Tokaji Aszu and Tokaji Essencia – Why it is worth to visit Hungary

Tokaj is the name of the oldest demarcated wine region in the world, located in the northeast of the current boundaries of Hungary. The region gives its name to the wine, Tokaji, which together with Port, are two of the most well known wines in the world. Although there is also dry Tokaji, the sweet Tokaji, known as Aszú, is the one that gives all the prestige to the region, according to legend, first made in 1630. This sweet wine is made with botrytised (noble rotten – Botrytis cinerea) grapes, which are selected berry by berry in the vineyard, and depending on the sugar level remaining in the wine after fermentation, is graded between 3 puttonyos (minimmum of 60 grams of residual sugar) to 6 puttonyos (minimmum of 150 grams of residual sugar). When the level of residual sugar exceds 180 grams of residual sugar, then we have Azsú Essencia, which is the highest quality among Tokaj wines, after pure Essencia.

This last one is the pinnacle of Tokaji wines is Essencia. We can say tha Essencia is the equivalent of Vintage Port in Tokaj as it is only made in special years because of weather conditions, and in very small quantities. Essencia is made with the same botrytised grapes that are used to make Azsú. But before start fermenting for Azsú, they are left in a container for a couple of days. The berries are not pressed, so a high concentrated liquid results from the dropping of the juice from the noble rotten berries that comes down by gravity. The juice that is collected at the bottom of the container is called Essencia. Just to complicate a little bit more, Essencia is techinically not a wine, as there is no alcohol in this juice because in such a sweet environment (over 400 grams of residual sugar that can go as high as 900 grams) yeasts can’t ferment the sugar.

But lets listen to what the specialists in the field have to say. The first video is from Sarolta Bárdos, from Tokaj Nobilis winery, and is explaining us how Tokaji Azsú is made. The second video is from Attila Domokos, from Dobogó winery and is talking about Tokaji Essencia. I am sure you will not enjoy these videos as much as I enjoyed visiting Tokaj region last week, but maybe you get the interest in visiting this wonderful area in Hungary!