Undeniably one of the world's great classic sweet wines - the balance, intensity and complexity and sheer drinkability of this wine show the tiny Szepsy winery to be one of the best on the planet!
There are winemakers and there are alchemists; how else could you explain the pureness of Szepsy's wines, the elegance of his fruit and the harmony of structure? And yet, like most great wine-makers, his wines are not about what he does as much as what he does not do. There is no over-working the fruit at this estate, no unbalanced wines due to 'ambitious' winemaking. The philosophy is all about preserving the quality of the fruit and not about enhancement by artifice or sleight of hand.
If Szepsy's fruit traces the purest possible line from the vineyard to the bottle, the man himself can boast a lineage that goes back close to the origins of Tokaji: He is the direct descendant of Szepsy Lacko Mate who, in 1631 was the first person to write down the Tokaji making process.
Tokaj wine region is a historical wine region located in northeastern Hungary. It is also one of the seven larger wine regions of Hungary. The region consists of 28 named villages and 11,149 hectares of classified vineyards, of which an estimated 5,500 are currently planted. Tokaj has been declared a World Heritage Site in 2002 under the name Tokaj Wine Region Historic Cultural Landscape.
The term Aszu refers to the shrivelled grape berries that are created by way of overripe grapes and noble-rot (botrytisation) occurring upon the vines. The Aszu wine is made of grape berries that have shrivelled and stewed as a result of noble rot, under attack by the botrytis cinerea fungus. If after a warm summer the cool, foggy dawns are followed by sunshine, due to the beneficial effect of the fungus the process of botrytisation commences.
The process of making of Tokaji Aszu is extremely labour intensive. The Aszu berries are selected from the vines by hand after which they are collected in wooden vessels "puttonyos" each of which is capable of storing 20-25 kg of Aszu berries. The puttony number between 3-6 designates how many Aszu berries were used to make one barrel (136 l) of wine. After the must is perfected, small cloth containers are filled with the sweet pulp and juice of Aszu grapes and added to the wine. Furmint is the dominant grape in Tokaji and Aszu in the name simply to the dried, nobly-rotted grapes, which are hand-picked from vines. The number of puttonys is an indication of sweetness, with two the driest and six the sweetest. That is the reason why it is important not to mix up the Hungarian Tokaji Aszu with the Slovenian variety, called Tokajsky wine as the difference is more significant as you would expect from the names.
Szepsy has around 50 hectares under vine in largely rocky, volcanic soil. Though traditional in his approach, he constantly searches for new refinements in his quest for perfection. Fermentation and maturation takes place in wood. His yields have been described by none other than Michel Bettane of the Revue du Vin de France as "ridiculously low" (we could add, off course that they are Mad!). The wines have an almost sacred reputation and justifiably so as this example will prove.
The wine is made from 65% Furmint, 20% Harslevelu,15% Sargamuskotaly grape varieties. Harvest took place in December and was aged in oak barrels for 4 years.
This wine is the best 6 Puttonyos Tokaji Aszu you will ever try. Rich, complex, perfectly well-balanced. With its colour and on the nose it will remind you of marmalade. The flavours of mango, honey chuckle, pineapple, figs, vanilla and citrus fruits will linger in your mouth for long hours.
Despite its sweetness it is a fresh, mineral wine that will completely blow you away!
Only 6800 bottles were made from the sensational 2006 vintage.
This wine has a long way to go. It is ready to drink now and you can also cellar it for further 20-30 years or even more.
It compliments Foie Gras, Blue Cheeses, Chocolate desserts well.
As it is a real dessert itself if you want to enjoy its full perfection drink it as an aperitif before or after food.
Istvan Szepsy - www.kiralyudvar.com