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Tokaj Aszú, 6 Puttonyos – Béres Tokaj

Tokaji Aszú is Hungary’s beloved sweet wine, which historically has been appreciated by royalty, diplomats, and celebrities of all types. After receiving a shipment of Tokaj wine as a gift from Prince Rákóczi II, Louis XIV famously called it the “wine of kings, the king of wines.” Aszú is a rich, golden-colored wine, characterized not just by its sweetness and complex layers of flavors, but by its extraordinary balance between sweetness and acidity. This balance is what makes it so easy and pleasurable to drink—and incomparable to any other sweet wine that you may have tasted before. Aszú is made from botrytized grapes (noble rot, or Botrytis cinerea) which look like raisins. The harvest is labor-intensive, since the grapes are hand-picked, berry by berry, in multiple rounds starting in late October or November. The Aszú grapes are macerated in base wine or fermenting must (which was made from the earlier harvest). Next, the Aszú grape mixture that was macerated in the base wine (the Aszú dough) is pressed and the resulting juice is fermented. The wine is stored in barrels made from oak from the nearby Zemplén forest, and aged for several years in the special climates of the underground cellar systems that are unique to the Tokaj region.

This wine is a blend of Furmint (70 percent) and Hárslevelű (30 percent) from volcanic soil in the Lőcse and Omlás vineyards. Vintage 2008 had an early spring, and enough rain to produce a good amount of botrytis and lots of Aszú berries. Grapes were harvested up until November 26th. The gorgeous dark golden-amber color of this wine is a promising sign of what is to come inside the bottle. This wine was fermented in oak barrels and aged in Hungarian oak barrels for 24 months (with an additional 12 months in the bottle before it was released). By now this wine is 15 years old, and is just beautiful. The nose is bold, with layers of aromas like caramel and honey, dried fruit (apricots, mango, and orange), and a bit of oak. This wine has 171 grams per liter of residual sugar and 11 grams per liter of acidity. But after taking a sip you’ll immediately notice the lively acidity and perfect balance (so much so that it seems to have almost a dry character). Aszú is known for its layers of complex flavors. This one has delicious tropical fruit notes (pineapple, mango, and papaya); orange flavors (dried orange zest and fresh orange); tobacco (from the oak aging); caramel and sweet chamomile tea. Alcohol is 11 percent, and the lingering finish has an intriguing bitter touch.

You can enjoy this wine with a dessert that is not too sweet (something more fruity or nutty). But for us, this wine is the dessert. In Hungary the traditional pairing would be goose liver pate or blue cheese.

24,990 Ft

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*Prices shown include Hungarian VAT (27%). Final prices are calculated based on the VAT of your shipping country.

In 1700 Tokaj developed one of the world’s earliest vineyard classification systems, and Tokaj is most famous for being the birthplace of Tokaji Aszú—one of the world’s oldest sweet wines.

Located in northeastern Hungary—which historically has been the crossroads of Central Europe—the region is framed by natural borders: the town of Tokaj in the southwest corner where the Bodrog and the Tisza rivers meet, the Bodrog river to the southeast, and the Zemplén hills to the northwest. The Tokaj region has 5,500 hectares of vineyards and 27 towns and villages. Wines from the different vineyards can all be quite different, and winemakers here love to experiment with single vineyard wines.

On top of its long and fascinating history, the Tokaj region has so much for wine-lover’s to discover. It is rich in a variety of volcanic soils; has a microclimate ideal for bringing on noble rot (botrytis); grows some really interesting indigenous grape varieties; and has a truly enchanting subterranean labyrinth of mould-covered cellars where the wines age. Though Tokaj is best known for its sweet Aszú wines, which are made from botrytized grapes, more than half of the wine it produces is dry.

Six official grape varieties grow in Tokaj. The superstars are the indigenous varieties Furmint and Hárslevelű, with Furmint being the high profile grape that tends to steal the show. Other varieties grown in smaller quantities are Sárga Muskotály, Kövérszölö, Zéta (a crossing of Furmint and Bouvier), and Kabar (a crossing of Hárslevelű and Bouvier). All of these wines are being increasingly made in dry styles, which winemakers are embracing because they are more marketable.

But it’s the sweet wines which make the region so unlike any other. They rely on the development of botrytis, which comes with the right weather conditions. The harvest here is a long, labor-intensive process which starts with the dry wine harvests, and continues with the harvesting of the botrytized grapes, which is done by hand.

In addition to Aszú (which is made with botryized grapes which are selectively harvested by hand, one berry at a time), other styles include late harvest wines, sweet and dry versions of Szamorodni (made with whole clusters of grapes containing a mixture of both botrytized and healthy grapes), Forditás (made from the second pressing after Aszú is made), Máslás (made from the second pressing after Aszú is made), and Eszencia (made from the free-run juice of Aszú berries, so thick and concentrated that it only reaches about four percent alcohol).

Béres is a well-known family name in Hungary. Before getting into the wine business, Dr. Béres developed the “Béres drops” (Béres csepp), a popular multivitamin that has also made it to the “Hungaricum” list, a list which names the most important Hungary products.

The Béres family founded their winery in 2003. They have 45 hectares of vineyards, and an average annual production of 100,000 bottles. Their winery and many of their vineyards (and a plum orchard, from which they make pálinka) are located in the picturesque village of Erdőbénye.

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