the worldâ€™s leading authority on tokaji wines
CLASSING UP TOKAJ
Vineyard Classification and Appellation Control
Facts and tips about the elders of Tokaji wines
A panel tasting of a line-up of Tokaj's new sparkling wines
THE 1962 VINTAGE
An Austin Healey 3000 mkii in A Car Fit for a Tokaji
to The Tokaji Journal, a brand-new wine magazine that sets out to provide education and consumer advice on the great wines of Tokaj, both dry and sweet, tell about the people who make them and the terroir they come from, as well as give first hand information on the latest trends and developments in Hungary’s most famed wine region. Being unaffiliated with any winery or other business in the region ensures an independent stance and an unbiased approach, while we operate by clear-cut values and under a fairly emotional vision of returning Tokaj to its former glory. Great importance is attached to thorough research to confirm the accuracy of information published herein, and care is taken to avoid presenting privately-held views as universal facts. “The World’s Leading Authority on Tokaji Wines” is not meant to be a lofty title we have arbitrarily bestowed upon ourselves, but rather an ambition we are striving to fulfil over the years to come. We believe that the Tokaj region and its wines are special enough to deserve focussed, regular coverage in a topical magazine – a magazine that is fully determined to become worthy of its subject. The Editorial Staff
Photo:Tokaj Hill viewed from 30 kilometres away, just outside of the village of Gesztely
Giving Utterance to Tokaji
“The Magyar language stands afar off and alone. The study of other tongues will be found of exceedingly little use towards its right understanding. It is moulded in a form essentially its own, and its construction and composition may be safely referred to an epoch when most of the living tongues of Europe either had no existence, or no influence on the Hungarian region.” Sir John Bowring in the Preface to Poetry of the Magyars, 1830
A chalkboard listing wines offered for tasting at a festival in Bodrogkeresztúr
ince Sir John’s genuine effort to introduce Hungarian verse to a mid-19th century British audience in his book Poetry of the Magyars, Hungary’s literature has remained largely unable to break the inherent language barrier and really establish itself on the international scene. Wine is lucky, however, more to have the quality of music than of literature in the sense that it is internationally understood – even though the tongue that may be loosened by it is one of the world’s most incomprehensible. While the overwhelming majority of the globe’s traditional wine making regions happen to be located within the sphere of the Romance languages that are fairly easy to read and pronounce for the native English speaker, Hungary’s wine country with the deepest history and the greatest fame is marooned on a lone linguistic island in the Indo-European ocean. This helps neither the local winemaker to cut through the shroud of ignorance that still envelopes Tokaji in the English-speaking world at large, nor the curious foreign wine-lover to acquire knowledge and to speak knowledgeably about Tokaj. Afar off and alone as it may stand, Hungarian is by no means totally impenetrable, particularly since the Magyars’ ancient, runic-like script was replaced by an extended Latin alphabet centuries ago, making reading, though not understanding, less of a challenge. Pronunciation, however, does require a bit of learning and practising, and that is exactly where this digital edition can be of substantial help. In addition to an insight into the nuances of etymology of key Tokaji terms and guidance on pronunciation through the use of the International Phonetic Alphabet in our regular Language feature, linked icons are provided at the top of most pages to take you directly to the audio section of our website where you can listen to the correct pronunciation of most Hungarian words used in the articles. Though mastering Magyar is clearly not a necessity, an accurate vocalisation of Tokaj-related words is not only an implicit requirement for both the wine professional and the enthusiast when it comes either just to chatting over a bottle of Aszú or tutoring a tasting of Tokajis, but also, and much more importantly, an elegant way of showing respect for these wines and the people who make them.
Gergely Somogyi Editor
Cover photo: The Terézia Chapel, derelict but standing proud on top of Terézia-dűlő, hidden at this angle behind the softly rolling slope of Mézes-mály in Tarcal
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Contents EDITOR’S LETTER Giving Utterance to Tokaji A Wine of One's Own
LEADING STORIES Classing Up Tokaj Heritage Tokajis
TERROIR CLOSE-UP Pendits Dűlő The Lord's Bed
WINERY PROFILE Disznókő Tokaj Nobilis
PANEL TASTING Szamorodnis Drying Up Tokaji Sparklers
A CAR FIT FOR A TOKAJI A 1962 Austin with a matching wine
AWARD-WINNING TOKAJIS DWWA 2011 by Caroline Gilby MW 8 IWC 2011 23 Vinalies Internationales 2011 39 IWSC 2011 50
THE WINE ARTISAN Green Harvest with István Szepsy Prime Wines and Glass Stoppers
LANGUAGE Dűlő Tokaj,Tokaji, Hegyalja
SPECIAL FOCUS Robert Smyth on Dry Hárslevelű The Face of Tokaj Loess New Tokaji into New Bottles
36 54 76
CHEF PORTRAIT Attila Baranczó of Oroszlános Gábor Soltész of Sárga Borház
FINE DINING Four dishes from the top foursome Late autumn dishes
HARVEST REPORT 2011
ARCHITECTURE Industrial Building of the Year 2011
A superior room
The balcony of the suite
Background photo: A bird’s eye view of the hotel area from Terézia Hill.The double-winged building in the foreground is the Gróf Degenfeld Winery.The vines naturally blend into the landscaped park.
With roots traceable to Switzerland and the 13th century, a branch of the Degenfeld family started a deft integration into the aristocracy of Hungary in 1810 with the Emperor of Austria and King of Hungary Francis the First bestowing the title ‘Count of Hungary’ upon Miksa Degenfeld, who had by then been married to Hungarian Anna Teleki for ten years. Their three sons, Ottó, Imre and Pál, were all Hungarianised as much as to fully support Hungary’s war of independence against the Hapsburg Empire in the late 1840s. The most actively involved of the three was Imre Degenfeld, who was sentenced to death after the collapse of the war effort, but then reprieved and subsequently more or less retired from high politics to focus on managing the family’s agricultural businesses, which he would prove quite a dab hand at. The thousands of hectares the Degenfeld estates comprised throughout Hungary by the late 19th century included some of the best-situated vine sites on the southern flanks of the Tokaj Hill, such as the whole of first-class Nagyszőlő, and parts of Kis-Garai
and Lencsés-oldal. As one of the region’s largest landowners, Imre Degenfeld became founder of the Vinicultural Society of TokajHegyalja in 1857, and he also got hold of several nice houses in the town of Tokaj. All these properties would be part of what the family was ruthlessly dispossessed of with the rise of communist governments in Central-Eastern Europe after the Second World War. Sándor Degenfeld, the greatgrandson of Imre’s younger brother, Pál, managed to emigrate from Romania to Germany in 1964, and, after the fall of the Berlin wall, became eligible for compensation under the recompense programme of the Hungarian government, aimed at the restitution of pre-nationalisation proprietary rights. The compensation notes he received under the programme were used to purchase approximately 100 hectares of vineyards in Tarcal and nearby villages in 1995. Sándor Degenfeld’s daughter, Mária and her husband, Dr Thomas Lindner funded and actively managed the projects of first setting up a winery in Tarcal, and then buying and restoring the former Degenfeld residence in
the very centre of Tokaj town. Their latest project was the conversion of the stately mansion that had been built in the early 1870s, originally to house the Royal Wine-Grower Training Institute, into a four-star hotel right in the foreground of the new winery in the north-west of Tarcal. Opened in 2003 and awarded the Hotel Room of the Year accolade in 2006, Hotel Gróf Degenfeld is furnished with refined elegance to create a 19th century atmosphere in 20 twin and double rooms, along with a suite. Just opposite the beautifully-lit restaurant on the ground floor, the lounge is decorated with paintings which evoke the decades of the Austro-Hungarian Empire, and, via a two-leafed door, provides access to the reading room and a small conference room that by no means fall behind in terms of style and taste. Amenities include a heatable swimming pool, tennis courts, a gym, bicycle hire, and even a minibus with a driver to take you around to other wineries and relieve you of the drink-ordrive dilemma – making the hotel a perfect base from which to discover the Tokaj Wine Region.
THE 2011 DWWA REPORT
Tokaj at Decanter World Wine Awards by Caroline Gilby MW
marked a coming of age for Hungary in jensis Tokaji Aszú 6 Puttonyos. There were also ten what is now possibly the biggest wine strong silver medals from Tokaj and it is well worth competition in the world. The DWWA attracted over noting that silver at DWWA is worth more than in 12,200 entries this year and for the first time Hungary some other competitions. Each wine really is judged had her own panel, for which I was delighted to be on its own merits: it is not just about being best in its appointed chair. This is a clear sign that Hungarian class, nor about a set % of the wines getting medals wine is now deemed worthy of special focus rather (as is typical under OIV rules). than being buried in amongst the rest of Central and I’ve been a fan of dry wines from Tokaj for a few Eastern Europe. This year’s entries were relatively years now and Furmint is increasingly gaining wider few in number (perhaps it needs a bit more time to recognition for its potential for dry wines with real build awareness) but achieved a very respectable hit class and for its ability to deliver wines with a sense rate of 8% gold medals, including three wines from of place. It was thrilling to see a trophy going to a Tokaj (just for comparison I was told Australia man- dry Furmint for the first time – a single vineyard seaged 3.5% gold medals). There’s an interesting com- lection from Tokajicum and the first vintage made parison with Slovenia, perhaps the country in Central by winemaker János Fogl. Darázskő actually means “wasp rock” a local name for the Europe closest in quality terms, and “It was good to see outcrops of volcanic limestone tufa who has had her own panel for severTokaj living up to its that resembles wasp nests. Some al years. Slovenia manages to attract reputation as one of the good silvers were close behind from almost all the big names with their great wine terroirs of Dobogó and Sauska’s Cuvee 113 top wines, while so far Hungary’s entries are more about smaller or newer the world through both blend. I have to sound a note of cauproducers who want to establish a sweet and dry wines.” tion though – 30% of the dry wines scored badly for faults. In some casreputation. Tokaji entries in particular show this – for instance compared to Pannon Bormus- es, it was simply due to heavy phenolic wines with tra where names like Szepsy, Oremus, Királyudvar too much alcohol, perhaps reflecting a winemaking style that is not appreciated in an international conand Disznókő enter. So on to the results themselves. The wine world text. More worryingly, were wines where several botroutinely expects sweet Tokaji to collect some good tles showed oxidation faults and even one wine where medals and this year was no exception. There was a all four samples were called up and all showed TCA particularly noteworthy performance from Dobogó taint (suggesting a cellar problem rather than just cork who picked up their 3rd trophy in row for their 2006 taint). It would be good to see more attention paid to Aszú 6 Puttonyos. The trophy judges were absolutely the final details of bottling and packaging, after so unanimous that this gorgeously luscious yet beautiful- much effort has gone into vine management and winly balanced wine deserved its trophy and was a truly emaking. It was good to see Tokaj living up to its reputation superb example of why Tokaj is one of the world’s great sweet wines. as one of the great wine terroirs of the world through More remarkably each trophy has been for a dif- both sweet and dry wines, and I hope that next year ferent vintage, showing amazing consistency – some- will bring more entries from the region. An award at thing that can be difficult for smaller wineries to Decanter is really well worth having – especially from achieve (Dobogó has just 5 ha). Béres also showed producers who want to raise their profile in both USA well picking up gold for its lovely 2007 Vitis Toka- and UK.
THE 2011 DWWA REPORT
with tasting notes by Caroline Gilby
Darázskő Furmint 2009 Tokajicum
Gorgeously expressive nose with aromas of tropical fruit, peach and pineapple. Luscious, rich and textured in mouth, with impressive mineral depth and zesty acid backbone, then superb lingering finish.
Refined nose, elegant with subtle lemon and white peach notes. Youthful palate, fine and graceful, with good length and harmony.
Vitis Tokajensis Tokaji Aszú 6p 2007 Béres
Tokaji Aszú 5 Puttonyos 2006 Béres
Elegant, youthful, apple blossom and pear aromas with subtle botrytis notes. Intense, silky-textured and mouth-filling with lovely intensity, fruit purity and fine acid lift.
A very youthful wine, showing layers of toasty nutty characters overlaying apple and sultana fruit. Vibrant acids give serious keeping potential.
Tokaji Aszú 6 Puttonyos 2006 Dobogó
THE 2011 DWWA REPORT
Tokaji Furmint 2009 Dobogó
Tokaji Aszú 6 Puttonyos 2007 Füleky
Bright straw golden wine with a bouquet of honey, apricot and lemon zest, and a touch of toasty vanilla. Good intensity in mouth – rich and ripe with plenty of texture.
Pale golden with tawny hints, showing touches of peach, pineapple and barley sugar, and hint of coffee too. Intense and complex palate, with orange peel and sultana flavours, gentle acids and a clean finish.
Tokaji Aszú 6 Puttonyos 2006 Gróf Degenfeld
Blue Label Tokaji Aszú 5p 2007 Royal Tokaji
Vivid golden wine with aromas of Mirabelle and ripe apple. Firm crisp acids on the palate almost steely - with fresh apple and lemon notes, then a lingering finish.
Rich golden colour. Intense but refined nose, crushed apricot, peach and botrytis complexity, with a hint of lemon zest. Intense, luscious and silky palate, with long finish and lovely balance.
Late Harvest 2009 Royal Tokaji
Youthful, subtle nose showing creamy hints and apple blossom. Clean and pure on palate with gentle velvety texture. A pretty wine.
Toasty and flinty with lemon zest notes on nose. Good concentration in mouth with apples, citrus and some minerality. Harmonious blend and fine finish.
THE 2011 DWWA REPORT
Delicate but enticing peach and orange blossom aromas. Still a real baby, fine and delicate palate with lovely purity, harmony and a lingering finish.
Tokaji Aszú 5 Puttonyos 2007 Disznókő
Tokaji Late Harvest 2009
Complex barley sugar and toasty aromas, with a hint of vanilla, then rich palate with notes of sultana and brown sugar. Good complexity and length.
Already showing some complexity, with notes of honey and dried apricot on nose. Gently sweet on palate and nicely balanced by acidity.
Sárga Muskotály 2009 Patrícius
Delicate, pretty, rose petal Muscat aromas. Fresh clean and light, linear structure but nice mineral backbone, and good value too.
Flinty toasty aromas with mineral notes and touch of peach. Very ripe and textured in mouth, though alcohol needs to integrate.
Vivid amber – surprisingly developed. Nutty grapey, marmalade bouquet, sweet and rounded with tangy acids and apricot jam notes.
Tokaji Késői Arany 2009
Tokaji Aszú Muskotály Premium Sel. 6p 2006 Tokaj Kereskedőház
THE 2011 DWWA REPORT
Tokaji Aszú 6 Puttonyos 2003 Sauska
Tawny orange with orange peel and marmalade notes. In mouth, it is an intense, traditional style, with rich apricot and orange tones, and good lively acids.
Very pale fresh, green apple and steely aromas. Clean and still ultra youthful, light, lean and crisp to taste.
Furmint 2009 Patrícius
Tokaji Aszú 6 Puttonyos 2007 Tokajicum
Youthful, green apple aromas and hint of creaminess. Straightforward, clean and well balanced.
Amber orange wine with mature bouquet of toffee, roasted nuts and coffee, made in a more traditional style.
Trophy winners: Dobogó Winery in Tokaj...
NO IMAGE AVAILABLE
... and Tokajicum in Tarcal
Dűlő [‘dy:lø:] noun
nder Hungary’s Wine Act, the term dűlő is defined as “a microbiologically uniform and clearly demarcated growth place, within a wine region’s town or village, whose peculiarities have a significant impact on the character of the wine” [made from grapes grown in it]. Stemming from the verb dűl (or dől in modern Hungarian) which means lean, tilt or slope, dűlő etymologically signifies a sloping tract of land. Today, it is used of any piece of land with a potential to grow vines in it, no matter if on a steep hillside or a nearly flat area. Dűlős have natural boundaries such as gullies, ravines, fringes of forest or roads, and can greatly vary in size from a few hundred square metres to several hectares. They can comprise multiple vineyards owned by different wineries. English-speaking authors’ attempts to translate dűlő into English normally end up with the word vineyard, while Hungarians varyingly and vaguely render it as growth, tract or even terroir. While vineyard could, in principle, be used interchangeably with dűlő to designate growth places that are being fully utilised for vine growing purposes, the Tokaj Wine Region has many dűlős that have long been out of viticultural use and are now partially or totally overgrown by sylvan vegetation. Another reason why the word vineyard is not considered by most Hungarians to be an appropriate descriptor is that its actual Hungarian equivalent, i.e. szőlő [‘sø:lø:], is used to refer to vine parcels that are seen as one tier below dűlő in the oncoming appellation control system. In actual fact, the closest equivalent is the French word cru, but, to prevent confusion, its use is best left restricted to France’s vine-growing sites. The word dűlő, broadly transcribed as [‘dy:lø:], is therefore one of the few terms any true lover of Tokaji (and more generally, Hungarian) wines must learn, at least, to understand and, possibly, even use properly. This word will be seen used commonly here, in The Tokaji Journal (replaced occasionally with ‘site’ only to avoid repetition).
A glimpse of the eastern flank of Mád’s Király Dűlő, a site recognised as First Class by all historical classifications
CLASSING UP TOKAJ
CLASSING Vineyard Classification and Appellation Control
Attempts to resurrect and rework the historical vineyard classifications of TokajHegyalja to provide a foundation for a new regime of appellation control are an obvious move by local winemakers in their unwearied endeavours to restore the once-great name and fame of Tokaj, while resulting conflicts, though largely unavoidable, are not exactly what a reviviscent wine region needs amidst her lasting struggle to emerge from five decades of oblivion. Local, classification-based efforts are, however, now being detached from an externally imposed development of the regional appellation control system.
irst recorded around 1730, the classification of Tokaj growth places boasts to be the world’s oldest, well predating that of Port vineyards in 1757 or of Burgundy in 1855. Unlike these, though, the Tokaj classification did not come about as a ranking verified by a government or regional organisation, but rather in the form of a scholarly work by Hungarian historian and geographer Mátyás Bél, which was then followed by local statesman Antal Szirmay’s (re)classification at the end of the same century. However, neither of these historic authors had the luck of seeing their listings accepted locally as Burgundy’s Jules Lavalle did, whose originally informal classification was officially recognised in 1861 by a regional committee of agriculture and continues to serve as a basis for pricing there – and an example to follow for many in modern Tokaj.
