The withered grapes (known locally as aszu) are picked by hand and collected in containers known as puttonyos which hold about 20 kg aszu grapes. This Hungarian wine is naturally created under the pressure of the grape’s own weight (eszencia) that has intense flavour. This eszencia is added to the ‘base’ white Hungarian wine. The higher the number of puttonyos that are added, the greater is the quality of the Hungarian wine. Wines can be found that are two, three, four, and five puttonyos, with six puttonyos wines more difficult to find. This Hungarian wine is then aged in wooden casks. Tokaji Aszu is then usually bottled in half litre ‘belly’ bottles and left for some years in the impressive cellars of Tokaj. Rare Tokaji Aszu Eszencia wine is made in exceptional years with more than six puttonyos, and then left for decades before being sold. Such outstanding vintages are years such as 1947 and 1963. Take care not to become confused with the ordinary Eszencia, which is also sold separately. The ordinary Eszencia is just nectar with sugar of 400 grams per litre but also high acidity of 17 grams or more that this Hungarian wine seems less sweet than it actually is.
Tasting a traditional Tokay (Tokaji) is a real experience, that is not quickly forgotten. You will be captured by an overwhelming bouquet with aromas of cedarwood, leather, preserved fruit, honey, tobacco, hazelnuts and other nuts, gingerbread, and exotic spices. Modern-style Tokaji Aszu (such as Disnoko) have a deep amber colour, very elegant bouquet of sun-dried apricots, quince, tobacco, leather, almonds, coffee, toast, and acacia honey for a five putt, and of sun-dried apricots, white honey, dates, prunes, and toast for a six putt. These Hungarian wines have power, finesse, a superb acidity which balances the extreme caressing nature of the wine. Drinking temperature for this Hungarian is 6-10°C (42.8-50°F).
TOKAJ, TOKAJI OR TOKAY HUNGARIAN WINE?
Tokaj is a town in the north east of Hungary. The Hungarians name their wines with the name of the grape or type of wine, preceded with the place of origin in the genitive form. Hence a Cabernet France from Sopron becomes a Soproni Cabernet Franc. Hajosi comes from Hajos, Villanyi from Villany etc. Therefore Hungarian wine from Tokaj becomes Tokaji Aszu or Tokaji Furmint but is still known as a Tokay in English. Finally to confuse matters further, the French came in contact with this liquid gold and decided to name their Pinot Gris wines Tokay. The labels of Alsatian wines may bear Tokay Pinot Gris instead of Pinot Gris d’ Alsace. It is to be hoped this etymological confusion will soon be ended.