When most wine drinkers think of "Eastern Europe", the wine that comes to mind is Hungary's Tokaji (pronounced and sometimes spelled tokay). The wine's famous reputation dates back to the 1500s. Prized by the Tsars of Russia, this wine was so desired that there was a group of Cossacks whose only mission was to ensure this wine reached them.
Now, many of the Tokaji estates are owned partially by Europeans or Australians. The three top wineries are Nyulaszo, Szt Tamas and Betsek. There is one second growth, Birsalmas. Perhaps the best known Tokaji is the Royal Tokaji Wine Company, which is partially owned by the English wine critic Hugh Johnson.
Tokaji is a sweet wine, made in a similar style to Sauternes
. Wineries make Tokaji with semi-dry grapes that have had 'noble rot' take hold. The grapes in this state are called Aszu
. They are put into a wooden putton
for a certain number of days, between 6 and 8 usually.
The juice concentrates at the bottom of the putton - usually 50 pounds of graapes will only yield 1/4 of a pint. This goes into a special "Essencia" wine, which is incredibly rich in sugar.
The remaining paste is added to a blend of 'normal' grape wine, with air left in the cask to allow oxidation, like Sherry
. The sweetness of this final wine depends on how many puttonyos are added to this base wine.
Tokaji is rather sweet and is typically drunk as a dessert wine. It is normally drunk on its own rather than with food, but it could go well with a sweet fruit dish, such as an apricot pastry. It should be drunk at around 57F from a small glass, to concentrate its aromas. Tokaji can age for many years, most around drunk between 5-10 years old.
All content on the WineIntro website is personally written by author and wine enthusiast Lisa Shea. WineIntro explores the delicious variety and beautiful history which makes up our world of wine! Lisa loves supporting local wineries and encouraging people to drink whatever they like. We all have different taste buds, and that makes our world wonderful. Always drink responsibly.