Royal Tokaji Aszu 5 Puttonyos 2008
Royal Tokaji was founded in 1990 by well-known author Hugh Johnson and a small group of investors who were inspired to restore and preserve Hungary’s precious wine legacy after the fall of Communism. Tokaji is the world’s original sweet white wine – the “cult wine” of the 18th and 19th centuries – and the Tokaj wine region was the first to have classified vineyards. At the end of the 17th century, Prince Rakoczi classified the finest vineyards into: great first growths, first growths, second growths and third growths. Royal Tokaji owns five of those first and second growth vineyards, including one of Hungary’s two great first growths: Mézes Mály.
The winery produces a range of exceptional wines from dry to sweet, including several single- vineyard aszú (botrytis-affected) wines and Essencia, the free-run juice of botrytised “raisins.” The wines’ distinct character results from the varied volcanic soils of the classified vineyards, indigenous grapes and yeast, traditional winemaking methods and barrel-aging in the winery’s 13th-century underground cellars. Richness with vibrant acidity is the hallmark of all the Royal Tokaji 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).
With hundreds of white grape varieties to choose from, winemakers have the freedom to create a virtually endless assortment of blended white wines. In many European regions, strict laws are in place determining the set of varieties that may be used, but in the New World, experimentation is permitted and encouraged. Blending can be utilized to enhance balance or create complexity, lending different layers of flavors and aromas. For example, a variety that creates a soft and full-bodied wine would do well combined with one that is more fragrant and naturally high in acidity. Sometimes small amounts of a particular variety are added to boost color or aromatics. Blending can take place before or after fermentation, with the latter, more popular option giving more control to the winemaker over the final qualities of the wine.