What is Tokaji?

The Tokaji or “Tokay” is one of those wines that do not leave indifferent. It is particularly known for its sweet version. Easily identifiable in the stores with its particular bottle shape, we decided to tell you a little more about it!

Tokaji, the famous wine from Hungary

Tokaji, pronounced “Tokay”, is a Hungarian wine that has its roots in the city of Tokaj. It should be noted that “Tokaji” wines can be found in a small part of Slovakia. The appellation area extends a few kilometers beyond the border. This is explained by the fact that this appellation was delimited when Slovakia was part of the Kingdom of Hungary. It is one of the first controlled appellations in the world, dating back to the 18th century!

Tokaji grape variety, Furmint

The main grape variety is Furmint. A white grape variety probably originating from Croatia but which Hungary has made its standard bearer. This variety adapts very well to the continental climate of the region. It offers a lot of acidity and can contain a large amount of sugars. It is particularly suited to the formation of Botrytis Cinerea, otherwise known as “noble rot” and this despite a thick skin.

Returning to Hungary, we also find other varieties such as Harslevelu and Sara Muskotaly, which is none other than Muscat à Petits Grains. Their proportion in the blend is less and can be used to complement Furmint in some cases. The Harslevelu gives more softness to the final result and reduces the acidity. The Sarga Muskotaly contains more sugar and can add other aromatic notes such as grape.

Styles: sweet but also dry!

Beware, despite what you might think, not all Tokaji are sweet wines! On the contrary, there are many dry white wines, and their quality can be excellent.

The term to remember for this is “Aszu” which means botrytized.

Tokaji Aszu are therefore sweet wines that many compare in quality and style to Sauternes wines. One of the notable differences would be a greater freshness, making this style preferable, as it becomes much more subtle.

A particular bottle shape

The bottles have a traditional style that is distinctive and therefore easily recognizable. Particularly for the “Aszu” version. The neck is indeed thin and very elongated. It has a different capacity of 50 cl. Note that the dry wines are packaged in a classic version of 75cl but which takes slightly this shape. It is much less marked, but we always find this narrower neck.

The Puttonyos

On a bottle of Tokaji Aszu you will find an extremely useful mention, the Puttonyos, which are expressed in levels. Today only levels 5 and 6 remain.

Puttonyos are harvesters’ crates containing botrytized Aszu berries. These crates serve as a unit of measurement. A certain number of these crates are added in barrels to a dry base wine must. Different barrels can be used, but we will mention the traditional “Gönci” of 136 liters.

5 or 6, as you may have understood, will determine the final style which will be more or less sweet. This corresponds today to a minimum concentration in the 120g/L, which is about similar to the concentration of the sweet wines of Sauternes.

Eszencia, the nectar of Tokaji

It is a sweet, ultra concentrated version. A rarity that is extremely difficult to find, and whose prices can soar. The concentration in sugar of Eszencia is extreme. We are talking about a minimum of 450g/L! The wine is syrupy, extremely concentrated in sugars and aromas. The fermentation can take years! And the ageing potential is out of the ordinary. It is highly recommended to wait several decades before drinking it. Some people like to characterize this wine as eternal, which can raise it to the rank of myth.

With Tokaji, Hungary contributes to the diversity of the wine world, offering a unique wine with an incredible aromatic palette and a wide variety of styles. If you are not familiar with this wine we strongly encourage you to try them. Their quality is now recognized worldwide, it’s up to you to discover which version you prefer!


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