TOKAY THE KING OF WINE, THE WINE OF KING
If I say “liquoreux white wine”, you’re thinking of Jurançon, Sauternes, Riesling vendanges tardives.But do you know the Hungarian Tokay?
Still called Tokaj or Tokaji, the Tokay is one of the oldest liqueur wines, whose first traces date back to the 16th century!
Located 200 km northeast of Budapest, the Tokaj-Hegyalja vineyard extends over a 70 km long and 20 km wide strip on the border between Hungary and Slovakia.
In autumn, the river’s moisture rises in the form of mists.A thick morning fog covers the vines and promotes the development of botrytis.This fungus which feeds on the water contained in the grain dries the grapes and increases its sugar concentration.It’s called noble rot.
The grains that developed this “noble rot” are called the “aszús” grains.They are mainly from the local grape variety: the furmint.Trampled separately, they are then assembled to dry white wine during fermentation.The amount of aszús added to dry wine is counted as puttonyos.The sweet wines thus obtained are called according to the quantity of aszú wine added: «Aszú 2 puttonyos» up to «Aszú 6 puttonyos».
Beyond 6 puttonyos, the wine takes the name of Aszú Eszencia.Tokay Eszencia, the most liquoreous, is made of 100% Aszús grains.
After fermentation, the wine will age at least three years, that is two in oak barrels.This aging time can be up to 10 years for the sweetest wines, and therefore the noblest.
The late harvest represents a risk for the vine grower who may see his harvest destroyed with the slightest rain.It is considered that over a decade, the ideal conditions for the production of Aszú wine are met on average only twice!In addition, some years the climatic conditions are not met to produce the precious beverage.
The Tokay Aszú was widely used as a “diplomatic gift”.The Hungarians sent wine casks to Louis XIV to demand his support in the war of independence against Austria.Louis XIV particularly appreciates this wine which he describes as «king of wines, wine of kings».It was the beginning of a three-century reign in which the Tokay triumphed over the tables of European courts.
In the course of the 20th century, the dark events of history make loss of its superb at the Tokay.The flight of oenologists during the Second World War, followed by the Soviet influence which imposed a productivism vision, undermined the quality of wine.It is only when the Soviet bloc collapses that the vineyard undergoes a qualitative renewal which today leads it to the top.
Note that the Tokay pinot gris alsacien has nothing to do with the Hungarian Tokay.In 2007, Hungary regained the exclusivity of the use of the name Tokay, forcing Alsace to rename its «Tokay pinot gris» into «pinot gris».
Discover our selection of Tokaj :