Royal Tokaji Late Harvest (500ML) 2016
Blend: 47% Furmint, 26% Harslevelu, 20% Yellow Muscat, 7% other native varietals
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.
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. The mineral-rich volcanic soils present mainly as clay or loess. The majority of Royal Tokaji’s vineyards are in the Mád commune. These include the 1st growths Szt. Tamás, Nyulászó and Betsek. Mézes Mály, a great 1st growth, lies within the Tarcal commune.
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.
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.