Mátyás Bél’s classification appears as part of Vinicultura Tokaiensis, a chapter initially drafted, probably in the 1720s, by his fellow researcher János Matolai and meant to be incorporated into Notitia Hungariae novae, a comprehensive historical and chorographical account of contemporary Hungary, which would never eventually saw completion and publication in its entirety. The extensive research work for this Latin-language book received royal approval, in return for which Bél was only instructed to submit the various chapters to the Chancellery for review or revision, but never to cover any topics he had not originally intended to, which is to say, a classification of Tokaj vineyards was included at Bél’s (or Matolai’s) own discretion, and as such, remained unmentioned and unendorsed by the 1737 Royal Charter that demarcated the wine
region and introduced strict appellation control to bring an end to the misuse of the Tokaji brand name which had occurred in the preceding decades. In his work, Bél gives the names of First, Second and Third Class Dűlős in an admittedly not exhaustive list, evidently based on how popular the wines they yielded appeared to be with foreign wine merchants, highly praising wines from First Class vineyards and purchasing them in great volumes, and largely ignoring Third Class ones which would mostly be bought and consumed within the bounds of Hungary. The three relevant sections are narrative in style and fairly concise, suggesting an authorial intention to draw the attention of a general readership to the diversity the Tokaj terroir and record local knowledge, rather than establish, let alone impose, some sort of standard for the wine market. Sites are grouped according to the local-
Background photo: Szent Tamás and Nyulászó at the village of Mád, as viewed from Dorgó
UP TOKAJ “First recorded around 1730, the classification of Tokaj growth places boasts to be the world’s oldest, well predating that of Port vineyards in 1757 or of Burgundy in 1855. “
ity (i.e. town or village) they belong to and the sequence of listing the latter statedly shows a ranking from the most to the least superior groups within each class, though no further tiers are expressly introduced.
First published in 1798, Antal Szirmay’s lengthily titled Notitia historica, politica, oecononomica montium et locorum viniferorum comitatus Zempléniensis offers a classification of Tokaj vineyards, structured according to the names of villages and towns of the wine region. As the title suggests, Szirmay’s work only focuses on viniculture in Zemplén County, which means that Abaúj County’s Abaújszántó, briefly treated by Bél, is left out. Besides this, Szirmay identified many more dűlős than Bél, though not all are clearly classified. For Tállya, exempli gratia, Szirmay adds four more sites
to those listed by Bél, but only marks them as ‘distinguished’ or ‘worthy of note’, without making any reference to classes. Further differences include sporadic reclassifications, such as downgrading Mád’s Sarkad-dűlő from Bél’s Second Class to Third Class or upgrading Bodrogkeresztúr’s Messzelátó from Second to First. As far as the most important Tokaj and Tarcal vineyards on the flanks of Tokaj Hill are concerned, Szirmay’s classing tends to be in consonance with Bél’s.
Dating from 1822, János Kaszner’s little-heard-of vineyard classification is normally (and we should say unfairly) left unreferenced by modern authors as one of the main historical sources. It did, however, not miss the attention of the highly-renowned Tokaj historian, István Zelenák, who compares it to its better-known coun-
terparts in a brief study, published in a 2007 book called Szerencs, the Centre of Southern Zemplén. Zelenák holds that Kaszner’s work, a kind of synthesis of the two preceding classifications, deserves credit for giving the most elaborate list of vine-growing sites up till then, while failing to include such important localities as Erdőbénye or Tolcsva.
The Tokaj Album
Co-authored in 1867 by Dr József Szabó and István Török, the quadrilingual Tokaj Album sets out to acquaint the world with the Tokaj Wine Region. In contrast to its predecessors, it is not written in Latin but in Hungarian, with translations into German, French and English (the latter being not wholly accurate, albeit an interesting read) side by side on each double page spread. This publication also stands out because of its beautiful graphic illustrations of the Tokaj
CLASSING UP TOKAJ forces in recent local initiatives seeking to establish a new, qualityfocused appellation system.
The cover page of an original copy, dating from 1789, of Szirmay’s book on “the hills and wine-growing places of Zemplén County”
landscape and an apparently scientific approach, manifested in extensive tables, at the end of the book, which are filled with the results of chemical analyses of soil and wine samples taken from various sites and wineries. That is not to say that these findings were used to base some new classification on them; instead, József Szabó, the editor of the classification chapter, simply adopted Szirmay’s classification, enumerating the names of dűlős in the same order as in Szirmay’s work and sometimes using a direct translation of the accompanying commentary from Szirmay’s Latin original. A few differences include the addition of a list of Abaújszántó dűlős (as this
book aims to cover the entire wine region, not only Zemplén County) and of a site called Szent Vincze to those in Sárospatak, as well as two Olaszliszka sites being categorised as ‘distinguished’ instead of ‘First Class’. While local pride is rightly justified in historical classifications as foretimed achievements, the facts that none were attached with maps to clearly show the boundaries of the growth places listed and that place names have changed, been reassigned or, sometimes, completely disappeared over the centuries potentially give rise to some controversy amongst local wine people who consequently joined
Instrumental in fostering the emergence of two such initiatives that eventually developed into the Tokaj Wine Artisans’ Society and the Circle of Mád was wine writer and Tokaj expert László Alkonyi, who has authored several marvellous books on Tokaj including the one published in 2009 and called Tokaj – A Compass for Wine Lovers 2009 (available in Hungarian only). In addition to providing a comprehensive, partially ranked catalogue of over 200 winemakers and wineries in Tokaj, this book has a map insert which is nothing less than the latest vineyard classification, based on historical predecessors with adjustments according to Alkonyi’s own experience and using the site demarcations of the Tokaj Wine Artisans’ Society. Being the first ever classification that takes the form of a map, it is bound to cover, within the limitations of a 1:75000 scale, nearly all sites in existence, hence the addition of, for instance, over 20 new ones to the lot for Tolcsva. A further point of interest is the ap-
First-class Ciróka and Gyopáros above the village of Tolcsva
CLASSING UP TOKAJ
Szarvas, one of the undoubtedly First Class sites on Tokaj Hill. A former royal property, it remains largely managed by government-ownedTokaj Kereskedőház.
pearance of dozens of new place names that had never before been historically mentioned, as well as a conspicuous absence of several names that are listed in all the three 18th and 19th century lists - indicating the magnitude of toponymic alterations that took place in the 142 years between the publication of the Tokaj Album and Alkonyi’s work. (The three main historical classifications followed each other at roughly 70-year intervals). Some of these new names are attached to sites that used to bear a different historical name or are existing current alternatives for the same dűlős. Taking a characteristically independent approach to naming sites, Alkonyi mostly follows Bél’s classification for most historical dűlős with some instances of reclassification such as upgrading a few in Tarcal from Third to Second Class, while he also uses his own judgement in categorising those that barely deserved a mention by earlier authors, like those on the outskirts of Erdőbénye or Abaújszántó, for example. This independent stance and courage to come forward with his own views brought Alkonyi in conflict with some of the wine
people in the region, eventually resulting in his being plainly banned from three wineries following the publication of the book. Alkonyi himself admits that his 2009 classification is far from perfect or final, and should only serve as a starting point for further improvements. He does continue working on improving and updating his classification and will hopefully come out with a new one very soon.
The Tokaj Wine Artisans’ Society
Starting in 2006 with an inital membership of 23 wineries, the Tokaj Wine Artisans’ Society (Tokaji Bormívelők Társasága –
TBT) was the first grassroots association to go back to the traditional classifications and make them the basis for their efforts towards the cause of reviving the historically terroir-driven approach to winemaking in Tokaj. The idea was to develop an appellation control system by reintroducing a slightly revised version of the three historical levels of classification, primarily distinguishing them according to different tiers of yield control with 5,600 kg/ha for First Class, 7,000 kg/ha for a Classified Dűlő and 10,500 kg/ha for a Village appellation. Other criteria include the age of the vines (the older, the better) and the method of training. First,
A recent reprint edition of the qudrilingual “Album of the Tokay-Hegyalja” or, more briefly, the “Tokaj Album”, first published in 1867
CLASSING UP TOKAJ
Lónyai and Dobai as seen from Terézia Chapel near Tarcal. These dűlős are not classified under their current names by the main historical sources. Alkonyi initially ranked them into Second Class in 2009.
Classified and Locality correspond to what historic classifications call First, Second and Third/’worthy of note’, but the classification of members’ vineyards is not considered automatically valid on that basis, rather, it is subject to an attempt to make a dry appellation wine from them. Upon such an attempt, the dűlő concerned is accurately delimited and classified by the membership before a matching entry is made into the records of the Society. Historically non-classified sites are only placed into any class based on six successive vintages after initial registration. Reclassification of a vineyard is pos-
sible every six years if voted for by at least two thirds of the fellow members following a blind tasting and evaluation of a dry wine from the site. (Though some debate whether there is any sense in classifying sites based on dry wines in a region first made famous for its dessert wines, there is broad agreement that it is dry ones that best reveal the nuances of the terroir.)
The Circle of Mád
2007 saw the launch of the Circle of Mád (Mádi Kör – MK), which, unlike the regionally organised TBT, is a group of mostly Mád-based winemakers teamed
Alkonyi’s book with the map insert that represents the most recent public vineyard classification
up in pursuit of the more or less same objective of paving the way for a new appellation control system. They, too, reinterpreted the old classifications and came up with their own breakdown of tiers, namely, Kert (meaning ‘garden’ in Hungarian), Historical and Village with maximum allowable yields of 3,000 kg/ha, 4,000 kg/ha and 5,000 kg/ha, respectively. Importance was attached to the age of the vines, as well; grapes for wines of the highest Kert appellation, for instance, had to come from vines at least ten years old. The differences between TBT and MK are subtle, but what they apparently share is an overtly idealistic approach: expecting the rest of Tokaj winemakers to voluntarily follow suit in rigorously cutting back yields and thereby, in the short run, their own incomes for the common cause of lifting up Tokaj to where it belongs. These expectations seem to have fallen through though, as a driving force behind their very existence is being taken away by the forth-coming introduction of the new Tokaj Product Specification, developed
CLASSING UP TOKAJ in the course of the European Union’s on-going wine reform.
The Tokaj Product Specification
Wine market reform in the European Community started off with Regulation 479/2008 on the common organisation of the market in wine, aimed at increasing the competitiveness of the Community’s wine producers and strengthening the reputation of Community quality wine. The preamble states that the concept of quality wines in the Community is based, inter alia, on the specific characteristics attrib-
to be recognised and registered for protection at the Community level. These applications are due for submission to the EU’s Commission by 31st December 2011 and must be attached with a product specification which shall consist of, among other things, the demarcation of the geographical area concerned and the maximum yields per hectare. Agreed to by members of the Tokaj Wine Board, the Tokaj Product Specification will now introduce three grades of yield control, 4200 kg/ha for wines to be labelled as single-dűlő ones, 7,000 kg/ha
“When adopted, the Specification will become mandatory, as a minimum requirement, for all winemakers in the region that want to make and sell wines with the name Tokaj on the label. “ utable to the wine’s geographical origin. Such wines are identified for consumers via protected designations of origin and geographical indications, although the current system is not fully developed in this respect, and then adds that a regime should be established under which applications for a designation of origin or a geographical indication are examined for them
for a Village/Town and 14,000 kg/ ha for a Tokaj appellation, with even more stringent restrictions for Szamorodni and late harvest wines. When adopted, it will become mandatory, as a minimum requirement, for all winemakers in the region that want to make and sell wines with the name Tokaj on the label. With the introduction of the single-dűlő category, the need
naturally arose to accurately delimit all dűlős of the Tokaj region, and this induced quite a heated debate between owners with opposing interests, pushing the sometimes rather shaky boundaries back and forth before an agreement was finally reached. The resulting maps will be attached to the submission of the application, bringing to an end disputes concerning what a site is exactly called and how far it stretches. This major change will bring about exactly what grassroots initiatives could only have dreamt of, that is, binding force and enforceability on a regional level, which necessarily leads to the question of what is next for TBT and MK. Having lately taken control over the local panel of delegates to the Tokaj Wine Board, MK seems to have found for itself at least one new goal of trying to exert more influence on regional wine policies and, perhaps as well, of helping enforce the new appellation control system in the village of Mád. TBT, in the meantime, appears to be in a bit of a struggle to maintain its starting membership, for new joiners have hardly balanced
The south-eastern corner of Mezőzombor’s Dorgó Dűlő
CLASSING UP TOKAJ leavers over the past five years, and are now working on amending their internal rules of procedure in the light of the new Product Specification. They, however, stay resolved to continue the meticulous and lengthy process of understanding the terroir of their members’ dűlős and developing a classification that may not be the most comprehensive, but will certainly be the most sophisticated ever.
interaction between the vine and its environment, even dűlős that are commonly agreed to be First Class could not deliver wines worthy of them if not coupled with a winemaker’s talent, knowledge and devotion. On the other hand, carefully applied crop control and modern vinification techniques can help even the (currently) lowestranking plots yield decent wines. The historical meeting of rep-
“However unique the terroir and perfect the interaction between the vine and its environment, even dűlős that are commonly agreed to be First Class could not deliver wines worthy of them if not coupled with a winemaker’s talent, knowledge and devotion. “ Whether historical or current, no Tokaj vineyard classification is ‘alive’ in the sense of having any impact on the market price of wines or consumer decision making. Today, consumers tend more to look for the winery’s or winemaker’s name on the label over the growth place, but this should change in the future. Yet, a swing to the other extreme, that is, a predomination of the terroir in pricing wines, is discouraged. However unique the terroir and perfect the
resentatives of the region’s 13 core towns and villages in 1641 to voluntarily agree on common standards of viticulture and vinification may have marked the birth of the Tokaj Wine Region as a single eco-geographical area, but it could hardly have survived the subsequent centuries without the superior affirmation by the Royal Charter of 1737. Similarly, a modern system of appellation control developed based on dűlő classification by
local wine people under a solely non-governmental initiative would have been virtually impossible to be enacted and enforced. Imposition from above, in this case, in the form of a European regulation transposed into national law, helps accelerate the process substantially. As far as vineyard classification is concerned, it is invariably an internal affair for Tokaj insiders and provides, at most, a topic for a conversation over a bottle or two. New classifications will be emerging, from both Alkonyi and the Tokaj Wine Artisans’s Society in years to come, but are unlikely to ever receive broad acceptance, let alone, be endorsed by a regional or national authority. Until then, the best thing you can do is to obtain a ‘blank’ map of Tokaj dűlős (which will hopefully be available from early next year) and start to find and taste several Tokajis made by different winemakers from the same dűlős to see for yourself whether those sites really deserve their historical rating – or just simply rank them to your liking and mark up your own map accordingly.
A view of Mád’s Eastern Basin with the lower-lying stretch of Király Dűlő in the middle foreground and the higher parts of Betsek Dűlő beyond. The boundary between Király and Betsek is a road, a whitish section of which is seen running from left to right just over a green passage between two parcels on the left before descending out of sight below the hump of Betsek.
CLASSING UP TOKAJ The top of Mézes-mály Dűlő, as viewed from Terézia Chapel
Tarcal’s Mézes-mály, located west of Terézia, is a shining example of how difficult it may sometimes be to identify historically classified names with actual sites, as well as a reminder of the need for caution in reading and interpreting old classifications.
ith a name meaning “honeyed hillside” (its earlier variants including Mézesmál, Mézesmále and Mézes-máj), this dűlő is often identified, by honest mistake, with a historical namesake, and as such referred to as a First Class one or even a Great Growth. What is called Mézes-mály today, however, has never been historically classified. By way of explanation, it should first be pointed out that the order of listing dűlős in any of the historical classifications is (as can logically be expected) always an indication of their physical location. This is fairly obvious if you look at either Bél’s, Szirmay’s or the Tokaj Album’s lists and the corresponding sites shown, for instance, on Alkonyi’s 2009 map. It is easiest to see with toponyms that have changed the least over the past three hundred years, like those on Mezőzombor’s outskirts, where dűlős are clearly listed from east to west by all of the three main sources. (Once you are looking at Alkonyi’s map, you can also immediately see that this allegedly First Class site is graded as Other [an approximate equivalent of Third Class], evidencing that Alkonyi, too, did realise the misidentification.) The same is the case with Tarcal dűlős: the first ones mentioned in Szirmay’s tome and its faithful follower, the Tokaj Album, are Szarvas, Mézes-mály and Cserfás, then Felső-Thurzó, Lajstrom, Szilvölgy, Deák and the rest as you go west towards Tarcal. The last one mentioned is Terézia, located, as the Tokaj
Album adds clearly, north-west of the village – and bordering on the only site called Mézes-mály in modern Tokaj-Hegyalja. In fact, a cadastral map dating from 1867 shows this same site marked as Tarcal’s only Mézes-mály. (József Szabó, the author of the classification chapter of the 1867 Tokaj Album apparently failed to check contemporary maps in a rather uncritical adoption of Szirmay’s classification. Had he done so, he would not only have used the then-current site names [such as Meleg-máj, Kőbánya, etc.] – but, in principle, would also have had to list the name of Mézes-mály side by side with Terézia in the north west.) Bél’s early 18th century work, however, makes mention of Mézes-mály in a different context, that is, when comparing the general qualities of growth places in Tarcal and Tokaj, literally writing that those in Tarcal “are more excellently positioned on the side of the Tokaj Hill, which is called Mézesmál”. So Bél does not identify Mézes-mály as a dűlő, but instead he refers to the entire side of the Tokaj Hill between Tarcal and Tokaj as “Mézesmál”. This usage is confirmed by a 1708 resolution by Ferenc Rákóczi’s Senate on the imposition of taxes on wine, which mentions “the wines produced from the mezes-mál (sic) versant of Tarcal and Tokaj”, and even by Szirmay, whose introductory statement to the classification of the vineyards of Tokaj town was translated into English in the Tokaj Album as “To the first class belongs 2011/2012
CLASSING UP TOKAJ
Two brilliant wines from modern Mézes-mály: Royal Tokaji’s 6p Aszú of 1999 and Balassa’s dry Furmint
Mézes-Mály situated on the south side of the Tokay Mountain, extending from [the outskirts of] Tarczal to the town of Tokay”. The answer as to how this name was affixed to the site still so called today is found in a document titled (in a rough translation) “The Customary Laws of the Market Town of Tarcal”, compiled by Ferenc Dévai in 1700, written down again in 1743 and currently held in the Archives of Sátoraljaújhely. Describing the locations of arable lands around Tarcal, this document includes a statement that “The plough-lands of Tarcal have been cultivated in two tilths from times immemorial. One tilth encompasses the Henye [apparently, the field below today’s Terézia Hill, formerly called Kis-Henye] from the end of town and a stretch of land beyond the Henye, which is nicknamed as Mézes mál there, because it is a hillside, (…)”. So this site was nicknamed in irony by locals using a toponym synonymous with the best of vine-growing areas simply because it was, unusual for land in tillage in the area, partially lying on a sloping hillside. Tillage as the traditional land use for this place is corroborated by the above-mentioned cadastral map of Tarcal showing this Mézes-máj as still being in use as plough-land in the 1860s. This explains why it is never mentioned in vineyard classifications – or, to put it another way, what is classified under the name of Mézes-mály cannot be this site. Given the foregoing, it is safe to say, in summary, that the name Mézes-mály was used, until at least the Mézes-mály Dűlő (spelt as “Mézes máj” here) as shown on an original copy of the 1867 cadastral map of Tarcal, preserved in the Archives of Sátoraljaújhely (under Reg. No. VI.102/b, Cadastral Documents and Property Maps 1851-1950). The colouring indicates land use: pink for vineyards, light green for meadows/pastures and white/brownish for ploughlands.Vines were only grown on Terézia Hill in this area.
late 18th century, to denote the whole south-facing versant of the Tokaj Hill between Tarcal and Tokaj. It might have been attached to specific sites at some points in time (probably near Szarvas) or was only accidentally mixed into lists of ‘real’ dűlős before it fell out of use, while the once local by-name, Mézes-máj, had been cemented as an official designation of the site below Terézia by the mid-19th century. The latter was, in actual fact, not planted with wine-grape vines until the end of the 1980s. And what follows from all this? Absolutely nothing. The Royal Tokaji Wine Company, a major owner of Mézes-mály today, have produced some brilliant 6p Aszús from this place, including one of the 1999 vintage that was recognised with gold medals at both the Challenge International Du Vin and the Decanter World Wine Awards in 2007. István Balassa’s dry Furmint varietal made from his mere 0.8 hectare here testifies to a special geological feature (marked by a combination of loess and brown forest soil on a volcanic bedrock), and performed outstandingly in a blind tasting by the Tokaj Wine Artisans’ Society. It all goes to show that even sites traditionally not used for vine growing by forebears can reveal a hidden potential of the exceptional Tokaj terroir. The modern Mézes-mály does stand a chance to meet the expectations that come with its sonorous name, a name that provides a constant inspiration for wine-makers with parcels in it to make the most of this dűlő.
