When the Hungarian state monopoly was broken up in 1993, David Alvarez of Vega Sicilia realised the immense potential of the centuries-old Oremus vineyards and jumped at the chance to invest, creating the Tokaji Oremus company they have today.
Since then, after decades of Communist neglect, the 115 hectares of vineyards are being modernized, including replanting which has doubled the vines/ha coverage to over 5500.
The vines are spread out over a dozen different sites in the Zemplen hills, but they all share the benefit of the volcanic soils they lie on. Given its high natural acidity and its propensity to botrytise well, it is no surprise that furmint makes up nearly half of the vine-growing area.
Although vinification techniques have been brought up to date, with the introduction of stainless steel facilities, the traditional principles are retained: selected asz berries (those affected by noble rot) are added in varying proportions to the must of pressed, basic dry wine grapes.
The puttonyos system is still employed: a 27.2 kg basket of raisined grapes equates to 1 puttony, so the number of baskets added dictates whether the asz number is 3,4,5 or 6 puttonyos. Maceration then takes place for 24 hours before fermentation in wood or steel.
The modern style Late Harvest Sweet Furmint is now a firm favourite. Made from selected bunches of grapes, about half of which have been affected by noble rot, it is an exotically fragrant wine, with honeyed apricot fruit kept in check by lively acidity.