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In an effort to shed some light on how I study for WSET Diploma Course’s D3 exam, Le Club des Vins is running a series of posts covering wine regions. Today’s topic: Tokaj
Tokaj is situated the north-east of Hungary, next to the border with Ukraine. The region is named after a village that lies at mount Kopasz, also called the ‘Tokaij Hill’. The Tokaj Hill is part of the Zempl’en mountain range.⠀
In a nutshell
- Continental climate
- 2 rivers that promote noble rot
- Furmint, harslevelu, muscat blanc
☁️ Climate & Soil
Two rivers – the Bodrog and the Tisza – join at the southern tip of the mountain. They bring the ideal conditions to make sweet botrytised wines. In general, Hungary has a continental climate, but it’s slightly different in Tokaj: the mountains provide shelter, the plains give warm winds and the rivers create autumn mists that promote botrytis. Classified vineyards lie primarily on the south facing slopes with volcanic and loess soils.⠀⠀
There are three principal grape varieties grown in Tokaj:
1️⃣ Furmint: late ripening, thin skinned, highly susceptible for botrytis
2️⃣ Harslevelu: rich in sugar and aroma, les susceptible for botrytis
3️⃣ Muscat Blanc ‘a Petits Grains, locally known as Sargamuskotaly, mostly used to give extra aroma to the blend. Or (rarely) made as monocepage as a light dry wine.⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀
🍷 Wine Styles
The region is famous for its noble sweet wines, Tokaji Aszu. It has a specific apricot-like fruit character, high levels of sugar and acidity. What separates Tokaj from other botrytised wines has to do with harvest practices. When the harvest starts the healthy and botrytised grapes are picked at the same time, but kept apart. The healthy grapes are used to make a (semi) dry base wine, while the botrytised grapes, called Aszu, are stored (the juice leaking from the grapes is used for the ‘Tokaji Eszencia’). When the harvest ends the Aszu berries are soaked in the dry must or base wine. This will be pressed again and be made into a new wine. The measure of sweetness is/was expressed in puttonyos (baskets). The amount of puttonyos, number of 20-kg baskets of Aszu berries, that are added to a 136-liter base wine. It requires at least 5 puttonyos to make a Tokaji Aszu.
In 2013, the term puttonyos was technically abolished for Aszú wines (as we don’t use baskets to measure sugar levels anymore), and wines labeled as Tokaji Aszú are required to have a minimum of 120 grams/liter of sugar (cc @winefolly). Other styles that are made are Szamrodny, Szaraz, Edes, Late Harvest, Eszencia. Although Tokaj is famous for it’s sweet wines, more and more producers are gaining knowledge with their dry whites!⠀
💡 Something you didn’t know
Did you know that Tokaj was the first wine knowingly to be made from botrytized or ‘Noble rot’ grapes? Even a century before Rhine wine and almost two centuries before Sauternes. The vineyards of Tokaj are officially known as Tokaj-Hegyalja and were first classified in the early 1700’s.
Your turn now
I always put a new region on instagram first. If you have any additions or comments on a region, please do share. You can drop a comment on instagram or on the website – see below. Your help is much appreciated!