THE 2011 IWC REPORT
ith over 10,000 entries each year, the International Wine Challenge is truly one of the world’s most influential blind tasting events – and one which is fairly popular with Tokaj winemakers that seek to leverage the marketing potential that comes with winning an IWC award. In 2011, 15 wines from seven Tokaj wineries were presented with awards ranging from Commended to Gold, and, for the first time since 2009, Tokaj produced another Trophy winner for Hungary: Royal Tokaji’s 2007 5p Aszú (a DWWA Silver Medallist) was selected by the judges as the best Tokaji of the lot.
Vitis Tokajensis Tokaji Aszú 6 Puttonyos 2007
Tokaji Aszú 6 Puttonyos 2007
Tokaji Reneszánsz Cuvée 2008
Blue Label Tokaji Aszú 5 Puttonyos 2007
THE 2011 IWC REPORT
NO PHOTO AVAILABLE
Tokaji Szamorodni Dry 1999
Tokaji Késői Arany 2009
Tokaji Aszúesszencia 2007
Tokaji Omlás Furmint 2008
Late Harvest 2009
Tokaji Furmint 2008
THE 2011 IWC REPORT
Tokaji Furmint Dry 2009
Tokaji Aszú 6 Puttonyos 2006 Tokaj Kereskedőház
The IWC Trophy-winner’s base in Mád
Tokaji Furmint 2009
Tokaji Furmint 2010
GREEN HARVEST with István Szepsy István Szepsy explaining the methods of bunch thinning to The Tokaji Journal’s Krisztina Somogyi in Betsek Dűlő
He used to be implemental, as the former state farm’s chief viticulturist, in grubbing up and replanting old, low-yielding vines in perfect line with the quantity-focussed vine growing concept of the staterun wine factory in the late seventies – the mistake of a lifetime, he admits, and, it should be added, one he has since made good a hundred times. He is now happy to have recently spotted another small parcel of old vines that had been spared in the years of mindless mass production.
stván Szepsy was one of the very first to introduce systematic yield control in the Tokaj region in the early nineties, and has since amassed a wealth of experience in green harvesting, aimed at inducing vines to channel all energy into the remaining grapes and thus enhance ripening, sugar accumulation and the concentration of terroir-specific flavours. The optimum number of bunches to be left varies from vine to vine, he explained to us on a mid-July Monday morning as the year’s second campaign of green harvest was under way around ten days before veraison in a mixed Furmint and Hárslevelű parcel in the upper part of Betsek Dűlő near Mád. A vine with a robust rootstock, for example, can be in perfect balance even with fifteen bunches on it, while some may need to be trimmed to grow just three or four. The method also depends on the grape variety: more can be left, for example, on the vigorously growing small-bunched variant of Furmint vines. It is a general rule, however, that the bigger bunches are always removed and the smaller ones are left to ripen.
In addition, shoulders of some clusters are trimmed off to adjust the best volume for each vine. The green harvest on young vines starts as early as in the flowering period; then the second campaign goes on for the bulk of the summer before a post-veraison bunch thinning takes place in late August. This sort of work, just like the picking of aszú berries, is best left in the hands of women who, unlike most men, have the eye for detail and the patience the job requires. Many of the ladies in the team have worked for the Szepsy Estate for nearly two decades, so it is by no means because of a lack of expertise, but more of the complexity of the task that he regularly receives phone calls from them during the day, asking for clarification or just confirmation as they move on from one parcel to another. Szepsy is also a Hungary-wide renowned authority on yield control practices. As he was driving us to his parcels in Úrágya and Urbán, a winemaker friend called him, apparently from the middle of a vineyard somewhere in western Hungary, to seek his advice on
THE WINE ARTISAN
Unripe bunches lying on the rain-dampened ground of Betsek ten days after green harvest in late July. Up to 60 per cent of the crop can end up like this in the second campaign.
A weather-hardened rootstock that has survived eight decades of extreme temperatures and diseases and continues to yield beautiful bunches of Furmint in Nyulászó Dűlő
some practical aspects of bunch thinning. There are certain arguments against the early removal of too many green bunches, and they are mostly related to the defensive reaction of the vine which can, for example, result in the development of too large clusters in later seasons or the late degradation of malic acid during ripening. However, Szepsy’s twenty years of experience shows that the benefits well outweigh the drawbacks: the ultimate proof being the supreme quality of his wines. Bunch thinning is, of course, only one method of yield control. Others include grassing alleys be-
tween the rows to help reduce vigour, as well as the use of age-old vines that naturally give moderate yields. The latter are normally found on steep slopes that are difficult of access and had never been suitable for mechanised cultivation.
A recent additon to the estate: 0.18 hectare of staked vines in Dorgó
The latest such acquisition to the Szepsy Estate is a parcel of a mere 0.18 hectare in Dorgó Dűlő, whose potential he came to realise during a walk there just last winter. It has staked vines with overfifty-year-old rootstocks grafted with Furmint and will add a dry, single-vineyard wine to the range.
Szamorodnis Drying Up
There are two styles of Szamorodni wines in Tokaj – sweet and dry. Similar in name, they are worlds apart in terms of how they are made. And the dry one seems to be drifting towards extinction.
ry Szamorodni is the only traditional dry style of Tokaji wines and perhaps the most difficult one to make properly. The process starts out the same way as for its sweet counterpart – bunches of both botrytised and non-botrytised grapes are picked together, destalked, pressed and macerated with the skins, but the resulting juice is then left to ferment fully in wood. When fermented, it is racked into (not too old) casks and matured for a minimum of 3 to 5 years. Some winemakers do not fill barrels completely in the first place, while others top them up and let natural evaporation create the ullage where the creature that actually makes a dry Szamorodni can thrive. This creature is one or another kind of yeast that develops into a ‘flor’, a continuous film of various thickness afloat on top of the wine, restricting oxidisation and imparting special, nutty flavours to it, mainly through the esters it creates. While Tokaj cellar temperatures average around 9 to 12 °C (48 to 54 °F), dry Szamorodni needs a warmer cellar environment, preferably at least 15 °C (59 °F), both to achieve full fermentation and foster the development of the yeast. The duration of aging depends on the vintage, but it may sometimes take six years before the wine is ready for release to the market. The above is at least how a dry Szamorodni is supposed to be made according to winemakers that are really passionate about this unique style, like József Ádám of Szent Benedek Winery, who has spent a lot of time over the past decade experimenting, partly with fellow vintners, to perfect the process.
The trouble is that, firstly, dry Szamorodni is an acquired taste in most countries other than Hungary, and even the domestic market would not accept a price that all the effort and time it takes to get it really right should justify. Secondly, the Hungarian Wine Act in force offers a very loose definition for Szamorodnis, without making a real distinction between its dry and sweet varieties, and basically allows any dry wine made partly from botrytised grapes (with a specific initial sugar content) and aged for a minimum of two years (of which one should be in oak) to be called a dry Szamorodni. The new Tokaj Product Specification will do just a little more justice to this style by mentioning the need to mature it under a flor of yeast and making a brief statement regarding flavour requirements. Considering that even the legally defined two years is often found to be too long a vinification process for a product that is so difficult to sell at a justifiable price, little wonder that Szamorodnis are one of the first styles for wineries to axe in the current trend of simplifying their range to the threesome of a dry varietal, a late harvest and Aszús. Locally-based French winemaker Samuel Tinon (who would not submit a sample saying that he felt ‘it was too early’ for a test like this) recently took the initiative to rally dedicated winemakers behind the cause of agreeing on the standards of Szamorodni-making and improving the image of this increasingly upstaged style. These vintners are planning to have their first meeting next year and we will be there to report on what they come up with.
eceiving only eleven samples for our test from the over seventy wineries we had contacted for submissions was less of a surprise than how poorly some performed when set against the highest conceivable, though non-enacted, criteria for a theoretically perfect dry Szamorodni, with some of the samples being simply declared by our tasters not to be Szamorodni at all. Dereszla Winery, coming out on top with their Experience 2008, was no revelation considering how much effort they recently put into identifying the best yeast strains with the assistance of Dr Ildikó Magyar, a specialist in the field at Corvinus University, Budapest. An average score of only 15.9 was mostly due to its youth. It is also a point of interest that Gróf Degenfeld's 1999 Dry Szamorodni, which finished last with a very poor score of 9.8, actually earned a silver medal at this year's International Wine Challenge, which clearly shows that even those entries that failed to meet the exacting requirements for a Szamorodni in our test can well be enjoyed as decent dry whites. We at The Tokaji Journal shall continue to follow closely all Szamorodni-related developments in the region, as well as our search for the best examples that will be put to a similar test next summer.
The Panel Dr Lajos Gál An associate college professor and former head of the Research Institute for Viticulture and Oenology in Eger, oenologist Dr Gál is a ‘visiting’ taster for the Tokaj Wine Board. He also runs his own winery, Gál Lajos Pincészete, producing both white and red wines in the Eger Wine Region.
Nicolas Godebski With a career devoted to Tokaji wines since the early ‘90s, French-born Monsieur Godebski works as a wine consultant from his home in Erdőbénye where he lives for most of the year. A vastly experienced taster of local wines, he really ‘knows the score’ when it comes to dry Szamorodni.
Darrel Joseph Darrel Joseph is a wine writer and lecturer based in Vienna, Austria, and specialises in CEE wine regions. He has written extensively on Tokaj for many renowned publications such as Decanter, Wine Spectator, and Harpers Wine & Spirit. He also judges for the Decanter World Wine Awards.
Tamás Oroszlán A certified sommelier with a soft spot for Tokaj, Tamás is currently Commercial and Marketing Director for Tokaj Hétszőlő and frequently tutors tastings in both English and Hungarian. His rating of Hétszőlő’s sample was, of course, ignored in the course of averaging the scores.
Szamorodni in the making: a thick film of yeast on top of the wine at Szent Benedek Winery’s cellar in Tállya
A member of the UK’s Circle of Wine Writers and currently studying towards a WSET Diploma, Budapestbased Robert Smyth writes on wine for various regional publications inculding Time Out Budapest. He closely follows Tokaj-related news, events and developments.
with tasting notes edited by Darrel Joseph
Szamorodni Experience 2008 Dereszla
Scores and Ratings 19.01 to 20.00 18.01 to 19.00 17.01 to 18.00 16.01 to 17.00 15.01 to 16.00 14.01 to 15.00 13.01 to 14.00 12.01 to 13.00
Outstanding Excellent Very Good + Very Good Good + Good Fair Adequate
Nutty, alcoholic nose. On the palate are tones of petrol, sugar and spice with a touch of wood and more nuttiness. Medium body and length. Some elements of unripeness. Nut and bread on the finish. Still evolving – a nice future ahead.
Szamorodni Dry 2004 Erzsébet Green walnut, ginger and spice bouquet. Nice potential with a mid-palate Manzanilla expression. Fresh and clean, although there is a hint of flabbiness.
B SA ARR M EL PL E
B SA ARR M EL PL E
Szamorodni Dry 2004 Babits Youthful nose with apricot, toast and a fruity tone. Nicely nutty on the mid-palate with marmalade and spice nuances. Gets a bit thin on the finish. Good potential.
Szamorodni Dry 2006 Hétszőlő
Szamorodni Dry 2002 Szirmay-kúria
Strong nutty (walnut) and cream nose steered by a barrique expression. Nut, bread and yeast notes. Good acidity. A bit too sweet with a somewhat thin finish, but the Szamorodni flavour comes through clearly.
Nut, nectar, sugar and tropical aromas. The palate presents tones of walnut, apricot and more fruit nectar. Authentic, but somewhat disjointed in structure.
B SA ARR M EL PL E
Szamorodni Dry 2006 Babits
Szamorodni Dry 2003 Karádi&Berger
Multi-scented with notes of almond, mushroom, apple frankincense, carob and a bit of bread. The palate delivers sharp acidity but lacks enough body. Notes of nut & cheese with some fruitiness.
A peculiar nose with oil, petrol and rubber notes, while the palate gives off heavy alcohol mixed with sugar and hints of fruit and spice. Lacking in character overall.
Szamorodni Dry 2002 Pannon Tokaj The nose gives a bit of apricot, mango, choco-marzipan and whiffs of honey & spice. Although there is some spice and fruit on the palate, there is more petrol and alcohol – even alcohol burn. Lacks in Szamorodni expression.
Wines rated below 12 points
Lenkey 2005 11.50 Béres 2006 10.80 Gróf Degenfeld 1999 9.80
Waiting for verdict: Bottles wrapped in numbered bags for blind tasting
Nicolas Godebski expounding his views on one of the samples in Hotel Gróf Degenfeld’s beautifully-lit conference room. Considering the special nature of the category, the tasters decided to discuss each wine as the tasting went.
TERROIR CLOSE-UP The lower parcels in Pendits as viewed from the steps that lead to the higher terraces. The village on the left in the far distance is Golop, at the foot of Somos Hill.
Incipit in Sátor, definit in Sátor is the Latin saying used to denote from where to where the Tokaj Wine Region stretches. A rough translation is “it starts at Sátor and ends at Sátor”, implying that it starts at Sátor Hill on the outskirts of the town of Abaújszántó and ends at Sátoraljaújhely’s hill of the same designation. The word sátor means tent in Hungarian – quite a straightforward toponym in a volcanic region where hills that resemble a tent in shape are fairly numerous. The Pendits Dűlő lies on the south face of Abaújszántó’s Sátor Hill and is the one our catalogue of Tokaj dűlős begins with.
irst mentioned in written records in 1609, the name Pendits [pɛnditʃ] marks a beautifully situated tract of vine land relatively far off the main road leading to Abaújszántó. Earlier variants included Pendecz and Pandicz before the current spelling was consolidated by the late 18th century. Today, it is also seen written as Pendics. However spelled, the word has no meaning in Hungarian and is very likely to come from Italian pendice (i.e. slope), preserving the memory of Italian vine growers who were settled in the area as early as the 13th century. Historical vineyard classifications do not expressly rate this site. Though Bél implicitly distinguishes it by speaking of Sátor Hill as a place for vineyards that “give noble wines” in Abaújszántó, it is only the 1867 Tokaj Album that includes Pendits in a list of ‘distinguished’ local sites. In 2009, Alkonyi initially placed it into Second Class, which is the highest rating he only gave to two dűlős 32
in Abaújszántó (the other one was nearby Krakó). In 2008, the Tokaj Wine Artisans’ Society registered Pendits and commenced the classification process that involves a yearly submission of a dry wine from it before a rating can be granted, which will be in 2014 at the earliest. Judged according to scenery and atmosphere, Pendits undoubtedly comes out in the top tier. Clay mixed with gravel and broken rock dominates the soil retained by the age-old stone walls of the terraces in the upper part, which were replanted with Sárgamuskotály (Muscat Lunel) and Kövérszőlő vines in 2002 by the winery that owns the overwhelming majority of and also takes its name from this approximately 15-hectare dűlő (largely lying fallow). While the other two minor owners do not market any wine, Pendits LLC, Tokaj’s first certified organic winery, sells about 10,000 bottles a year to eleven countries
the world over, including Brazil, Poland, Spain and Switzerland. Biodynamic practices that avoid the use of synthetic pesticides are not only shown by an abundance of wild flora and fauna, but also by the vines being spaced at 0.8 metre in rows 1.2 metres apart on the terraces, giving just enough room for the estate’s horse to manoeuvre around at ploughing time. A quarter of Pendits Winery’s production comes from their 1.4 hectares under vine in this dűlő. Sárgamuskotály varietal grapes from this site are normally vinified dry, finely showing the minerality of the terroir. Márta WilleBaumkauf owns and runs Pendits, the winery named after this dűlő
The western side of Pendits, looking towards Sátor Hill which better resembles a tent when viewed from Abaújszántó to the east of it.Terraces ran much higher up the hillside in the past.
The area below the terraces was replanted with Sárgamuskotály in 2000
Age-old retainig walls of this height are always indicative of wealthy former owners who could afford largescale landscaping.
A table with benches is permanent furniture in a bay of the lowest terrace, behind the fully overgrown ruins of what was last used by a boxer from Slovakia as a holiday house decades ago.
A cadastral map of Abaújszántó, dating from 1853. The superimposed arrow shows the location of Pendits. Pink means vines; gray means forest. (Photo courtesy of Márta Wille-Baumkauf)
A single-dűlő wine from Pendits: the 2008 dry Muscat Lunel. Pendits Winery uses screw-capping more extensively than others in the Tokaj region.
The terrace walls virtually swarm with sizeable specimens of the European green lizard (Lacerta viridis) on late spring evenings. Males develop a vivid bluish throat colour in the breeding season. Bees and butterflies are abundant all summer long.
The same rocks that make up the terrace walls are also important components of the terroir in Pendits.
The main winery building was completed in 1995, and originally had three wings. In 2004, a fourth wing was built to accommodate the bottling line and additional storage space.
As you enter the very heart of the Tokaj Wine Region, Disznókő is the first winery you come to, about 6 kilometres down the road east of Szerencs, lying in the fork between the roads to Abaújszántó and Sátoraljaújhely. It is the second exit from the roundabout that takes you closer, first to a round, slate-roofed dome neighboured by a smaller, mysterious stone mitre, and then to the pale-yellow, four-winged main building, before you can take the turn to the left into the car park of Sárga Borház Restaurant, get out and walk the estate to touch, learn and taste.
The viewing platform as seen from the back of the old press house which now accomodates Sárga Borház Restaurant. The platform used to serve as a lookout point for vineyard guards. The estate’s eponymous rock beside it is hidden from view behind the trees.
isznókő was established in 1992 as a joint venture of the Hungarian government and AXA Millésimes, a subsidiary of the French insurance group AXA and owner of several wineries in France and Portugal, including Château Suduiraut in Sauternes. A few years later, AXA bought out the government’s 49 per cent stake to become the 100 per cent owner of the winery. It took its name from the former Disznókő Dűlő that used to lie across today’s Dorgó, Illésházy and Lajosok and was recorded as a First Class site in all historical classifications. The first director of the winery was Nicolas Godebski, and he was followed by Bernard Desmartis and Dominique Arangoits, before the current head of the estate, László Mészáros, took over in 2000. Right from the 1993 vintage, Disznókő lead the way in reintroducing what is today recognised by law as the right method of Aszú vinification: that is, macerating aszú berries in must or fully-fer-
mented wine of the same vintage, in contrast to the common practice in the communist era of maceration in wines of previous vintages. There are still around a thousand bottles left of their 5 and 6 Puttonyos Aszús of 1993, made using maceration in fermenting must, and, after nearly two decades of aging, they remain as amazing as ever. The same method was used to make a 6 Puttonyos Aszú from Furmint grapes grown in Kapi Dűlő in 2005, which was (literally) unveiled at a solemn ceremony last November to mark its release to the market. Disznókő considers this wine to be the epitome of their vinification style and one that can only be made in a few exceptional vintages. (It was the second time they had made a single-vineyard 6p Aszú from Kapi after the first in 1999.) The 2005 vintage produced just enough of this uniquely fresh dessert wine to fill 5682 standard Tokaji bottles, each fetching a price of around €90.
