert wine.  I really enjoyed the wine, which was served with two different varieties of bleu cheese and some red grapefruit marmalade.  It was a great match and an ideal way to relax after intensive study.  The wine was an interesting contrast to other Tokaji Aszú that I have had, which is admittedly little and with no examples of the extreme age that the wine is famed to support.  It was a good representation of the modern and new wave of winemaking in the region, though I really hope that the more traditional ways are maintained as well, in fear that Tokaji will become less distinguishable from other dessert wines.

 

 

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