Royal Tokaji 5 Puttonyos (Red Label) (500ML) 2007
Tokaji Aszú wines are wonderful on their own as an apéritif or with cigars and petits fours. These wines also pair well with a wide variety of foods, including foie gras, fruit tarts, chocolate desserts, and blue and soft cheeses.
The first Tokaji Aszú (toh-KAY ah-SOO) wine was created in the 1600s, perhaps by accident - a harvest delayed by threat of enemy invasion. In 1700, Tokaj became the first European region to have its vineyards classified, its uniquely varied terroirs and climates rated Primae Classis, Secundae Classis, Tertius Classis ("1st Growth, 2nd Growth, 3rd Growth") by Prince Rakoczi of Transylvania. This classification system is still used in Hungary today. Louis XIV of France (1638 - 1715) declared Tokaji "the wine of Kings and the King of wines", while in the 18th century, Catherine the Great stationed soldiers in Tokaj to protect her vineyards.
Quality production ended with World Wars I and II and the Communist takeover of Hungarian winemaking. Aszú grapes were used for mass production in factories, with vineyard distinctions lost in giant tanks. Tokaji's renaissance began after the collapse of communism with the Royal Tokaji Wine Company (RTWC) in 1989, inspired by well-known wine author, Hugh Johnson, and others. RTWC's founders started the winery in an effort to preserve what they considered a dying art. "I couldn't resist bringing back to life a wine that had been so renowned centuries ago," says Johnson.
The Tokaji region lies 240 km north-east of Budapest, Hungary, situated in the Zemplen Mountains at the confluence of the Tisza and Bodrog rivers. Tokaji enjoys long sunny summers, while dry autumns and the early morning mists, created by the meeting of the two rivers, encourage the development of noble rot on aszú berries. The Botrytis cinerea makes the berries dry and shrivel, thus concentrating the juices and forming the aszú berries. All these characteristic elements give the Tokaji azsú wines their own distinctive character.
Topographically, these hilly vineyards are most similar to the patchwork-quilted vineyards of the Côte d’Or in Burgundy. The Tokaji vineyards were first delimited and classified by Prince Rákóczi around 1700. For over 300 years this unique terroir and micro-climate has yielded extraordinary, first class wines..
Best known for lusciously sweet dessert wines but also home to distinctive dry whites and reds, Hungary is an exciting country at the crossroads of tradition and innovation. Mostly flat with a continental climate, Hungary is almost perfectly bisected by the Danube River (known here as the Duna), and contains central Europe’s largest lake, Balaton. Soil types vary throughout the country but some of the best vines, particularly in Tokaj, are planted on mineral-rich, volcanic soil.
Tokaj, Hungary’s most famous wine region, is home to the venerated botrytized sweet wine, Tokaji, produced from a blend of Furmint and Hárslevelű. Dry and semi-dry wines are also made in Tokaj, using the same varieties. Other native white varieties include the relatively aromatic and floral, Irsai Olivér, Cserszegi Fűszeres and Királyleányka, as well as the distinctively smoky and savory, Juhfark. Common red varieties include velvety, Pinot Noir-like Kadarka and juicy, easy-drinking Kékfrankos (known elsewhere as Blaufränkisch).
Apart from the classics, we find many regional gems of different styles.
Late harvest wines are probably the easiest to understand. Grapes are picked so late that the sugars build up and residual sugar remains after the fermentation process. Ice wine, a style founded in Germany and there referred to as eiswein, is an extreme late harvest wine, produced from grapes frozen on the vine, and pressed while still frozen, resulting in a higher concentration of sugar. It is becoming a specialty of Canada as well, where it takes on the English name of ice wine.
Vin Santo, literally “holy wine,” is a Tuscan sweet wine made from drying the local white grapes Trebbiano Toscano and Malvasia in the winery and not pressing until somewhere between November and March.