The word Disznókő means “Boar Rock” and the outcrop next to the viewing platform is supposed to be just that. Whichever direction you look at it from, it will, however, refuse to resemble a wild boar, which may be due to centuries of erosion having taken their toll on its shape. Another assumption is that it never actually looked like a wild boar, but is just a “pig of a big” rock (meaning “very big” in Hungarian) – hence its name.
The slate-roofed building is the tractor shed – occasionally used to house classical concerts.
The ‘stone mitre’ next to the tractor shed has the unromantic function of storing pesticides.
The 18th century former vineyard guards’ cabin is the oldest building on the estate. A recent big release by Disznókő is the 2005 6 Puttonyos Aszú from Kapi Dűlő. The bottles are distinct with a simple, ‘hand-written’ label with the signature of the Head of the Estate, László Mészáros.
The curved gallery of the main building, borrowing motifs from traditional Tokaj cellar rows.
Estate: Dűlős: Varieties planted: Range of wines: Annual output: Main markets:
The ramp into the cellar, with hoses on the side for transferring wine from tanks to barrels.
153 ha with 104 ha under vine Hangács, Kapi,Virginás, Lajosok, Illésházy, Dorgó, Berekalj Furmint 60%, Hárslevelű 28%, Zéta 10 %, Sárgamuskotály 1%, Other 1 % Dry varietals, late harvest wines and 5p and 6p Aszús 230,000 to 250,000 bottles Hungary (approx. 30%), France, the UK and the USA
Dry Furmint first in funnelling Tokaj terroir to the glass, but could
dry Hárslevelű be the next big thing? Written by Robert Smyth
With its ability to extract the unique character of Tokaj’s unique terroir, even on a vineyard to vineyard level, Furmint is rightly being heralded as Tokaj’s, and indeed Hungary’s, great dry white hope. While its pedigree is undoubted, dry Furmint is soon to be joined by increasingly serious releases of dry Hárslevelű, the hard to pronounce grape that is Furmint’s partner in sweet wine crime i.e. blended with it in Tokaji Aszú, as producers now put the same kind of efforts into harnessing Hárslevelű’s potential that has Furmint benefited from over the past decade.
ur future is dry wine and these rocks. Then comes sweet wine,” said István Szepsy, pointing to a remarkable cocktail of rocks picked from his vineyards. The world-renowned winemaker who started the serious dry Furmint ball rolling in 2000 with a single-vineyard bottling from the Úrágya vineyard for Királyudvar, where he was chief winemaker at the time.
Made in Mád
In the Mád vineyards, in particular first growths, such as Úrágya, Szent Tamás and Betsek with their clay and volcanic tufa soils, the Furmint grape sucks up the minerality which comes through impressively when the dry Furmint is poured into the glass, explained Dobogó winemaker Attila Domokos. “This village [Mád] provides such a great variation of tastes from the different vineyards, which nothing compares to. You can find in these dry wines such a great combination of minerality and fruitiness that provides unique richness to the wines,” furthered István Turóczi, head of promotion organisation, Tokaj Rennaisance. However,
the source of high quality dry Furmint has been spreading way beyond Mád. “It has just started in other villages. There are a few producers making excellent dry wines from many internationally unknown vineyards around the whole region. But it requires much more work to explore all the opportunities,” said Turóczi. He feels it would not be fair to single out one or two vineyard names as the greatest at this stage. “The region is very much at the beginning of this trek. We do not have proper knowledge to raise some and drop others, yet,” he furthered.
A decade of development and counting
“10 years ago dry wine was an afterthought in Tokaj. Everyone focused on Aszú wines, though dry wines were made,” John Szabo, Canada’s first and only Master Sommelier told The Tokaji Journal on the sidelines of the 2010 Pannon Wine Challenge in Pannonhalma this spring. “Little attention was paid to the healthiness of the grapes, and partial botrytis affected or outright rotten grapes would contribute to early oxidation in the wines.
Background photo: A typically elongated cluster of Hárslevelű grapes in a parcel at the foot of Terézia Hill
Szepsy admitted that he knew next to nothing ten years ago about terroir, but was pushed to buy a plot by an old woman who wanted to get rid of a parcel. “‘Believe me, you’ll be happy’ she said.That was in the Szent Tamás for dry Furmint. I’ve bought 40 more parcels there since.” Now he has a firm grip on the complexity of the soil whose origins can be traced millions of years back when a remarkable cocktail of geological material spewed forth from volcanoes that were covered by the Pannonian Sea. It has been honed with the passage of time and interaction with the elements. “The higher the variety of stones, the better it is. Szent Tamás has four layers of different kinds of [volcanic] ziolite, as well as limestone. It holds water but can also get nice and warm, while the roots can move in it,” said Szepsy. The two single vineyards that really stand out for dry wines for Szepsy are unsurprisingly Szent Tamás and Urbán. Szepsy has done well for a man who a decade ago knew little about terroir. Jancis Robinson MW has said “I do feel the word genius is not too hyperbolic a word to describe the modest Mr Szepsy,” while Tom Stevenson, author of the Sotheby’s Wine Encyclopedia declared “if every wine producer in every region was as gifted as Szepsy, Hungary would be the greatest wine producing country in the world.”
Furmint vs. Chenin Blanc
Szabo believes Furmint, with its salty minerality, is up there with Riesling and Chenin Blanc, “maybe even ahead of Chenin Blanc” as an articulator of terroir. Szabo’s fellow judge at the Pannon Wine Challenge, Isabelle Legeron MW, was quizzed on Furmint’s similarity to Chenin Blanc at her presentation on Natural Wine, i.e. producing wine without using chemicals either in the vineyard or in the winery, at this year’s Budai Gourmet Festival. She said that both are extremely versatile, possessing the ability to cope with different levels of ripeness, have simi-
A gamut of rocks on the porch floor of Szepsy’s house shows the amazing diversity of Mád’s geology.
lar acidity and acacia notes. Legeron, who organized the successful and much talked about Natural Wine Fair at London’s Borough Market this year, suggested Tokaj’s winemakers try and experiment with skin contact and Furmint, possibly macerating Furmint on its skins for as long as three months, very much in the Georgian tradition.
Unlocking the potential
Szabo feels winemakers are losing some of the potential of dry Furmint through sloppy grape selection and heavy-handed vinification. “For dry Furmint I would like to see less wood and no botrytised grapes, as they both diminish varietal and terroir character. Dry Furmint can be a wonderfully faithful translator of terroir, perhaps even more so than sweet Aszú wines, but not when there’s botrytis,” he said. “Careful bunch or even berry selection is the key to unlocking the potential of dry wines and opening the door to longevity. My personal view is that dry Furmint has excellent ageing potential,” said Szabo. Incidentally, Szabo has Hungarian roots and comes regularly to tend his winery in Eger. For Turóczi, who is also the general manager of the Royal Tokaji Wine Company, it is going too far to say that dry Furmint captures more of the soil's volcanic complexity and individual vineyard charac-
A heap of stones, picked from the vineyard and piled over a low wall, closing the rows in Urbán
SPECIAL FOCUS The fun and the elegant: Dobogó’s Satöbbi and Szepsy’s Király Hárslevelű
teristics than the legendary Aszús. However, both styles have considerable character. “Dry Furmint exposes more the character of the terroir but these compounds are more concentrated in Aszú wines. However sugar hides the character of the vineyard therefore it is more difficult to taste,” he told The Tokaji Journal. He added that a horizontal tasting of different single vineyard Aszú wines shows the power of terroir in Mád.
Indigenous varieties the future: Hárslevelű to follow in Furmint’s fine tracks
Addressing press and winemakers at the Pannon Wine Challenge, Szabo declared Hungary’s indigenous grape varieties as a national treasure that need to be championed for export markets. “It is important for producers to determine which markets they’re after,” he said. Added to the embarrassment of riches regarding white grape varieties, “Hungary has a wealth of 38
extraordinary terroirs and the potential for world class wines that deserve to be served on tables around the world and can happily stand up against any wines in the world”. Furmint and Tokaj head the list. However, Hárslevelű is also potentially exciting for dry wines and is pretty unique when it can ripen fully and retain acidity, Szabo mentioned. The results of the 2011 Pannon National Wine Challenge were notable for Zoltán Demeter’s Szerelmi Hárslevelű 2008 being named among the top whites. Meanwhile, Oremus is launching a dry Hárslevelű – Tilia 2009 – following years of success with Mandolás, its dry Furmint. Dobogó is another that’s getting in one the act. Its Satöbbi 2010, named after owner Izabella Zwack’s first word learnt in Hungarian, is a fragrant, fresh and fun Hárslevelű, fermented in the tank and kept there before bottling. “Hárslevelű is fruitier and more aromatic than Furmint. It has lots of potential and can also capture the essence of the terroir as Furmint does so well,” said Dobogó winemaker Domokos, who is now also part owner of the awardwinning winery whose Aszú has won Decanter’s Regional Trophy three years running. “Producing dry Hárslevelű is indeed the next step. We have to experiment with it, such as seeing how it stands up in oak.” Szepsy agrees that more attention needs to be paid to dry Hárslevelű and revealed that he is about to start making experiments with the variety in his beloved Szent Tamás first growth. “I love Hárslevelű, it has a special taste and its own kind of minerality. From this year we will make selections of both dry Hárslevelű and Furmint in Szent Tamás,” he re-
vealed. The vines that will be compared are of the same age, ranging from 20-60 years old and will be vinified in the same way. “After a few years we will know more about Hárslevelű’s dry potential compared to Furmint.” Szepsy already has a single-vineyard Hárslevelű from the Király first growth. Gábor Rakaczki, winemaker at Sauska Tokaj, is another one who is excited about the future of Hárslevelű, which he feels could have even more potential than Furmint regarding not only aromas and flavours, but also when it comes to longevity. However, he stressed that its early days in the development of Hárslevelű as a dry wine. “Everybody is carrying out trials, searching for good clones. Hárslevelű needs a lot of research.” While Sauska Tokaj has single-vineyard bottlings of Furmint, it also blends the grape with Sauvignon Blanc in its Cuvée 111 to enhance the aromatics, while Hárslevelű and Chardonnay feature together in Cuvée 107, with the latter bringing extra structure. Isabelle Legeron MW told The Tokaji Journal at the Budai Gourmet Festival that she doesn’t hold much weight with the notion that Furmint should be automatically considered as the region’s only fine dry wine. “It really boils down to vineyard management and the life in the soil. I’m not sure as to the big debate about noble and second rate grape varieties. I’ve seen obscure grapes perform very well when handled with great care,” she said.
Zoltán Demeter’s 2008 Szerelmi Hárslevelű
VINALIES INTERNATIONALES 2011
Vinalies Internationales 2011
rganised by the Union des Œnologues de France, Vinalies Internationales was held in late February this year, with only some 20 per cent of the nearly 3,500 entries from all over the world winning any medals. Out of the 10 Hungarian wines awarded at this year’s competition, four came from Tokaj, more specifically from the wineries of Disznókő, Tokajicum and Tokaj Nobilis. Disznókő wines with a “Sárga Borház” (La Maison Jaune) label (successor of the so-called “Swan” label) represent the lower end of their range, for the ‘Disznókő’ brand name is now reserved for the estate’s premium wines. The gold and silver medals the two Aszús earned give one an idea of what ‘lower end’
means by Disznókő standards. By scooping a gold for a sweet Muscat Lunel varietal, Tokajicum proved yet again that a Tokaji does not need not be expensive to be brilliant – their gold medallist is sold at a cellar door price of just around €6. The entry by Tokaj Nobilis, a Bodrogkeresztúrbased, family-run winery producing a mere 20,000 bottles a year, was their first in many years to any wine competition and it won them a silver straight away. This will hopefully be an encouragement for owner Sarolta Bárdos, one of Tokaj’s most gifted winemakers, to put their wines to the test on the international scene more often.
Tokaji Sárgamuskotály Sweet 2009
Amicus Late Harvest
Sárga Borház Tokaji Aszú 4 Puttonyos 2004
Sárga Borház Tokaji Aszú 5 Puttonyos 2007
Portrait Baranczó A
n experience of the dismal realities of the restaurant trade in Hungary back in the ‘70s and ‘80s almost completely derailed Attila Baranczó’s career in cookery. Then he had the luck to find a job by the side of a widely-travelled chef in a Budapest restaurant: there he eventually saw how the careful selection of the best ingredients and appropriate culinary techniques could actually produce the flavours that had always typified Hungarian rural cuisine, something he vividly remembered from his childhood at the family home in Markaz, a small village in northern Hungary. In subsequent years, he devoted a great deal of time and effort to improving his skills and broadening his professional horizons, never hesitating to spend hard-earned money on dining at the finest restaurants when on holiday with his wife in western European countries. Attila had been head chef at a Miskolc restaurant for nine years
when Miklós Gergely asked him, in 2005, to develop the culinary concept and the menu for his Oroszlános Wine Restaurant in Tállya. This would open in early 2006, and subsequently lead the way to a gastronomic revival in the Tokaj Wine Region. As head chef, he introduced dishes rooted in urban and rural traditions; the use of fresh, local produce; and ingredients made inhouse, including cheese, jams, jellies and freshly-baked bread. Most spices come from the restaurant’s own tiny spice garden and the menu is regularly adjusted to the festive and seasonal context. For the kitchen, Attila has prepared even verjuice, a souring ingredient that is made from unripe grapes and, unlike vinegar or lemon juice, is known not to alter the taste of
wines – a crucial requirement for a restaurant that specialises in offering ‘dine with wine’ menus. Having ensured that Oroszlános is ranked, year after year, among Hungary’s top 100 restaurants, he is now about to take a new turn in his career. As from this September, he will part with Oroszlános and the Tokaj Wine Region to head the kitchen at an aspiring restaurant in the city of Miskolc. Over the past six years, Attila Baranczó has done an invaluable service by helping to establish a bulwark of fine gastronomy in the region. It is sad, though, to see him leave at a time when more and more local restaurants are following suit by bringing prominent chefs on board in an emerging restaurant scene that Tokaj very much needs.
ttila Baranczó’s now former place of employment is one of the restaurants we have chosen for our regular Fine Dining feature (see the next two pages) in order to give our readers an idea as to what this emerging restaurant scene has to offer. While admitting that our selection might be somewhat arbitrary, we consider the foursome of Esszencia, Gusteau, Oroszlános and Sárga Borház to currently represent, more or less, the complete range of regional restaurants which are worthy of Tokaj in terms of both cuisine and atmosphere. This, however, is by no means a closed list, and we look forward to extending it as equally outstanding players appear. Between whiles the respective chefs are invited by The Tokaji Journal to prepare a dish of their personal preference from the menu of their restaurant and match a Tokaji wine to it.
Hotel Andrássy Rezidencia, Tarcal
Mandolás Furmint, Dry 2007 Tokaj Oremus
Paprika Chicken Served with Pasta Shells Filled with Gizzard Stew and Chanterelle A refreshing interpretation of an almost tritely traditional Hungarian dish, Attila Nagy’s paprika chicken is one of the dishes he prepared during his cooking trial to win him a new job as head chef at Esszencia Restaurant in early August. The best ‘components’ of a young chicken serve as core ingredients, in-
cluding chicken oyster, (sot-l’y-laisse in French), a piece of choice meat from near the backbone. Nicely browned, the legs are placed in a base of lecsó and surrounded by the gizzard-filled pasta shells and bits of the tender oyster before being dashed with paprika cream and sour cream. Green parsley and chanterelle are
added for both decoration and flavour. Oremus’ Mandolás is a great match, enhancing the creaminess, and highlighting the taste of paprika and chanterelle, while the dish smoothes out the Furmint’s crisp acidity and brings out its more sweetish, silky, almond flavours. Percze Furmint, Dry 2009 Szent Tamás
Mádi Udvarház, Mád
Sous-Vided Beef Cheeks Served with Sautéed Marrow and Square-Cut Pasta with Cabbage This choice of food and wine is Gábor Horváth’s way of drawing attention to the fact that full Tokaji wines with pronounced acidity and minerality pair perfectly well with heavy dishes of red meats that would normally call for a red wine. And heaviness is very much the context in which tallowed beef cheeks, sautéed 42
marrow and pasta with cabbage fiercely compete with each other. The beef is cooked, sealed in an airtight plastic bag, for 28 hours to become juicy and ready virtually to melt in the mouth when served. A traditional food in the northern Great Plains of Hungary, square-cut pasta (laskatészta) with cab-
bage is imaginatively shaped into a cylinder and slightly crisped at the top. The marrow seems to be added only to put to the test Szent Tamás Winery’s 2009 Percze Furmint, a medium-bodied wine with soft acidity and with just the right tartness to enhance every bite.
Lilla, Sweet 2007 Szirmay-kúria
Duck Liver Pâté Served with Onion Marmalade and a Vegetable Mix Foie gras forms a classic partnership with sweet Tokaji, such as the Oroszlános Wine Restaurant’s own-branded late-harvest Furmint, called Lilla – a feminine name invented by a late-18th century Hungarian poet. Showing elegant restraint on the nose, it is a delightful, easy-to-drink wine with notes of can-
taloupe, pear, fig and dried fruits on the palate. Its sweetness is accentuated by the perfectly creamy pâté that has been gently cooked (at 75 °C for 45 minutes) in its own fat. A thin stripe of balsamic vinegar runs across the marble of golden fat on the sides of the blocks, dividing the plate in
two halves, one for a small amount of onion marmalade, made from red onions and with a touch of red Kadarka wine, and the other for a mix of pea sprouts, beetroot leaves, arugula and corn salad.
