Tokaji – a sweet, sweet visit to Hungary

Jan 13, 14 Tokaji – a sweet, sweet visit to Hungary

I don’t exactly remember the first time I tried tokaji but I’m pretty sure it was a Disznoko tokaji as that’s the name that most sticks in my mind whenever I think of tokaji.

furmint on the vine

furmint on the vine

Tokaji comes from Hungary and is made from grapes that have been left on the vine for as long as possible. This results in botrytis which shrivels up the grapes but leaves them with a high concentration of sugar. They call them aszu berries and each one has to be individually picked. Tokaji is make up of three grapes, furmint, harslevelu and zeta. I was invited by Millesima to join in on the harvest for a day.

Unfortunately, the weather was rubbish, slightly rainy and not the best weather for picking. As a matter of fact, they can’t pick when it’s raining so instead of 100 people out in the fields picking the Aszu berries we found only one solitary worker carefully choosing the right berries to go into the blend in between the rains.

solitary Aszu picker

solitary Aszu picker

Laszlo with a handful of Azsu in the vineyard

Laszlo with a handful of Azsu in the vineyard

Harvest can take many weeks and the average haul each day is 6 to 10 kgs, which is a fraction of a normal day’s harvest in other wine regions. The Aszu berries are something special however, being so dry that they have to be soaked in a base wine or fermenting wine before they can become a wine – something that is rarely done outside of Tokaji. When the berries are picked, they are kept in steel vats, often for weeks at a time and the run-off from this is called Eszencia.

one bin is a days harvest

one bin is a days harvest

Aszu berries close up

Aszu berries close up

We got to try the Eszencia later in the day as well as visit the cellar where it is stored. There is so little Eszencia produced that in the cellar we saw a demi-john labelled 2011 and that was pretty much all there is of that vintage. Eszencias are extremely concentrated and have only about 1%-3% alcohol.

eszencia in demi john

eszencia in demi john

in the eszencia cellar

in the eszencia cellar

They are so intense that Disznoko have even commissioned a special ‘Angel’ spoon to consume the Eszencia. The wine is so thick and sweet yet full of flavour, I loved it! But a teaspoon or two is really all that is required otherwise, you’d probably end up in a sugar coma.

can you say 'residual sugar' - eszencia

can you say ‘residual sugar’ – eszencia straight from the demi-john

the Eszencia Angel spoon

the Eszencia Angel spoon

Eszencia and the angel

Eszencia and the angel

Laszlo Meszaros, the director of Disznoko, was our guide during our stay. He’s extremely knowledgeable about the vineyards and he even gave us a tour and tasting of the cellars – tasting all the recent vintages in barrel was an interesting exercise. It was fascinating to taste not only the different vintages but also the different parcels that each barrel came from, the terroir of each parcel evident with each mouthful.

Laszlo in the cellar

Laszlo in the cellar

Laszlo and his winethief

Laszlo and his winethief

Afterward, we tasted through a vertical of Disznoko from 1993, the second vintage up to 2003. I was most impressed by their Kapi single vineyard 1999. An intense, complex and utterly delicious wine, I could drink this wine everyday, despite it’s sweetness, it’s still incredibly vibrant and a pleasure to drink.

a vertical of Disznoko

a vertical of Disznoko

After all that sweet wine, we sat down to a simple lunch of traditional Hungarian cuisine in the belvedere overlooking the vineyards. Watching the clouds shift in size and colour throughout lunch was better then any artificial audiovisual show and a wonderful way to end our stay at the vineyards.

Laszlo amongst the vines

Laszlo amongst the vines

the vineyards and the winery

the vineyards and the winery

Laszlo at lunch in the belvedere

Laszlo at lunch in the belvedere

 

 

 

4 Comments

  1. Carolyn McCauley /

    Could you please tell me how I may purchase the Eszencia Angel Spoon? My husband and I purchased a set on our recent visit to Budapest and one of them unfortunately broke

  2. Wow, this seems like a totally “wow” experience. Tokaji Late harvest and Aszú wines are a real treat. Especially the Eszencia once are a treat.

    What year did the vertical start? 1993?

    All the best!
    Elwin

    • Hi Elwin,
      We were fortunate enough to start with the ’93, absolutely sublime! It was a fantastic trip and would love to visit the region again. 🙂

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