Tokaj is, without doubt, Hungary’s top region. Dry or sweet, it doesn’t matter, the quality is outstanding, sometimes even world class. During 2013, Tokaj will be the Hungarian region I put my focus on, and re-visit. Here’s to the greatest of them all in Tokaj, Mr. István Szepsy!
Talking about fame and reputation, there is one aspect that is worth so much more than aggressive marketing and actual quality. History. Tokaj knows that for sure. How else can we explain the fact that when consumers hear the name of the region being mentioned, the immediate association is sweet wines? In a region where the annual production of Aszú wines is less than one percent of the region’s total output! Yes, it used to be a lot more, but still, history plays a major part in the consumers perception of a wine.
A lot of the Aszú wines sold are to be frank, pretty dull. Nothing unique for the Tokaj region, this happens in other regions as well, where there is a well-known name one can take advantage of. Just ask Sauternes.
István Szepsy though, is all about quality. Working with extremely low yields for his Aszú wines, hand selected grapes and top vineyard sites, he is one of the reference points for just how great Tokaj wines can be. Sadly, few have tasted his wines and for many they are what d’Yquem is to Sauternes; unreachable.
The 2005 6 puttonyos Aszú from Szepsy is a real treat. It doesn’ t reach the greatness of the 2006 which could be the best István has produced, but then again, Tokaj thankfully has vintage variation. The 2005 Aszú harvest took place in November and the yield was lower than normal. The grapes István chose from some of the best sites in the whole of Tokaj; Danczka, Király, Lapis, Szent Tamás and Úrágya. Furmint mostly, backed up by Harslevelü and a dash of Muskotály.
Air is essential to this wine, showing its best side first on the second day. The color is golden light amber; a beauty to watch. Tropical scents blended with stone fruits. Wet smoky rocks mixed with oriental spices. Elegant but discrete oak in the background.
An initial reaction to the fact that the wine has spent almost three years in barriques, would probably be an oak monster. Then you sniff it and realize the opposite. As a world champion sommelier told me once; a short time in wood is often worse for the wine, especially if the wine doesn’t have the structure and concentration. Long time in oak is not a bad thing at all, au contraire actually.
The floral scents, together with vanilla, mango, pineapple, smoke, herbal honey and almonds are starting to show the wine’s complexity. Lots of botrytis character on the palate. Honey, red apples, wet rocks, almonds and vanilla in a gorgeous balance. High acidity masking the 228 grams of residual sugar amazingly well. A long lingering finish with notes of roses and lilacs.
If enjoyed today, the wine should be allowed to breathe in a decanter well ahead. It will last for years and basically your own palate decides when to consume this elegant Aszú wine from one of the world’s greatest when it comes to sweet wines.
The Virtuoso says:
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More on Szepsy here.
The 2005 6 Puttonyos was a gift from István Szepsy.