Tokaji Hárslevelű, Dry 2007 Disznókő
on Road 37, on the outskirts of Mezőzombor
Mangalitza Spare Rib with Lecsó, Served on Mashed Potato Mangalitza is a Hungarian curly-coated, lard-type breed of pig that produces meat with less saturated, healthy fat – as this beautifully-marbled spare rib demonstrates. It is tenderised and kept juicy by the use of the sous-vide method and very mildly spiced with a little salt and pepper. Lecsó, a thick vegetable stew
made with sweet yellow pepper and tomato, is a common dish on its own in Hungary. Used as trimmings, it complements the rustic cutlet with fresh, vegetal flavours. It is these flavours, however, that strip Disznókő’s very harmonious dry Hárslevelű of its rich and complex aromas, leaving just acidity and alcohol
behind. This dish is offered as an option with brown sauce instead of lecsó, and the matching wine was clearly selected with that version in mind. For the one with lecsó, a fuller-bodied Furmint from the restaurant’s extensive list may be a better choice. 2011/2012
A CAR FIT FOR A TOKAJI
The 1962 Vintage
n 1962, the demise of the British sports car industry was as unthinkable as the possibility of making handcrafted, single-vineyard dry wines from age-old vines in Tokaj. AC Aces, Aston DB4s, Jaguar XKs, MGAs, Morgans, Triumph TRs and Austin-Healeys were a common sight on both racetracks and public roads in Britain. At that time, Hungary’s communist regime, after a brief tactical pause following the 1956 revolution, was once again hurrying to take full control over and centralise all means of vine-growing and wine production in the country. Then, by the early ‘nineties, as 44
a new, promising stage of Tokaj’s renaissance was just about to begin with Hungary’s return to the free world, Britain was facing the outcome of decades of automotive mismanagement, as Rover, the last British-owned volume car manufacturer (and owner of the Austin marque) fell into the hands of BMW – 27 years after the last Austin Healey 3000 came off the assembly line. A glorious example of British sports-car engineering, the AustinHealey 3000 survives in fairly high numbers to recall the long-gone heyday of post-war lightweight roadsters, though most of them are
found in the US market, which absorbed some 80 per cent of the total production. This particular example was, however, spotted and bought by current owner Zoltán Varga in 2004 in Munich, Germany; it then took him three years to restore it fully from a nearly complete wreck. It is one of the several hundreds of left-hand drive Mark IIs exported to Germany in 1962 and of the total of 5,095 Mark II BT7s manufactured between March 1961 and June 1962. Unlike the two-seater BN7, the BT7 bodywork offered a 2+2 seating arrangement, the “+2” meaning two small cushions at the
British racing green set against a background of Hárslevelű green
back without proper back rests and no legroom whatsoever, especially behind a taller-than-average driver and passenger. These two ‘cushions’ are, nonetheless, perfectly suitable for the safe transport of anything slightly fragile and in need of a cooling breeze – such as one or two cases of dry Furmints or Aszús, a feature that makes this model ideal for touring the Tokaj Wine Region. The first Austin-Healey MkIIs are known to have had three carburettors fitted to their straight-six 2.9-litre engines, but difficulties experienced in tuning the triple carb made the manufacturer, BMC,
revert to a double-carb set-up upon the introduction in January 1962 of the successor convertible model, the BJ7. Zoltán’s 1962 doublecarburettor roadster, therefore, appears to be a rare transitional version that must have been assembled in the 5-month phase-out period of BT7s. Deprived of one carb, the engine can still produce 124 bhp and accelerate the 1,100kg body to 60 mph in just about 10 seconds, making a deep, raucous noise. A low seating position combined with a backward-sloping, low waistline gives you a feeling of openness, speed and proximity to the outside environment that modern roadsters (designed, quite rightly, with more focus on occupant safety) cannot really deliver in the same way. Upon the collapse of the shortlived MG Rover in 2005, the Austin brand name became the property of Chinese automotive giant Nanjing Automotive Corporation (NAC), which, in 2007, entered into a deal with HFI, owner of Healey, to revive Austin-Healey sports cars. NAC’s merger with Shanghai Automotive Industry Corporation later the same year seems to have frozen that plan for who knows how long. Whether that is good news or bad news is difficult to say for lack of detailed information on exactly what concept and design they had in mind for a recreation of the marque.
An eye for detail was apparently a forte of Austin design engineers
A CAR FIT FOR A TOKAJI
A matching wine: Vajthó Aszúesszencia 1962
eading up to 1963 and 1964, two of the 20th century’s most remarkable vintages in Tokaj, 1962 was a somewhat mediocre year as far as the extent of botrytisation is concerned. By that year, the state-owned wine conglomerate had come to fully dominate wine production and sales, although many local families continued making wine, for family consumption or distribution to acquaintances, from the small vine plots left in their hands. The Vajthós, based in Tokaj, were, and remain, one of those families still producing wine primarily for themselves and friends. This 1962 Aszúeszencia (yes, that is the correct spelling) was made by Mrs Jenő Vajthó Sr, mother of Jenő Vajthó Jr, the head of the family today. The exact time of bottling is unknown. The capsule appears to be older than the label, which was probably attached in the early or mid-nineties – at least judging from the design and the six-digit phone number printed on it (phone numbers outside of Budapest had only five digits before 1990). No details are available on acidity or dry extract, and the name of the wine is the only indication of its residual sugar (RS) being in excess of 180 grams per litre. A non-traditional category of
Tokaji wines, Aszúesszencia was introduced as late as around 1970 to cover wines between 6p Aszú and Esszencia, that is, those ranging from 180 g/L to, initially, 250 g/L in RS. The upper limit was later raised to 450 g/L before the category was formally discontinued in 2010. This specialty is now part of Gyula Víg’s extensive collection of museum wines in the Váci Curia Wine House (Váci Curia Borház) in the town of Vác, north of Budapest. Quite interestingly, it has, over the years, developed a thick, honey-like consistency, which might, in principle, constitute a physical barrier to drinkability. But, unlike driveability for classic cars, drinkability is not an absolute requirement for ‘classic’ wines. (Photo courtesy of Gyula Víg)
On the road from Tarcal to Bodrogkeresztúr
Parked in the frontyard of Degenfeld Hotel
2013 will mark perhaps the most important milestone in the history of Tarcal-based Gróf Degenfeld Winery since its foundation in the mid-nineties; the completion of a four-year-long transition to fully organic viticulture will launch Gróf Degenfeld into the forefront of an apparently region-wide trend of Tokaj wineries moving towards more sustainable vine growing. It was in 2009 that Gróf Degenfeld started this gradual process, first revitalising the soil through the complete abandonment of the use of synthetic herbicides and inorganic fertilisers, the latter being replaced with compost made up of lucerne, topsoil and aged cattle manure. A cornerstone of the transition was to abolish the use of insecticides and systemic pesticides both to allow the return of beneficial insects to the vineyards and to help vines reinforce their natural immunity. Pest control is now limited to copper and sulphur applications in combination with various plant strengtheners. For the transition, the winery draws on expert support from a Germany-based consultant, but the specificities of the Tokaj terroir and wine styles necessitate the constant review of internationally accepted methods and their adaptation to local conditions. For example, a slight overuse of strengtheners that cause grape skins to thicken to provide protection against detrimental fungi may actually result in a lack of sufficient botrytisation, essential for Aszú-making. As Gróf Degenfeld’s chief winemaker István Varkoly told The Tokaji Journal, it is a lengthy learning process for them, involving continual experimentation, monitoring and adjustments. By now all of their 35 hectares under vine are organically farmed, enabling Gróf Degenfeld to receive formal certification as an organic producer. The first wines they can label as organic can be made in 2012, from grapes harvested from vines that will have been under organic cultivation for three consecutive years. All Gróf Degenfeld wines made after 2015 will be organic.
Organic plantings on the estate
Roses for early indication of disease
Crimson clover used for cover cropping in alleys
A Wine of One’s Own
“A less familiar proposition is that Hungary is the only country in the world besides France and Germany to have an ancient, original, truly classical wine-making of its own.” Hugh Johnson OBE in Wine – A Life Uncorked, 2007
t was a hot Sunday afternoon when an after-lunch stroll took my wife and me to the fence of a garden harbouring odd-looking vines with huge, wild-growing dark-green leaves and no apparent signs of grape bunches. “It’s wild” was the owner’s response to our curious glances into his property. He meant vadalany, which literally translates as ‘wild stock’ and is the Hungarian term to denote the phylloxera-resistant rootstock onto which Vitis vinifera varieties are grafted. In an outburst of characteristically Hungarian hospitality he immediately invited us to the porch of his modest house on the edge of the village, and offered us a drink, as you would expect from any local, some… well, a can of beer. The talk was, however, mostly about wine, starting with his explanation that he grew the resistant rootstocks in his garden for sale to mostly local vine-growers. Sitting in a garden swing, Krisztina sipping her beer (I drink no beer so I had politely declined), we simply sporadically commented on the slightly digressive narrative on his former career as a quarry worker and his membership of the village folk choir, as well as the marvel of local terroir which produces the most brilliant wines. Wines even his closest pals would not normally be deemed worthy of. About half an hour into the chat, he apparently concluded that we shared more or less the same values and thus consequently deserved a lap of his pálinka, the traditional Hungarian fruit brandy (which is normally enjoyed as a welcome drink or an aperitif). And the real honour was still to come. As we got up to leave, he not only saw us to the gate but out onto the street and then straight to what turned out to be his mother’s home. A century-old peasant’s house with no real cellar, there was only a small room at the back, its earthen floor two steps below ground level. It was cool inside as we entered. A couple of small barrels were lying by the wall. He handed us tiny glass goblets and then took samples from two of the barrels, one after the other. For a ‘chaser’ we broke some morsels off the sausages hanging from the rafters next door. The wine was light in colour and bone dry on the palate with crisp acidity and clearly out of balance on alcohol – but it was genuine and unadulterated. It had been made to satisfy nothing but its maker’s taste, with no regard for consumer demand – let alone any international taste trends. It was one great wine. “Could we buy a litre or two?” “Not a chance.” The tasting was over. It was his wine. And he had barely enough to last until the next harvest. For me, this was a moment of the “ancient, original, truly classical” nature of wine-making in Hungary being manifested in its purest form. Producing wine strictly for family consumption or free distribution to acquaintances is common practice in the Tokaj region, just as in Hungary's many other wine regions. Wine making is not just the region’s key industry or the privilege of a couple of wine companies and devoted wine artisans, but very much part of everyday life hereabouts. The downside is that there are also many locals who seek to earn some extra cash by making and selling their wine – well, sadly sometimes just plonk with terrible defects – directly to tourists from the doorstep of their house. You are advised to resist the temptation to buy any wine from such sources to avoid a bitter (or, I should say, sometimes strangely oversweet) disappointment in Tokaji and even a possible headache. So when it comes to buying wine, you had better stick to the renowned professional wineries, small or large, that are members of one or other of the quality-committed regional associations. Should you, however, ever be offered a chance to taste a local’s wine that is made strictly not for sale, make sure you do not let it pass. Gergely Somogyi Editor
THE 2011 IWSC REPORT
Though it really is a competition underpinned by scientific rigour, some of the resulting wine descriptions are not a dry read at all – judges can apparently give free rein to creative expression, occasionally lending a touch of poetry and emotion to their tasting notes. In 2011, the number of Tokaji medal winners tripled from the previous year with Royal Tokaji’s Furmint 2009 winning the first Bestin-Class Gold ever awarded to a dry Tokaji by the IWSC panel.
The colour is bright yellow green, with rich aromas of honey notes and peach flavours. Dry taste with medium to high acidity, great freshness and mineral. Some stone fruit flavours develop and lead into bright, fresh, clean finish. Very harmonious with a promising length.
RS: 6.5 g/l TA: 5.2 g/l ABV: 13.99 %
Tokaji Aszú 6 Puttonyos Tokaj Kereskedőház Bright bronze with green gold reflections. Yellow muscat dominates the nose with range of floral fragrances filling in the background. Hints of dried fruit eventually appear. Much the same in multilayered mouth where some oak adds to the complexity. All the sweetness is held in check with great balancing acidity. Super sipping now yet has the ability to develop over decades. RS: 156 g/l TA: 9.5 g/l ABV: 10.5 %
Gold - best in class
aunched in 1969 by wine chemist Anton Massel, the IWSC stands out from all international wine competitions as one that places special emphasis on detailed chemical and microbiological analysis of all entries. One purpose of this is to verify the potential longevity of organoleptic properties identified in the preceding stage of blind tasting. The two-stage judging process runs separately for wines from the northern and southern hemispheres before the annual awards banquet is held in London every November.
Gold - best in class
Blue Label 5 Puttonyos Tokaji Aszú 2007 Royal Tokaji
Abbreviations RS – Residual Sugar TA – Total Acidity ABV – Alcohol by Volume
RS: 164.5 g/l TA: 8.1 g/l ABV: 11.92 %
The tasting notes here are courtesy of IWSC Group Ltd and have been slightly edited to fit the space available.
Medium depth of bright gold. Nose displays a wide range of ripe fruit aromas with muscat, lemon, mango and peach. Gorgeous, honeyed richness on the palate with velvet texture and silky smooth flow. Finishes sweet yet with mouth watering freshness. Absolute delight now yet will develop for decades to come.
THE 2011 IWSC REPORT
Medium depth of bright gold. Hint of botrytis elevates the yellow muscat aromas. Good density in the mouth gives fine concentration of all the fruit flavours with quince, pear and odd but very attractive marmalade character. Smooth flow and velvet texture. Long fruit filled finish where the slight muscat character is very evident.
Tasting notes N/A
RS: 139 g/l TA: 6.4 g/l ABV: 9.78 %
RS: 186.2 g/l TA: 10.8 g/l ABV: 9.34 %
Tokaji Aszú 6 Puttonyos 2006
Tokaji Késői Arany 2009
Tokaj Kereskedőház Tasting notes N/A
RS: 195.7 g/l TA: 10.5 g/l ABV: 9.15 %
RS: 128.1 g/l TA: 6.7 g/l ABV: 10.5 %
Tasting notes N/A
Tokaji Aszúesszencia Dominium 2005
silver best in class
Late Harvest 2009
Tokaji Furmint 2010
Tasting notes N/A
Tasting notes N/A
RS: 9 g/l TA: 6.3 g/l ABV: 14.04 %
RS: 1.5 g/l TA: 8.3 g/l ABV: 12.9 %
Photo:The early November sun filtering through the mist over Szár-hegy Dűlő on the outskirts of Sárazsadány
Harvest Report 2011
A year without botrytis
okaj’s 2011 season was marked by predominantly dry and warm weather with lots of sunshine and just a brief mid-summer rainy spell – a most welcome change from the nearly non-stop precipitation throughout the previous year. This fostered an early flowering, fruit set and ripening – as well as enabling the completion of all vineyard work smoothly and on time. Starting from early August, however, dryness turned into drought, causing grapes to develop a thicker skin, which, in turn, made them less susceptible to botrytis. Harvests of grapes for dry wines started in early September, two to four weeks earlier than usual. A dry, warm autumn followed, bringing about a high (though not always as high as expected) sugar content of must for late harvest wines – along with a lack of morning mists which adversely impacted the extent of botrytisation. Some winemakers postponed the harvest in selected parcels until late November in the hope of a sudden turn in the weather that would cause the botrytis to explode – but to no avail. Depending on the location of their vineyards, wineries handpicked some 99 to 50 per cent less botrytisaffected (i.e. aszú) berries than in a ‘good Aszú year’. Their quality was, nonetheless, excellent so the small quantities of Aszú wines made this year are likely to be exceptional. Consequently, the 2011 vintage will be more about dry and late harvest wines than Aszú. They promise to be well-balanced, elegant and of an exceptional quality. Most of these styles tend to hit the market the year following the harvest so we are looking forward to tasting some examples in just a couple of months’ time. Harvest under way on 3rd November in Patricius Winery's parcels in Szár-hegy Dűlő
Tokaj, Tokaji, Hegyalja ['tokɒj]
he word Tokaj is said to be of Old Turkic origin meaning “riverine forest” – referring to the woods that once covered vast areas alongside the streams and rivers of the region. You can still see a remnant, for instance, on the opposite side of the River Bodrog to the town known by this name today. Despite its much fought-over castle of national significance from the 16th through to the mid-17th century (whose barely discernible ruins are now sheltered by the above-mentioned forest), the town of Tokaj was never a political or religious centre for the region, nor even regarded as the place with the very best of vine-growing sites. However, its geographical location made it a gateway to the region, as well as a major seat of wine trade – on top of which it had a short name easy to pronounce for foreign wine merchants who centuries ago began referring to the entire wine region and its wines by the name Tokaj (or Tokay, as it was normally spelt in Latin writings). The actual Hungarian name of the region (indeed of some five other geomorphologically similar regions in the Carpathian Basin) was and is Hegyalja, which is not only difficult for non-Hungarian speakers to pronounce and remember, but also translates a little clumsily into other languages. The closest English equivalent would be ‘piedmont’ meaning the foothills of the Zemplén Mountains. Tokaj town and the hill above are in fact part of Hegyalja, just like the other 26 towns and villages of the wine region. For centuries, Hungarians called the wine foreigners knew as Tokaj wine hegyaljai. With foreign usage being partially accepted into Hungarian parlance by the 18th century, the word Tokaj was combined with Hegyalja to create Tokaj-Hegyalja, a name One of the roadsigns marking the boundary of the wine region. It reads "Tokaj - Historical Wine Region".
that would become the formal designation of the region in the early 19th century – for ease of identification by Hungarians and foreigners alike. In 2004 the then-official name Tokaj-hegyaljai borvidék (i.e. Wine Region of Tokaj-Hegyalja) was changed to Tokaji Borvidék, that is the Tokaj Wine Region, bringing an end to the use of the word Hegyalja in formal communication about the wine region. Hegyalja, however, remains both the official geographical denomination and the name preferred in everyday conversation by locals. Interestingly, wines are never denoted as hegyaljai, but always as tokaji in modern local speech – wherever they are made within Hegyalja. The i in Tokaji is an adjectival ending, making Tokaji mean “from/of Tokaj” or, when used of wines, “from/ of the Tokaj region”. Used as an adjectival noun, it generally means “a wine made in the Tokaj region”. In a non-vinous context, it tends to signify “from the town of Tokaj” or “a resident of Tokaj town”. In Hungarian, just like in English, the first letter of proper nouns is capitalised. Adjectives, however, always start with a smallcase letter, and that is why you may see it spelt as tokaji in a Hungarian context. As far as recommended usage in English is concerned, the word Tokaji should be used for the wine only, either as an adjective or adjectival noun, and Tokaj to refer to Tokaj town or the whole wine region, provided the latter is quite clear from the context. When in the region and speaking to Hungarians, you had better say “the Tokaj Wine Region” to avoid confusion. Should you take the trouble of pronouncing Hegyalja, it will certainly be appreciated.
