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Kosher Tokaji Sweet Szamorodni – Tischler & Halpern

Kosher for Passover
This is a deliciously well-balanced and elegant Szamorodni, which has been aging in a noble way. Szamorodni is one of Tokaj’s traditional sweet wine styles. The name comes from a Polish word, which means “as it comes,” and refers to the type of harvest in which whole bunches of partially botrytized grapes picked (as opposed to Tokaji Aszú, which is made only from individually selected botrytized berries). Jews were using Tokaji wine as sacramental wine as early as the 1700s in Poland. Tokaji Szamorodni was the main wine which was exported to the Polish market, and much of it was kosher. So this wine is the continuation of two important traditions: the Tokaji Szamorodni wine style and Tokaj’s kosher winemaking tradition.

This wine is a blend of two local grapes, Furmint (70 percent) and Zéta (30 percent). 2015 was a hot and dry vintage, which led to early ripening. Grapes for this wine were harvested until the end of October, after rainy weather brought intense botrytization. The grapes were gently pressed (without being crushed or destemmed), fermented for three weeks in stainless steel vats, oak-barrel aged for 14 months, and bottled in April 2017. Since this is a kosher wine, this was all done under religious supervision.

This wine has a light golden color, with a creamy body, and a beautiful harmony between of sweetness and acidity. It is on the lower end of sweetness for a Szamorodni (67 grams per liter), but this is nicely balanced by the acidity (5.6 grams per liter), and alcohol (12.5 percent). The nose draws us in with vanilla notes, toffee, roasted peaches, dried apricots, and caramel-like aromas. This is a rich wine, with plenty of dried and cooked apricot and peach flavors, as well as some mango and plum jam. The finish is long, with some almond, minerality, and lingering candied fruit flavors.

Because it is just moderately sweet, this is a versatile wine to pair with food. But don’t just think of this as a dessert wine! Its balance between sweetness and acidity makes it a great match for a range of foods, particularly those which have some spice and heat (like Indian or Middle Eastern dishes). Or you could try the classic pairing, and drink this with foie gras. If you want to serve this as a dessert wine, try it next to cheesecake or poppyseed desserts.
This is a delicious sweet Szamorodni, whether you are seeking a kosher wine or just a great example of a sweet Tokaji wine!

About Tokaj’s Jewish History:
The Tokaj wine region has a long history of kosher winemaking, and before World War Two the region had a substantial Jewish community. It played a vital role in the production, sale, and transport of wine from Tokaj to the rest of the world. Tokaj’s Jewish story began in the mid-1700s when Polish Jews began to settle in the region. In the early-19th century, Jews from Galicia (an area along today’s Polish/Ukrainian border) arrived. Many of them were followers of the Hasidic movement and by the beginning of the 20th century, Tokaj had arguably become the most important center of Hasidism in Europe west of the Ukraine. The Jews of the region contributed enormously to the fact that Tokaj wine remained widely recognized internationally for centuries. Jews or non-Jews, everyone living in the region loved the wine.

5,590 Ft

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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).

Tischler & Halpern make Kosher wines from grapes grown at the Disznókő Estate, and produced by the winemakers at Disznókő in a separate area in the winery designated for making kosher wines. This is done under the religious supervision of rav Daniel Hanan, an Israeli rabbi approved by the Israeli Beth Din Tzedek.

The wine is kosher for Passover. Péter Tordai, owner of Tischler & Halpern, has long been fascinated by kosher wine and (with the help of Israeli rabbis) has been making it in the Tokaj region for 18 years. He saw that there was a need for kosher wine, and that Tokaj would be an ideal place to produce a range of kosher wines—dry, semi-sweet, and sweet versions—in a region which has deep kosher winemaking traditions, which have almost disappeared. During kosher wine production, there are ancient rules which must be followed, and the winemaking process must be carried out by observant Jews. The name Tischler & Halpern pays tribute to the family names of Tordai and his wife. Their daughter has also joined the family business, helping with sales.

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