At last Friday’s tasting of sweet wines, Entaste tried the 2001 Vinum Regnum Rex Vinorum Tokaji Aszú 4 Puttonyos, one of the two Hungarian Tokajis out of three that made it through Munich’s doggone airport security on the way back from a recent trip to Budapest, Hungary. Sommelier Nicolás Reines lead the tasting of three sweet dessert wines (the Argentine Santa Julia Chenin Dulce Natural and Etchart Torrontés, and this Hungarian Tokaji). He explained the process of using “noble rot” to produce the very unique flavor this wine is known for. Check out the videos below to learn more about the production and quality of this wine!
“My Preciousss!” Remember Gollum, that creepy, desperate little junkie thing from Lord of the Rings? Remember how into that little golden ring he was? And remember what he turned into when it got taken away from him?
Well that’s kind of how I was looking a few weeks ago, as I stood at the security checkpoint of American departure gates in Munich and watched, speechless and dumbfounded, as the TSA pulled my own golden treasure out of my sealed (!) Hungarian Duty Free bag and threw it in a box full of shampoo, Listerine and lube bottles. I’m referring, of course, to the 6 puttonyos Royal Tokaji Szt. Tamás that I convinced myself to splurge on in Budapest’s Airport on my way back to the States, as a gift for work-mates back in Buenos Aires. I had told myself that getting such a perfect Hungarian souvenir, labeled “bottled and sealed in Hungary” is much cooler than buying some bottle at the Russian store on 84th and 2nd in New York, not to mention the fact that 6 puttonyos is pretty darn difficult to find across the pond anyway.
Budapest is not the most cheerful place on a December afternoon. Dark after 4:00 p.m., the city is blanketed by a dismal, gloomy gray mist, which seems to echo the collective cranky mindset of its inhabitants at this dejecting time of the year. Amidst the shadows of dead-tree-strewn City Park, one monument towers out, the Gundel Restaurant, the shiny crown jewel of Hungary’s food scene. At its swanky bar I am greeted by Sommelier Mihály Fabok, who walks me through how he pairs wines to dishes, highlighting examples of both harmony (smoked fish paired with smoke-y white wine kept in cured Barrique oak barrels) and contrast (tart, funky blue cheeses matched with delicate, honey-sweet Tokaji).
In wine lover circles, the pinnacle of the wine world are the exotic dessert wines made in small and rare quantities, often with a high prices attached to them. Cherished by the well-heeled and lucky few, this style of wine is made in several parts of the world and is as varied in style as the passionate people who make them.
The wines I am talking about are the elusive Hungarian fruit wines and brandies, the Austrian fruit schnapps, the ice ciders and ice wines of Canada, the organic, fortified mistelles of North America’s West Coast and more locally the exotic tropical dessert wines of Thailand.
These great wines and liqueurs appeal to not only to the east Asian affinity to sweeter wines with clean and fresh aromas but also offer a pure expression of terroir from the land that produces the fruit and grapes to make these fabulous elixirs.
The Ganadpuszta wines of Ipoly Valley in Hungary where gentle climate and expert cultivation guarantee highly aromatic fruits is a prime example of a passion for quality dessert wine production that is hard to fathom until the wine are experienced. There is an ancient tradition of winemaking and distillation from a wide variety of wild and cultivated flowers and fruits in that region that has been going on uninterrupted for centuries.