The real face of
Tokaj’s complex layers of loess Written by Robert Smyth
The loess soils that abound around the town of Tokaj have long been prized for their ability to yield Aszú wines of great elegance, softness, finesse and fruit. Tokaj’s loess soil is complex, multi-layered, stacked with minerals, having much in common the predominantly volcanic soils around Mád, and is also producing its own distinctive dry wines with increasingly stunning results.
oess soils contain quartz, feldspars, mica, as well as calcite. Loess comprises all the necessary minerals that wine needs. The roots of the vines can penetrate easily and deeply in loess to collect the nutrients and absorb the decomposing minerals,” Dr Béla Vitányi, a geologist based in the area told The Tokaji Journal. “Soils that have been created on volcanic rock are from a geological point of view similar to soils that have been formed on loess, and vice versa.” Vitányi also said that the more complex the soil, the better it is for making grapes and soil. “The soil in Tokaj is like this. While soil is important in winemaking, it is not the sole factor to take into account for grape growing as grapes are not overly demanding regarding soil type, but it does give a unique taste.” Loess covers 13 million square kilometres of the Earth, 150,000 km2 of which is the in Carpathian basin and 35,000 to 40,000 km2 in Hungary, where the most significant deposits are in Transdanubia and on and around Tokaj Hill, according to Vitányi. “All grape growing areas of Tokaj have soil with loess,” he said. From Abaújszántó to Szőlőske (in today's Slovakia), loess is also found among the mainly clay soils. The region’s loess was formed from 1,000,000 to 13,000
Background photo: A typically elongated cluster of Hárslevelű grapes in a parcel at the foot of Terézia Hill
years ago and appears as high up as 350 to 400 metres, which is also as far up as the grapes grow, explained Vitányi. “The products of the weathered volcanic tufa and tufit are the clay minerals, zeolit, trass, which also contain powdered loess. The blowing winds of the ice age distributed this dust all around the region”. All parcels from French-owned Tokaj Hétszőlő are on loess, although there are significant differences in the depth of the loess layers, explained Gergely Makai, technical manager of Hétszőlő. On the top of the vineyard it’s around three to four metres deep while it’s 15 metres deep at the bottom. “Loess is a soil type that dries and warms up very easily and quickly, which means that we have earlier ripening and we have fewer problems in terms of plant protection,” Gergely Makai told The Tokaji Journal, comparing it to the more volcanic soils of much of the rest of the region. “Generally the wines are lighter, more elegant, fruitier, with less acidity and higher alcohol in hot years,” he said, adding that loess’ qualities apply just as much to dry wine as to sweet. The conditions for making Aszú are ideal in the area, legendary even. In addition to the quality of the soil, the southern exposition of Hétszőlő’s vineyards and the position at the confluence of
SPECIAL FOCUS the Tisza and Bodrog rivers which brings humidity, the dry and warm period after the rains in September is more ensured. “Therefore, we have generally more and more frequently noble rot in a high quality,” said Makai. A Tokaji Aszú from the loess soils, Kikelet’s Tokaji Aszú 6 Puttonyos 2007, was crowned champion wine of the 2011 Pannon National Wine Challenge, which is Hungary’s leading wine competition. The wine is notable for the Hárslevelű grape playing the leading role, comprising 50% of the aszú berries, with usually dominant Furmint weighing in with 40% and Zeta 10%. The latter gives off aromas of raspberry during fermentation, according to Kikelet’s French winemaker Stephanie Berecz. These aromas also come through in the final wine, which has atypical but enticing aromas of raspberry and strawberry, along with rich floral and fruity influence of Hárslevelű, nicely fleshing out the lean but elegant structure of the Furmint. Both the Hárslevelű and Furmint come from Lónyai Dűlő. The base must that backs up the aszú in the final blend was about 50% Furmint and 50% Hárslevelű, both from Farkas Dűlő. Hárslevelű is also proving successful in the dry category as a number of samples presented at the in-
augural Tokaji Lösz Arcai (The Face of Tokaj Loess) tasting in Budapest in September 2011 showed. Zoltán Demeter’s Szerelmi Hárslevelű 2008 was also named among the Pannon National Wine Contest’s top whites and was perhaps the most praised by journalists, alongside the champion, at the tasting corresponding with the unveiling of the results. Gizella winemaker László Szilágyi, whose Tokaji Aszú 6 puttonyos 2007 has recently been listed with the UK’s uber popular Naked Wines, told The Tokaji Journal that he is planning to release a larger number of single-vineyard dry offerings from the outstanding 2011 vintage. “Everything is there in this vintage, which enables the qualities and intricacies of single vineyards to be shown,” he said. Back at Hétszőlő, a lot of work has gone into improving its dry Furmint, which was until recently considered a chink in the company’s otherwise shining armour. “Harvesting is carried out earlier to keep acidity to produce a fresh, elegant wine. Fermentation is now done in oak, with deliberate oxidation prevented. We have an ageing time of six months, with lees stirring carried out,” said Makai. He also mentioned that Hétszőlő has started a programme for the selection of the parcels, which are deemed the most
A gem from loess: Kikelet's 6p Aszú of 2007 was awarded the Champion Prize for scoring the highest mark at the 2011 Pannon Wine Challenge, Hungary' leading wine competition.
suitable for dry Furmint. Regarding other grapes, dry Hárslevelű could be a possibility if more is planted, while Sárgamuskotály needs a few grams of residual to be attractive. “Therefore, the aim is a semidry Sárgamuskotály,” he said. Tokaji Lösz Arcai is set to become an annual tasting held in Budapest in September that unveils new vintages, emphasizing the benefits of loess: fruit, charm, lightness, sometimes a kind of feminine character, which result in very elegant but highly drinkable and not too heavy wines, said Tamás Oroszlán, Hétszőlő’s commercial director. However, it is hardly going to turn into a full-blown movement due to its esoteric nature that is unlikely to hold huge appeal for the general consumer.
THE 'LOESS FACES' Some of the winemakers at the September tasting (from left to right): István Balassa of BalassaBor, Stéphanie Berecz of Kikelet, István Dorogi of Dorogi Testvérek, András Kanczler of Zöld Birtok, Hérszőlő's Dr Tibor Kovács and László Szilágyi of Gizella
The region’s largest and most comprehensive museum wine repository is nothing like the usual old wine collections that are more about the packaging, that is, old bottles, labels and capsules, than the wine itself – it is very much a living museum that bears testimony to the amazing longevity of the legendary Tokaji Aszú.
ying on the side of an insignificant dead-end street on the outskirts of Tolcsva, the unmarked entrance to the National Treasury’s wine museum looks similar to any other local stone-clad cellar portal and betrays nothing of the vintage Tokajis worth million held in the bowels of the ancient cellar behind. With some of its winding, narrow galleries dating back to the 13th century, this cellar is exactly what one imagines a Tokaji museum cellar to be like: narrow, dimly-lit passages with a low ceiling and lined on both sides with dusty shelves crammed with thousands of bottles enveloped in a thick, dark-greyish veil of the indigenous cellar mould, Cladosporium cellare. The interconnected vaults of the former Constantin Cellar, Adriányi Cellar, Upper Rákóczi Cellar and Liebmann Cellar (the latter not used as a museum) total close to 1000 metres in length in a very intricate, multi-level layout. The constant temperature of 11°C to 12°C (52°F to 53.5°F) with 90 per cent humidity allows bottles to be stored standing upright – as is normal in any Tokaj cellar.
state-run wine-making monopoly of the communist era – was keen on preserving exceptional vintages for later generations in an age that cared little about historical values. He regularly bottled old Aszús to safeguard them in the cellar where he spent most of his professional career, a cellar which was thus named after him. Today, the actual cellar where Pogácsás worked is in fact owned by Oremus Winery, the local affiliate of Vega Sicilia. Pogácsás’s example was followed by István Kovács, Lajos Csibrik and Sándor Bodnár, three middle managers of the Borkombinát, who in 1973 began secretly bottling old Aszús (starting with the exceptional 1963 and 1964 vintages) and laying them down in the Constantin Cellar, a relatively remote spot out of sight of the senior management, as István Kovács himself explained to
The Tokaji Journal. This was a de facto illicit practice which could, however, be pursued unnoticed within what was a vast organisation employing thousands of staff and managing over 280 cellars with around 70,000 barrels throughout the wine region. The collection grew rapidly and steadily. The three men even had additional wooden shelves made using the funds of the company under the pretext of having to store reference samples from the laboratory. No-one ever actually took the trouble of going down to find out that the ‘samples’ on those shelves had never come from the lab. Pogácsás was one of the few who knew what was going on and even gave Kovács’s team a couple of bottles from his collection. When the repository had reached around 200,000 bottles by the end of the seventies, the three men knew
This unique vault is most often referred to as the Wine Museum, Constantin Cellar, or, not totally accurately, as the Pogácsás Cellar. The latter name enshrines the memory of János Pogácsás, the role model for those who actually started the collection. Pogácsás – the Aszú expert of the Borkombinát, the
The mould cover, which is necessarily removed in the process of rebottling and recorking, is estimated to take 10 to 25 years to fully overgrow the new bottles.
Photo opposite: An unusual ceramic bottle, filled in 1842 with Eszencia, made from the harvest of 1838. Currently in Gyula Víg's collection in the town of Vác, Hungary
A Hidden Present
6p Aszús from 1895. The apperance of the bottles is never an indication of their age. This lot was rebottled relatively recently. it would be impossible to keep it a secret much longer. By either simply disclosing it to top management or having it discovered by chance, they would however have risked serious punishment (even imprisonment) for they could have well been accused of stealing national(ised) property despite the fact that what they had been doing was actually just transferring wine from one company cellar to another. They
refusing the CEO’s request to join the team for what would turn into a prolonged sparkling wine tasting campaign, drawing to an end around midnight in Tolcsva. As spirits were high, Kovács thought the hour had come to disclose the collection to Kapás. He furtively instructed some of his people to run ahead and light candles all over the museum cellar, not electrified at that time, and then turned to the
"Bottles are checked regularly and where a cork is found to show signs of deterioration, the wine is uncorked, tasted, then rebottled and re-corked." had to let the management learn about the collection in a ‘controlled’ manner, but how? Then came the year-end management meeting on 30th December 1979. The usual formalities were followed by a New Year’s Eve address and then a few bottles of Tokaji sparkling wine were opened and glass flutes clinked (yes, sparkling wine was a common product in Tokaj at the time). During an informal chat CEO Pál Kapás asked István Kovács and his colleagues where they were going after the event. “To taste our sparkling wines in Bodrogolaszi” was the answer. There was no 58
CEO asking him if he wanted to be shown something special. He did. The ‘initiated’ kept their breath as a fairly tipsy Kapás descended down the time-worn wooden steps. When the sight of the thousands of mouldclad bottles aglow in the light of dozens of candles made his jaw drop in amazement, the three men knew they had got away with it. Early in the new year the cellar was formalised as a wine museum and the wines were entered into the official inventory of the company. The collection was to continue – with the approval of the senior management.
The current archive spans 34 vintages between 1895 and 1988, 23 of which are top-rated, i.e. marked with five stars in the Tokaj vintage chart, and nine are indicated as second best with four stars. There are only two vintages rated below four stars in the museum. (It should be noted, however, that Tokaj vintage ratings are based on the quantity of botrytised berries produced in any given year, and as such, cannot be regarded as a direct indicator of quality.) The best-represented style is 5 puttonyos Aszú with over 132,000 bottles from vintages between 1906 and 1988. The number of 6 puttonyos Aszús is excess of 74,000 and a little more than 12,000 wines were recorded in the Aszúesszencia (‘above-6p’) category at the time of bottling. The oldest vintage dates back to 1895 – just 37 bottles of 6p Aszú. The most ‘populous’ vintages in the collection are 1972, 1964 and 1963 (all top-rated) each with between 34,000 and 37,000 bottles, while the year 1922 is represented by a mere 4 bottles. Most of the missing vintages are of the pre-war period. Besides 5p and 6p Aszús, there are nearly 24,000 4p, as well as a couple of thousand 3p Aszús, and dry and sweet Szamorodnis. (It is a point of interest that some 30 bottles of dry Furmint also made their way into the collection somehow, but since such wines rarely survive decades of storage, they do not hold any significant value.) What you may immediately notice upon taking a closer look at the bottles is the absence of labels as well as dust and cellar mould that do not correspond to the age of some of the wines. This is related to exactly what makes this museum more than just any repository of items of mere historical value, for all the wines stored here are perfectly drinkable. Bottles are checked regularly and where a cork is found to show signs of deterioration, the wine is
HERITAGE TOKAJIS uncorked, tasted, then rebottled and re-corked. This must normally be repeated every 15 to 30 years for each and every one of the over quarter of a million bottles held in the museum. Wines found to have a fault on sensory evaluation (an extremely rare occurrence) are simply thrown out. The mould cover is necessarily removed in the process and is estimated to take 10 to 25 years to fully overgrow the new bottles. The Tolcsva Wine Museum belongs to Hungary’s National Treasury and surprisingly little known to the general public that has until now been denied any chance of visiting what has been
mostly used to impress high-ranking politicians, foreign diplomats and a few celebrities only. However, the museum has recently been brought under the management of the Tarcal-based Research Institute for Viticulture and Oenology in the Tokaj Wine Region (TRIVO), (re-) established in August 2011. TRIVO is not only planning to improve the current bottle registration and identification system, but also to open the museum to visitors and offer exclusive tastings of select vintages in the cellar. Tasting prices will be set commensurate with the value of wines offered, for instance around EUR 130 for tasting a lineup of five samples such as a sweet
Szamorodni 1983, a 3p Aszú 1957, a 4p Aszú 1956, a 5p Aszú 1968 and a 6p Aszú 1972. The aim is not to make the cellar a destination for mass tourism, but to provide access for those willing to pay for what will surely be a memorable and worthwhile experience. At the moment, TRIVO has not got an English-language website advertising Wine Museum tastings, but if you are about to come to or already in the Tokaj Wine Region, and do not want to miss the opportunity, you can email us at email@example.com and we will help make arrangements, so you too may take a peek into this once secret treasury of Tokaj history.
The wooden shelves need replacing from time to time. Some loss to the collection occurred in the past due to decayed boards collapsing under the weight of bottles. 2011/2012
HERITAGE TOKAJIS Gyula Víg, owner of Váci Curia Wine House
Real from Fake
Collecting Aszú is a tricky business Based on a conversation with Gyula Víg
Hungary’s perhaps largest privately-owned old Tokaji Aszú collection is found in a small town, some 30 kilometres north of Budapest. Owner Gyula Víg, who is an engineer by trade and an ardent Tokaji Aszú enthusiast by hobby, started out the collection as a showcase of old labels and bottles, sought out and bought for mere historical interest, but his attention soon turned towards what is actually inside the packaging – and whether it matches the label.
his repository has since grown to around 900 and boasts such fascinating rarities as an unusual ceramic bottle, filled in 1842 with Eszencia, made from the harvest of 1838 – as well as an equally unique array of fake museum wines. Gyula Víg purchased many fake Aszús in the beginning, and learnt at his own (heavy) expense how to tell real from fake, which is by no means an easy task, one that requires extensive knowledge of the history of old wineries and biographies of winemakers of bygone eras. Over the
"High-value brands always engender counterfeits and Tokaji has been no exception." years he has done meticulous historical research, read books, collated information from various sources and interviewed living descendants of some old winemaking families, amassing a wealth of knowledge on the subject. We asked him to tell us about his collection, the history of faking Tokajis, and the do’s and don’ts of buying old Aszú wines. High-value brands always engender counterfeits, and Tokaji has been no exception. During the centuries when Tokaji was marketed in the barrel only, a typical method was 60
diluting Aszú with low-quality wine of external origin or simply selling external (i.e. non-Tokaji) wine (like that from Avas Hill in Miskolc, a town some 40 kilometres west of the region) to unwitting Polish buyers willing to buy anything that was transported on the same northbound route used for wine transport from Tokaj. The Royal Charter of 1737 was specifically aimed at bringing an end to this long-ongoing malpractice by introducing the world’s very first appellation control system in the form of a clear demarcation of the wine region and the compulsory use of appropriately stamp-marked Gönci barrels for wine transit. The Charter, which also forbade foreign merchants (the usual perpetrators of adulteration) from trading in any wine in Upper Hungary, was only the first major piece in a series of upcoming legislation targeted at trying to deal with what would prove to be a recurring problem in the next two hundred years. Indeed, Hungary’s very first Wine Law of 1893 revolved around the prohibition of making and selling what was called ‘artificial’ wine at the time. With bottling wine becoming common practice in the 19th century, the problem persisted, changing in nature only, as capsules and labels were brought into the frontline of certification of origin.
Some producers such as the Windischgraetz, an Austrian family that acquired by inheritance vast stretches of Tokaj vineyards and cellars (plus the castle of Sárospatak) in 1875, protected their brand in such an excellent way that it cannot really be counterfeited even today. Their secure method was the use of a very precise, (then) high-tech printing technique for the label and, more importantly, embossing the capsule with proprietary markings like the family’s coat of arms. Frauds, who could easily buy empty Windischgraetz bottles for a few pence from the cleaning staff at top Budapest hotels, did not even bother to try to imitate the tamper-proof capsule. Instead, they just dipped the neck of the bottle into wax after filling it with any wine and closing it with any cork. As wax-capping was fairly uncommon for pre-1990s Tokajis, a waxed bottle top should always warrant suspicion – and, of course, by no means for Windischgraetz wines only. Talking of Windischgraetz, it should be noted that Windischgraetz-branded wines from between 1932 and 1944 originate from two different sources, neither actually being ‘fake’. The reason is that in 1932 Lajos Windischgraetz, owner of the estate (and presumably in need of quick cash at the time),
HERITAGE TOKAJIS sold his Rákóczi Cellar in Tokaj together with the right to use his brand and label to a company set up by two local businessmen, Ernő Krausz and Andor Holló – while maintaining his other Rákóczi Cellar in Sárospatak and continuing to make wine under his family name. The labels are identical but for the place names indicated on them – Tokaj on Krausz&Holló’s and Sárospatak on ‘real’ Windischgraetz bottles. It is, however, easier to tell them apart by the capsule, as Windischgraetz normally embossed capsule tops with his ducal coat of arms. Krausz&Holló’s ‘Windischgraetz’ wines are not pieces of fakery, and it is up to the market to decide their value relative to ‘real’ ones. Actual value is often a matter of doubt even with such obvious counterfeits as an alleged Zimmermann Aszú of 1934. The year of vintage on the label is an immediate giveaway to a knowledgeable expert like Víg for Zimmermann is known to have sold his whole estate to a company called Vinea in 1933, and thus he could not possibly have made wine a year later. The five-point
A pre-war example of the governmental verification seal that was in use from 1936 to 2004
A so-called 'wooden-cased' Aszú. This particular one is marked as 'of unknown origin' in Víg's collection.
star on the capsule top then reveals the perpetrator, Hungary’s communist government, which came to power in the late 1940s and apparently tried to make the most of valuable wine forcibly expropriated from the middle and upper classes. Though the bottle is contemporaneous and the wine in it is likely to be of the 1934 vintage, the false label and capsule destroy its value. How much may this particular wine eventually be worth? It is difficult to say.
While such falsification at a government level was not uncommon in that dark period of Hungary’s history, the communists did much more serious damage by debasing the quality of Aszú from the early or mid-seventies onwards particularly, when Tokaji became an object of mass production, and mass production an end to justify any means, including the unrestrained use of fertilisers and chaptalisation. This steep decline is manifested in
Hundreds of old Tokajis on display in a curved show case of Gyula Víg's museum, housed in the cellar of Váci Curia Wine House in the heart of the town of Vác, Hungary
HERITAGE TOKAJIS "Hungary’s very first Wine Law of 1893 revolved around the prohibition of making and selling what was called ‘artificial’ wine at the time." Aszús labelled as having a shelf life of 3 years (!) – making a mockery of their former selves. Examples of such bottles in Víg’s collection still bear what is called the ‘governmental verification seal’, a special paper strip around the bottle neck that had been introduced back in 1936 to provide the strongest possible guarantee that the label on any Tokaji bottle matched the contents. However, what went into publicly marketed bottles from the mid-seventies to the late eighties was, more often than not, a mere shadow of what good Tokaji was supposed to be, so for wines from this sad period, the seal only verifies the originality of bottling, telling nothing of quality. Having changed design several times, the verification seal remained in use until 2004 and was generally found difficult to counterfeit, so most frauds simply omitted it from their forgeries. Therefore, you should check for its existence before buying a Tokaji bottled between 1936 and 2004. If not fitted with this seal, Tokaji sweet wines from this period should come with a certificate of origin. The latter is the case, for instance, with bottles sold from the Tolcsva Wine Museum. The verification seal should also be part of most ‘wooden-cased’ Aszús, once a favourite target of fakers, today the most devalued category of old Aszú bottlings. The wooden case was originally invented as a means of packaging that allowed old bottles to be marketed without the need to remove the coat of cellar mould that had enveloped them after decades of cellar storage, lending the product a special look and, in principle, increasing its value. However, fakeries with patches of mould glued to bottles, filled with 62
who knows what, virtually flooded the market starting from the early nineties, eventually resulting in all such bottlings losing their real market value. It sadly means that today you may not be able to resell your original, properly certified woodencased Aszú for even a fraction of the price you paid for it, say, twenty years ago. This distinctly shows what huge damage unscrupulous fraudulence can do to the value of old Tokajis. Incidentally, devaluation is sometimes caused by misleading labelling of old-vintage Tokajis. In the early-nineties wave of privatisation, the lots sold to mostly foreign wine companies did not only in-
clude vineyards and wine-making facilities, but also valuable museum wines. The latter were then put on the market under the new owners’ labels. While most of these wines are labelled as “distributed by” or “marketed by” the current owner, one of the newly established subsidiaries marked an Aszú from the seventies as “produced and bottled by” them. Such mislabelling, possibly done inadvertently and in good faith, may completely destroy market value despite the fact the wine in the bottle is actually of the vintage indicated. Should you wish to resell this bottle later, it may be quite a challenge to convince prospective buyers that it is worth the money
The collection's oldest item is said to have been found in a walled-up bay of a church in the Tokaj region. It is a ceramic bottle that was filled in 1842 with Eszencia, made from the harvest of 1838. The stopper is sealed with a gold wire. This unique piece is not owned by Víg, but is currently on display in his museum.
HERITAGE TOKAJIS and that the company, known to have been established in the nineties, was just accidentally mislabelled as producer… With top-quality photocopying and digital imaging technologies becoming increasingly accessible to the general public, the real fraudsters are finding new targets. Nowadays, pre-war bottlings from big-name producers of the past seem to be the most popular with them. When offered such a wine for purchase, you should look for signs of ageing of the capsule, which is more difficult to age artificially than a label. The shape of the bottle may also be a rough indicator of age. The standard Tokaji Aszú bottle underwent several alterations after its 1891 introduction. Bottles from the first half of the 20th century are
relatively easy to spot by their flat bottoms and prevalent casting flaws such as air inclusions – though such empty bottles are not completely impossible to obtain today. Víg has also confirmed to the Tokaji Journal that no pre-nineties vintages are completely unaffected by fakery. Care should be taken when buying wines from vintages that received low ratings in the Tokaj vintage chart (which indicates a low production quantity), therefore making them a favourable target category for fakers. Today, the Internet provides a marketplace where the dishonest can sell fake Tokajis without disclosing their identity. You are strongly advised never to buy old Tokaji via consumer-to-consumer trading sites. Also, a high percent-
age of Tokajis sold at international auctions outside Hungary are suspected to be fake. The few truly reliable sources include major Tokaj wineries and the Research Institute for Viticulture and Oenology, the organisation that manages the Tolcsva Wine Museum today. As may be clear from the foregoing, it is sometimes extremely difficult, if not impossible, to identify a fake museum Tokaji, but this is something The Tokaji Journal may be able to help with. Should you have any suspicion about any Tokaji that you have bought or about to buy for your collection, you are welcome to e-mail us a few closeup photos of the bottle, label and capsule, and we will seek an expert opinion for you.
The Doyen of all Tokajis
The oldest bottled Tokaji we know of is currently held in the Museum of Hungarian Agriculture in Budapest. It is a 17th-century Eszencia from the Holy Roman Emperor’s cellar in Berlin. The glass seal on the bottle shoulder bears the coat of arms of the Arch Marshal of the Holy Roman Empire (see photo below). A national treasure, this marvellous piece of history will soon be returned to where it was born and belongs – the Tokaj Wine Region.
The 17th-century bottle in a display cabinet of the Museum of Hungarian Agriculture in Budapest
Housed in a neatly renovated, but unassuming 19th-century building, Tokaj Nobilis is easy to miss as you drive by in the main street of Bodrogkeresztúr. But the multitude of regular customers do not need garish signs and flashy advertising to find their way to where the wines are let speak for themselves and make worthwhile the little extra effort you may need to put in locating the place.
obilis is a family-run winery in the truest sense of the word and you get an idea of what it means immediately as you enter the site – a playground slide in the forecourt of the winery serving to make the place agreeable to two perky daughters and possibly keep them busy while mom looks after the wines. Mom is Sarolta Bárdos who, together with her husband Péter Molnár, represents a new generation of winemakers in the region. The couple were lucky to find a job and thus able to return to the Tokaj region shortly after graduating as oenologists in the late nineties. While he remains head of estate at a (in Tokaj terms) large winery, she, having worked as chief winemaker for Gróf Degenfeld and then for Béres for 5 years together, eventually gave up an employed career in 2007 to take full charge of the family enterprise they had started up 7 years before. A busy mother and independent vintner, she is also very active on the public scene through membership in various local organi64
sations, including the Tokaj Renaissance Association, the Tokaj Wine Artisans’ Society, and the Tokaj Women and Wine Association as well as the Advisory Council of the Research Institute for Viticulture and Oenology. Tokaj Nobilis vinifies Furmint, Hárslevelű, Kövérszőlő and Sárgamuskotály grapes from about 6 hectares in two dűlős, Barakonyi and Csirke-mál, on the outskirts of Bodrogkisfalud. The steep, stony parcel in Barakonyi is the smallest of the two with 1700 vines, most of them planted in 1999, and has a complex soil profile distinctive with detrital rhyolitic tufa. Located a little more ‘out in the wild’, the fourhectare Csirke-mál has a thin layer of brown forest soil over a largely rhyolitic bedrock. It was replanted mostly with Furmint in 2004. Strict yield control and carefullytimed harvests ensure that only fully ripe and healthy grapes reach the winery. Fermentation takes place in both wood and steel, the latter being
the only option for the aromatic Sárgamuskotály. Aszú is made in the best vintages only. The botrytised berries are macerated in fermenting must, which Sarolta says results in a more elegant and flavourful Aszú wine. It is a point of interest that she never separates the free-run juice from botrytised berries to make Eszencia. She, as do many others of Tokaj’s winemaking elite, considers that this amounts to ‘castrating’ the Aszú, that is to say, depriving it of its potential richness. Kövérszőlő, the grape variety known for its large, slightly elongated berries that botrytise extremely well, is held in high esteem at Nobilis. While it is estimated to account for a mere 40 of the total of 5800 hectares under vine in the region as a whole, it makes up close to 20 per cent of Nobilis’ plantings and gives a significant percentage of aszú berries. It is, however, also susceptible to rot caused by other, undesirable fungi and therefore performs best in dry, windswept sites. Nobilis is one
The highest part of Barakonyi Dűlő on the outskirts of Bodrogkisfalud
of the few that make a varietal wine of Kövérszőlő. It is vinified sweet – and very drinkable. Kövérszőlő is also a component of her 2008 Amicus, a late harvest blend which won a silver at Vinalies Internationales 2011, as we reported earlier. It is however not sweet but dry wines that are the key growth driver for Nobilis. While today they produce as much sweet wine as dry wine (including excellent singlevineyard varietals from Barakonyi), she believes the balance is going to tip towards dry ones in the near future – very much in line with a region-wine trend.
The steel tanks were custom-sized to fit under the low beamed ceiling. Preservation of the historic character of the heritage building was a number one priority.
Estate: Dűlős: Varieties planted: Range of wines: Annual output: Main markets:
Lying high in the woods, Csirke-mál is closely fenced in for protection against crop loss to an abundant wildlife.
The room overlooking the street serves as the tasting area, while the winemaking process is housed in the back of the building.The cellar is built into the hillside behind the retaining wall in the background. A recent success:The 2009 dry Furmint from Barakonyi Dűlő won a Top White Prize at the 2011 Pannon Wine Challenge, along with the winery's 6p Aszú 2007
6 ha Barakonyi, Csirke-mál Furmint 56.5%, Hárslevelű 11.5%, Kövérszőlő 19%, Sárgamuskotály 13% Dry varietals, a dry estate blend, late harvest, Aszús 10,000 to 20,000 bottles, depending on the vintage Hungary (80%), Denmark, France, Poland
PRIME WINES and
Glass Stoppers The cleverly designed front label of Demeter's főbor suggestively reveals the wine's 'real' name.The official designation on the back label is "Tokaji cuvée".
A broad array of much-celebrated single-dűlő wines, intended to showcase the specificities of the Tokaj terroir, is the distinguishing mark of Zoltán Demeter, the maverick winemaker who pioneers equally in harking back to old traditions and exploring uncharted territories.Testifying to the former is his attempt to resurrect a long-forgotten Tokaji wine category, while an example of the latter is his introduction of a state-of-the-art bottle closure technology in his small winery based in the town of Tokaj.
rime wine is the approximate original meaning of Hungarian főbor, a wine style designation that fell into disuse during the ‘Aszú-dominated’ 1700s. As sweet Tokaji made from partially botrytised bunches regained popularity with Polish consumers starting from the early 19th century, merchants from Poland brought along a new word of their own, Szamorodni, to denote what had been a prime product of Tokaj in earlier centuries. Főbor is, however, not only a ‘terminological’, but also a historical predecessor to Szamorodni, representing perhaps the first stage in the natural evolution of the current sweet Tokaji range. Before Aszú-making was invented (probably in the mid-16th century at the latest) with the introduction of separating botrytis-affected berries at harvest time for later maceration in a base wine or must, it is thought botrytised and healthy grapes were picked and pressed together to be fermented into a style of wine whose closest current equivalent is known as sweet Szamorodni. 66
It was in 2002 that Zoltán Demeter first made an eventually failed attempt to revive Főbor as a formal designation for the new and modern generation of sweet Tokajis, whether made from partially botrytised grapes or just overripe/ shrivelled berries. His idea was at the time, and still is, to group all sweet wines (including late harvest and Szamorodni) with a set minimum of residual sugar under the name Főbor, regardless of any aging or special aroma and flavour requirements, unless they specifically fall into the Aszú category. The proposed specification of Főbor he drew up and submitted to the Tokaj Wine Board was given short shrift. Nevertheless, he continues making what is his interpretation of a Főbor, a style that has, over the years, become associated with the name Zoltán Demeter. This wine is set in the middle of his three-tier range, between a series of dry wines and a 6-puttonyos Aszú (the latter without any indication of the number of puttony on the label).
THE WINE ARTISAN
A detail of Demeter's recently completed new tasting room. Stylish and elegant like the wines
His clear-cut product line is in concordance with a region-wide trend of wineries streamlining down to the threesome of dry, late harvest and Aszú, and is rooted in the more or less general realisation that the existing assortment of Tokajis is simply too diverse to comprehend even for most Hungarians, let alone foreign Tokaji lovers. Zoltán goes as far as to suggest that the puttonyos grading system for Aszú wines should be abolished. This may, at first, sound like a far-fetched idea, but he is by no means the only one to hold this opinion. Most local artisan winemakers tend to aim at achieving the highest possible concentration of botrytised berries. That is to say they make only 5 or 6 puttonyos styles, and some agree that the designation Aszú should be reserved for the wines that are the very best examples of their kind. True, the addition of a minimum of four puttonyos of botrytised berries used to be a requirement for a wine to be called Aszú, and labelling Aszús without a puttony number was not uncommon practice up to the mid-20th century. Aszús, however, are not regarded as the best means to express the terroir for their sweetness tends to hide the most delicate features. Zoltán Demeter uses a range of brilliant dry varietals to take fingerprints of several dűlős, including Kakas and Lapis vineyards by Bodrogkeresztúr, Ősz-hegy and Veres in Mád, and Szerelmi near Tokaj. Zoltán maintains direct, personal control over all aspects of vine-growing and winemaking, employing the least possible vineyard and winery hands, so these, just like his sweet styles, are handcrafted wines in the strictest sense of the word. A glass stopper on the table in the tasting room. It is not a glass-onglass system. The actual sealing is provided by a special plastic ring.
Since 2009 all Demeter singledűlő dry wines have been glassclosed, inlcuding the Hárslevelű from Szerelmi Dűlő in Tokaj.
And now they come in a special packaging. Zoltán struggled for years to find the best quality of corks for his dry wines, but even the supplier of the most expensive corks he could get hold of would not guarantee more than 90 per cent to be free from TCA. For a perfectionist producing 10,000 to 12,000 bottles a year, with prices starting from around 20 euros per bottle, this was simply inacceptable. Also, he had noticed that his single-dűlő wines of the same vintage, closed with the same type of cork, would develop differently in the bottle – and realised that such difference could only have been caused by the cork. With screw capping being no option, he started the search for a better closure system which eventually led him to glass stoppers, introduced into the European market in around 2004. Like cork, glass is regarded as a natural material, but glass stoppers, unlike cork, provide a perfectly airtight closure through a barely noticeable profile seal made of food-grade plastic. Not only that, bottles closed with a glass stopper can be opened and re-closed (!) by hand. After removing the capsule, you can easily ‘click’ the bottle open using your thumb and then refit the closure for an equally tight seal before putting it back into your wine cooler. Zoltán Demeter first tested glass stoppers by closing his Ősz-hegy Muscat Lunel bottlings in 2008. Since 2009 he has packaged all his single-dűlő dry wines with glass stoppers and remains the only winemaker in the Tokaj region who uses this very stylish closure system so widely. This relatively expensive yet sophisticated solution matches the elegance of his high-end dry wines.
Szamorodnis Drying Up
parkling wine is a new category in the region, introduced as a style authorised for Tokaji appellation in 2010. This does not mean that such wines could not be or were not made by the very few before last year, but producers can now also indicate the name Tokaji on the label of their bubblies. The official inclusion of sparkling wine in the Tokaj Product Specification has apparently given a strong impetus to the region’s winemakers to enter this exciting new market and as more and more come out with their own sparkling wine, others are rumoured to be thinking about following suit. The image of sparkling wines perfectly suits the style and elegance Tokajis are generally associated with. Conversely, ice wine, for instance, had never been a category particularly popular with producers before it was quite rightly, delisted from Tokaji appellation in 2010 on grounds of it being ‘atypical’ of a region whose terroir allows grapes to produce extraordinary sweetness without the need to wait for frost. However, Tokaji sparklers, if well made, may have an effervescent future ahead. And well made they are – as the results of our tasting show. The six wineries that submitted samples for the test represent the majority of current sparkling wine makers in the region (we know of only two more, which did not send in samples), therefore, the results can be regarded as a good indication of what you can expect of Tokaj when it comes to bubblies. You may be surprised that Tokaj, one of the world's greatest sweet wine regions, does not offer any doux sparkling wines. In fact, all the wines tasted were brut na-
ture, that is, bone dry with hardly any residual sugar remaining after secondary fermentation. The reasons for that are multiple. One is that the idea of making a wine sweet in an ‘artificial’ manner, i.e. by adding a liqueur d'expédition, does not go down well with vintners of a region that is famous for its natural dessert wines whose sweetness cannot just be adjusted after fermentation. Secondly, the elite of the world’s sparkling wines is dominated by the zero-dosage style, and Tokaj cannot aim at less than rising to the top league. And sparkling Tokaji does stand a good chance of making it into this top league as Ronn Wiegand confirmed after our tasting emphatically adding “but only if huge efforts and investments are made into the category to refine the wines … and to market the category internationally”. He believes this may take 50 to 75 more years – not such a long time for a region with a tradition of winemaking reaching back well over five hundred years. Tokaj is still at the very beginning of this road and the time has not yet come for most of these wineries to invest in setting up their own sparkling wine making equipment even. And it should be added that this time is unlikely to come until the Hungarian excise law is amended in such a way as to relieve the huge costs currently imposed on (direct) producers of sparkling wine and which only the largest specialist producers can afford to pay. That is why the Tokaj newcomers to this market only make the base wine and outsource the rest of the process to an expert contractor outside the region. The only exception to this in our lineup was DemeterVin’s fizz which
PANEL TASTING is made completely in Mád – from initial fermentation to disgorging – hence it not being commercially available. All wines tasted received fairly consistent ratings between Good+ and Very Good+ with average scores being well within a 2-point bracket. Szent Tamás’s Kishegy Pezsgő winning with 17.25 was no big surprise,
unlike DemeterVin scoring 17.20 to come in an extremely close second with their made-in-Mád sparkler. The rest of the bunch were all first tries, admittedly some are not ready for release to the market. Yet all were found to be well up to standard already. Even the last was a good sparkling wine, averaging just 1.77 points less than the winner for
a slight lack of complexity relative to the others. Over the past decade, Tokaj has successfully broken out of the ‘dessert wine producer’ pigeonhole by offering world-class dry styles, and its first excursions into the yet uncharted territory of sparkling wine are as promising as they can get.
The Panel Zoltán Bihari
Born in Szerencs and with roots in Mád, Zoltán Bihari is the director of the freshly re-launched Research Institute for Viticulture and Oenology of the Tokaj Wine Region. In this role, he is also a permanent taster for the Tokaj Wine Board.
A qualified winemaker and experienced taster, Zsolt runs the Miskolc branch of one of Hungary’s WSET schools as well as organising regular tastings for the Miskolc Wine Club. He has lately even taken over the management of a small winery in the Tokaj region.
Ronn Wiegand ms/mw
András is the Food and Beverages Manager at Andrássy Rezidencia, a Tracal-based five-star hotel that boasts the region's most comprehensive and exciting wine list. He particularly liked one of the wines tasted so the next addition to the list may well be a Tokaji fizz.
A wine professional with over 30 years of experience, Ronn Wiegand is the world's first to hold both the Master Sommelier and Master of Wine titles. He is an active wine consultant and publisher of the periodical Restaurant Wine. And he is based in the town of Tokaj.
Szamorodni in the making: a thick film of yeast on top of the wine at Szent Benedek Winery’s in The panel in action in thecellar tasting Tállya room of Gusteau Restaurant, Mád
The Results Scores and Ratings 19.01 to 20.00 18.01 to 19.00 17.01 to 18.00 16.01 to 17.00 15.01 to 16.00 14.01 to 15.00 13.01 to 14.00 12.01 to 13.00
Outstanding Excellent Very Good + Very Good Good + Good Fair Adequate
Kishegy Tokaji Furmint Sparkling Wine 2009 Szent Tamás
Tokaji Sparkling Wine Extra Brut
Light yellow and clear in colour with an abundant stream of small bubbles. A moderately complex nose intense with ripe fruits and pineapple. A medium-full body with intense flavours and good acidity. A medium to long finish. Big style. Drink now to 3 years
Brilliant colour with a pale yellow tint. The delicate nose suggests high quality with fresh apple and citrus. Fruits and crisp acidity on the palate with a medium body. Crisp style with a long finish. Needs some aging. Drink in 2 to 4 years
RS: 3.8 g/l TA: 7.1 g/l ABV: 12.5 %
RS: 3 g/l TA: N/A ABV: N/A
Öreg-király Dűlő Furmint Sparkling Wine 2010 Barta
Tokaji Sparkling Wine Brut Nature 2010 Bardon
Tokaji Sparkling Wine Dry 2011 Tokaj Nobilis
Brilliant colour with a light yellow hue and quickly dissipating bubbles. A fresh, youthful nose with hints of tropical fruits. The palate shows a medium body with and an excellent structure. Very long on the finish. Needs aging. Drink in 2 to 5 years
Brilliant colour with a pale light yellow tint and a moderately intense stream of bubbles. Aromatic, grapey notes on the nose. Medium body and round on the palate, but lacks depth and shows a touch of volatile acidity on a short finish. Drink now to 2 years RS: approx. 1.3 g/l TA: 11.6 g/l ABV: approx. 12.00 %
Brilliant colour with a pale yellow hue and quickly dissipating bubbles. A mildly intense and pleasant nose with notes of tropical fruit. The palate shows a medium body but lacking real depth and fruit on a short finish. Good but simple. Drink now to 2 years RS: N/A TA: N/A ABV: N/A
All the wines tasted were made using the traditional method
RS: 1 g/l TA: N/A ABV: 11.5 %
Tokaji Sparkling Wine Brut Nature DemeterVin Brilliant colour with a light yellow tint and few bubbles. Intense, complex on an elegant nose with some yeastiness. A lightly yeasty character is repeated on the palate. Medium+ body with a smooth texture. Excellent balance with a lingering finish. Drink now to 3 years RS: N/A TA: N/A ABV: approx. 12%
bottle freshly disgorged, not topped-up and stopped with an ordinary cork pushed half way into the neck – this is what DemeterVin’s sample looked like when arriving at the venue of our panel tasting. Yet, this seemingly ‘unprofessional’ packaging contained a wine that achieved an actual draw with Szent Tamás’s winning sparkler. And at that, this was the only wine in the flight which had been made completely locally and, for reasons explained in the previous article, is and will probably never be available on the market. It can however be tried at DemeterVin’s cellar where a bottle or two is sometimes disgorged for visitors to taste on the spot. DemeterVin has been experimenting with sparkling wine since 2003, varyingly using steel or wood fermented base wine and producing around a mere 300 bottles a year. To keep the process as ‘natural’ as possible, the liqueur de tirage, that is, the solution added to induce secondary fermentation in the bottle, is a mixture of sweet wine and yeast. The riddling racks are in A cloud of yeast swirling up in a crown-capped bottle undergoing the secondary fermentation process
Riddling Racks in a Mád Cellar
a dedicated gallery of the cellar, away from the areas used for the more traditional Tokaji styles. There is a good reason for this careful separation, as Winemaker Endre explained. The Endre Demeter two Champagne-originated strains of the yeast Saccharomyces bayanus used for secondary fermentation of sparklers might ferment Aszú wines to an alcohol level over 16 per cent – something very much to be avoided. DemeterVin produces 10,000 to 12,000 bottles a year, 60 per cent of which being dry. In the vineyards they rely on copper and sulphur based pesticides to an extent of up to 90 per cent and are considering applying for certification as an organic producer. Who knows, perhaps, even organic Tokaji sparkling wines are not a thing of the very distant future…
A Tokaj Wine Tours Offer
The Tokaj Day Trip An induction tour of Tokaj
• A thorough tutorial on Tokaj and its wines • Dinners with wines at the region's best restaurants • Tastings designed to showcase the diversity of Tokaji wines • Artisan cheeses matured in Tokaj cellars • Tokaji wine vinegars • Hosted and guided by the editor of The Tokaji Journal
For an itinerary and other details, please, contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org or on +18.104.22.1688. *Price is per person based on 6 people sharing 3 double/twin rooms and inclusive of • Transport from and to Budapest • Stay in a double or twin room at a stylishly furnished four-star wine hotel • All meals including two breakfasts, a lunch, and two dinners with wines • All tastings (wine, cheese and wine vinegar) • Expert guidance plus interpreting as required
Portrait Soltész T
okaj restaurateurs normally need substantial convincing power to lure star chefs into exchanging the hustle and bustle of Budapest, their natural territory, for what they may well see as a provincial and drowsy periphery – and then even more to make them stay. For Gábor Soltész, however, the invitation to take charge of the kitchen of Sárga Borház Restaurant was a welcome chance to return home. Gábor is a son of the Tokaj region. His first job as a cook was at French-run Ős Kaján in Tolcsva, just 8 kilometres east of his home village, Erdőbénye. Then in 2007, good fortune took him to a newly opened bistro, called Klassz, on the prominent Andrássy Street in Sárga Borház Restaurant
Budapest. During the four years he worked under the head chef, Klassz was regularly ranked as one of Budapest’s top ten restaurants. The latest turn in his career came in early 2011 when he accepted an offer by restaurateur Vilmos Zarándy, who had taken over the management of Sárga Borház Restaurant some half a year before and already parted company with a chef who had had difficulties commuting from a distance of some 100 kilometres. Thus Gábor, while still in his mid-twenties, became a head chef of an eatery in the neighbourhood both he and his wife had been brought up. You would expect such a young chef de cuisine to be bursting with exuberance, but his enthusiasm seemed to be slightly dampened as he spoke about his plan to introduce a bi-monthly menu change to replace the current six-month menu period from next April. Then he told us that some of his most innovative dishes had ended up having to be dumped from the menu simply because they would just not sell. For reasons which are quite obvious, unfortunately. Sárga Borház is not a boutique restaurant up a back street that only a couple of determined
gourmets can locate in a day. It is a roadhouse with a high turnover of guests, and as such, needs to cater for the tastes of the average restaurant-goer. And the average Hungarian restaurant-goer is still not at all very sophisticated. All they normally want is a big portion of something familiar and will not order anything whose name they do not understand (not even out of curiosity). Many of them may also have memories of what Sárga Borház had been for decades until around 18 months ago: a roadside eatery offering cheap and huge servings of what anyone with a modicum of taste would call horridly boring combinations of rubbish ingredients. Today, ingredients are, of course, selected with great care and sourced locally as much as possible. Cheese comes from Erdőbénye, vegetables from Bodrogkeresztúr and mangalitza pork from a pig farm just across the road. And the menu is a balanced compromise between fine cuisine and traditional favourites. It is not a means of the chef’s self-realisation but more one of taste education, which with time is bound to lead to more frequent orders of Gábor’s most cherished creations. 2011/2012
on Road 37, on the outskirts of Mezőzombor
Tokaji Furmint Lajosok Dűlő 2009 Disznókő
Zander Fillets with Green Apple Risotto and Wine Froth Zander fillets are grilled with salt and pepper. For the froth, wine is heated to 60 °C with soya lecithin until foaming and then left to stand for a while before butter is added. The risotto is made in the usual way: risotto rice sautéed on onions and butter and cooked with water and dry wine. Pumpkin seed oil is added for
‘decoration’. The wine is a Disznókő Lajosok, a medium-body Furmint, giving off intense notes of acacia flower and fresh green apple on the nose. It fills the mouth nicely with the same notes, as well as some a hint of saltiness and minerality, plus some tobacco and cherry added. It goes very well with the risotto.
Hotel Andrássy Rezidencia, Tarcal
Tokaji Sárgamuskotály 2009 Szarka Pince
Yoghurt Mousse with Pear Cow milk yoghurt from Mád-based Sándor Bodnár’s dairy is used to make this soft, creamy mousse, garnished with crunchy slices and cubes of pear. Sweet shortcrust pastry crumbles are sprinkled around, and crispy splinters of strudel pastry, glazed with caramelised sugar, are added to enhance the taste. The Sárga74
muskotály has aromas of fig and tropical fruits. On the palate, it shows a medium body with notes of pear, a hint of tartness and plenty of length. A fine overall harmony with the dessert.
Mádi Udvarház, Mád
Tokaji Hárslevelű Nyulászó Dűlő 2009 Szent Tamás
Confit of Wels Catfish with Fennel Times Three Salt and olive oil are used for a vacuum-sealed confit to make the slice of catfish light and silky with a pinkish tint on the inside. Fennel takes three different forms on the plate. Fennel foam is made from the bulb that is cooked and pulped in a Thermomix. Lemon and gelatine are added before it is dispensed from a cream
whipper. Fennel flan is made with onion, eggs and cream with a rice noodle chips poked into it for decoration. For the third form of fennel, the bulb is shredded sautéed in olive oil and steamed to make a carpaccio. Fennel leaves are used for garnish. Catfish essence is served separately in a bowl. Szent Tamás’s Hárslevelű is
light straw yellow in colour, giving off reserved minerality on the nose. It is clean and smooth on the palate with a medium body and mature acidity, notes of pineapple and peach lingering on the finish. The wine never overwhelms the dish, letting its charm prevail. Tokaji Furmint 2008 Szirmay-kúria
Lentil Soup with Smoked Beef Tongue In Hungary, lentil is associated with money and good fortune and lentil soup is traditionally eaten on the first day of a new year for good luck. This example is blended into a purée in a Thermomix and smoothened with cream. The beef tongue is cooked with garlic, bay and black pepper, and then sliced to make a
topping. For a garnish, bread is cubed and with the soup, the alcohol and aciddried in an oven before being mixed with ity become more pronounced. Not whipped eggs, salt, white pepper, boiled the best pairing. vegetables and sauerkraut and formed into dumplings and cooked. The Furmint has apple and bitter almond on the nose, its refreshing tartness nicely complementing the smoky flavours. When tasted 2011/2012
New Tokaji into
ith a shape dating back to the 1830s, the traditional Tokaji bottle, Tokaj's most distinct trademark, has remained largely unchanged since it was standardised to a 0.5-litre capacity in around 1891. The Tokaj Product Specification provides that this bottle can only be used for the ‘traditional’ Tokaji styles such as Aszú, Szamorodni, Aszúeszencia, Eszencia, Fordítás and Máslás, which in turn means that all other Tokaji styles must be filled into something different. Hence the unprecedented upswing in the region's dry wine production over the past decade has resulted in most Tokajis being sold in Bordeaux, Burgundy and Hock
bottles, as the sales of new dry, offdry and late harvest¬ styles surpass those of the traditional ones in so many wineries’ portfolio today. This development has almost naturally brought about the need for a container that consumers can easily identify with the modern dry Tokaji. Following some vague attempts to reach a region-wide compromise as to what the new bottle should look like, the Szepsy family and the owners of Szent Tamás Winery took an independent initiative last December and had the new bottle designed in record short time and the first
While dark amber is the initial colour for the new bottle, there are going to be emerald and even clear glass variants, as well.
SPECIAL FOCUS batch produced earlier this year Then, at a press conference held on 24th April 2012 to present the new bottle to the public, all Tokaj vintners were invited to start using the new container and help turn the opportunity into a reality. Presenting this quasi fait accompli to the winemaking community was a bold move that might have even backfired on anyone less respected than István Szepsy. And here we have it now. It is 302 mm tall and 86 mm at its widest diameter: a long narrow neck with slender shoulders sloping gently into a wide-girthed body. Graphic designer Géza Ipacs, who is also coowner of Szent Tamás, took a right-
ly conservative approach by simply enlarging a traditional Tokaji bottle to 0.75 litre with just slightly different proportions. True, it may look unusual at first sight and some say it is not so elegant as the Hock bottle which is used most widely for highend dry Tokajis. Notwithstanding a few dissenting voices about the design, the idea of having a region-specific dry wine bottle seems to have caught on among the region’s winemakers, a fact clearly demonstrated by the hundreds of thousands sold over the months since its release by Borüveg THM, the Hungarian subsidiary of THM Austria, that had finalised the detail design, and now manages pro-
Featuring a 25-mmdeep punt, the 0.75-litre version with a glass stopper seems to be the most popular combination. While it is commonly referred to as the "new Tokaji dry bottle", there is a 0.375-litre version too, intended for the very best of late harvest sweet styles. A 1.5-litre magnum version has been introduced quite recently.
duction and distribution. This good reception is despite a high initial price which destines the new bottle to replace Hock in the over-20€ category, while the relatively cheap Bordeaux and Burgundy bottles will stay in use for the rest of the market. And it is not only the big names that change over to the new bottle – even the small, financially weak wineries are determined to jump on the bandwagon and get hold of a couple of hundred for the best of their range, often by sharing pallets with others to cut costs. A good part of the 2011 vintage have already and will hit the market in these bottles, and numbers are likely to soar from the 2012 vintage onwards.
Familiar contours – The traditional 0.5-litre Tokaji bottle's shape dates back to the 1830s. Today it exists in three versions: a 270-mm-tall type and two 275-mm-tall variants, one of the latter with an embossed Tokaj seal on the shoulder. It is made from clear glass only.
Burgundy, Hock, Bordeaux and Tokaji set next to each other. Tokaj's new 0.75-litre design has a distinct character and strong identity. (Photo courtesy of VJM.hu)
industrial building of the year 2011
In the background are the tower of the village's 13thcentury Catholic church and Füleky's other treasure, a heritage country house, currently undergoing renovation and conversion into a stately hospitality centre.
The excellence of contemporary winery architecture in the Tokaj region often goes unnoticed in plain sight. It comes so naturally that those who live and work here do not even recognise it, let alone appreciate it. And this is as good as it gets. The buildings of Disznókő, Hétszőlő, Patricius, Béres, Oremus or Royal Tokaji were never meant to draw astonished attention of visitors and passers-by. They are not works of self-realisation by individualist architects, rather just man-made appendages to a historic landscape that smoothly blend in with the surrounding environment. As if architects assigned to these projects had all agreed on the use of traditional shapes, proportions and locally available materials. Füleky’s now award-winning building is the latest in a long line.
odrogkeresztúr-based Füleky is a small winery making a few thousand bottles from a holding of just 14 well-sited hectares of vineyards, scattered across the region. Their new winemaking facility was completed in 2010 as part of a major upgrade programme launched by Péter Lovas who had taken over ownership of the then nine-year-old winery back in 2007. Designed by Zsolt Félix and Tamás Fialovszky of Építész Stúdió, the winery building received the Natural Stone in Architecture Award in the year of its completion and went on to win online 78
architecture magazine ArchDaily’s Building of the Year title 2011 in the Industrial Building category early this year. The award was a cause for celebration, and Füleky invited friends, fellow winemakers and locals to a party in May to do just that. The main body of the building incorporates the remnants of an over-200-year-old house, including most of the stone façade overlooking the street. A key design principle was to keep the above-ground mass to a minimum within more or less the original dimensions and to hide the rest of the footprint away in the
hillside. Thus the neighbouring old country house, which is also owned by Füleky and currently under renovation, is allowed to dominate the site. The idea of a gravity-fed production line, a popular design feature in modern winery architecture, was discarded for the same reason. It would have required the addition of further above-ground structures right next to the listed country house to provide access for incoming grape deliveries from the street along the highest edge of the site. Instead, the grapes are delivered at ground floor level to the process-
ARCHITECTURE The original stone masonry was preserved as much as possible
The roof is perhaps the most prominent feature of the whole building.Thick stone panels are laid like ordinary clay tiles to create an unusually textured surface.
Bare concrete surfaces are used for both hygiene considerations and the clean, industrial look they lend to the building
Temperature-controlled steel tanks. Behind the glass wall is a modest 'control room'.
Ground floor layout drawing.The smaller, old cellar is not accessible from inside the building.
ing area in front of and in a green roofed part of the facility which also accommodates the barrel fermentation room and the entrance to a newly-built cellar. The offices and temperature-controlled steel tanks are housed in the main building that has a high-pitched roof. And this roof is perhaps the most prominent feature of the whole winery. It is covered in thick stone panels, laid in a staggered pattern like ordinary clay tiles to create an unusually textured surface. This porous type of stone, sourced from the village of MĂĄd, is not quite impermeable to water, hence a fully waterproof layer underneath. Unconventional tiling aside, the traditional roof pitch and general proportions make FĂźlekyâ€™s winery building fit neatly into the villagescape.
An industrial interpretation of a coffered ceiling in the barrel fermentation room
The newly-built cellar
The Lord's Bed
“Lord’s Bed” is what the name Úrágya means, the name of a by now almost legendary dűlő, lying on a 245-metre-high hill that embraces the village of Mád on the west. It is in fact the westerly lay of this tract of vine land that the recondite toponym is said to originate from. Following the Hungarians’ conversion into Christianity over a thousand years ago, the sun, formerly a central entity in the preChristian faith of the Hungarians, was associated with the Lord Jesus Christ, the Úr. From Mád, the sun is seen set behind Úrágya Dűlő most of the year. This is where the Lord ‘goes to bed’ every day.
rágya is first mentioned as a vine site in a deed of 1595. Bél’s early 18th-century vineyard classification does not include this name, but Köves, which is actually known today as one of Úrágya’s aldűlős (meaning ‘sub-dűlő’), in the list of Second Class vineyards in Mád. Alkonyi is likely to have used Bél’s rating to place the whole of Úrágya into Second Class in his 2009 classification. The Tokaj Wine Board’s latest map of Tokaj dűlős does not indicate any aldűlős in Úrágya, two more of which are Czókus and Ibolyás. Köves, in fact, means stony – and this is the most salient feature of the soil here. Clay dyed red with iron 80
oxide and quartzose tuffite mix to create a thin layer of topsoil, totally covered in a mass of fist-sized rocks in some places. Úrágya is landmarked by the massive stone barriers that meander among some of the vineyards facing the village. Rising to over three metres at some points, these stunning ridges are made up of the stones picked and thrown to the side by vine hoers over the centuries. Királyudvar’s Úrágya Furmint of the 2000 vintage was made from this site to open a new chapter in the history of Tokaji dry wines. István Szepsy was head of estate at Királyudvar at the time and few know that the grapes for this break-
through wine had actually been harvested from his own vineyard in Úrágya. Over the following decade of unprecedented development in the Tokaji dry style, Úrágya has established itself as a dűlő giving complex wines with a firm structure and intense minerality. Major vineyard owners in this some twenty-five-hectare dűlő include DemeterVin, Dobogó, Géza Lenkey, Gábor Orosz and István Szepsy. Most of them make singlevineyard wines from Úrágya – those are the ones you should sample to learn what this unique bit of the Tokaj terroir tastes like.
One of the most prominent stone barriers in the mid-sourthern part of Úrágya. On the right are DemeterVin's bush vines. On the left is Szepsy's cordon-trained parcel Szepsy's Úrágya Furmint is perhaps the best examples of single-dűlő wines from here. It is made from the same parcel as the legendary Királyudvar 2000
A flight of steps in the side of a stone mound to climb for a great view of the village with Tokaj Hill in the far background
A carpet of stones covering in a south-westerly facing alley – a typical feature of the soil in this dűlő
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Published on Dec 20, 2012
The Tokaji Journal is a digital wine magazine that sets out to provide education and consumer advice on the great wines of Tokaj, both dry a...