Tokajhegyalja Hungarian Wine
The gently undulating hills, cool valleys, winding rivers that are teeming with fish, rustic villages in pastel colours and storks all conspire to make the area around Tokaj extremely picturesque.
The Tokaj area is best known for its Tokay (Tokaji), which is like liquid gold. It is not surprising that the bidding in Latin ‘Oremus!’ (Let us pray!) is above the entrance to the town’s cellars. Tokay is no ordinary Hungarian wine.
Probably no other wine region in Hungary has seen such major changes as Tokajhegyalja since the ending of Soviet domination. The arrival of foreign investors quickened the pace of the renewal process but this also caused an enormous identity crisis in the region. Before the break up of the Communist Bloc the wineries equipment had not been well maintained and the wines contained. Substantial amounts of iron oxide (rust). Fortunately now that most equipment has been replaced this problem will soon be consigned to the past.
There are countless old bottles still awaiting customers in the intriguing cellars of the old Tokay houses that are covered in black cellar mould. Those who want to try the traditional-style Tokay are best directed to the former state company Tokaj Kereskedohaz (Tokay Trading House).
The involvement of foreign investors has meant that substantial time and money has been invested in Hugary in soil improvement, new planting, new equipment, better hygiene and quality control of the grapes and wines. This has resulted in a significant improvement in quality.
The modern wine-making techniques vary greatly with those of the traditional makers. The emphasis is on retaining the freshness and fruitiness in the Hungarian wine and great efforts are made to try to prevent contact with oxygen (the reductive method) as opposed to the older slow oxidisation process still used by Tokaj Kereskedohaz. This Hungarian wines made by the reductive process not only taste better and have a more pleasing bouquet (without that heavy sherry-like aroma typical of the oxidisation process), they also become clear very much more quickly. This means that the consumer does not have to wait so long for the wines to become drinkable so that they can be relatively less expensive. After initial scorn, the traditional Hungarian wine-makers now accept the results of the more modem wine-makers.
TOKAJI FURMINT HUNGARIAN WINE
In addition to the superior Tokay wines, Tokay also produces white wines from Furmint grapes which have a traditional oxidised taste similar to those of the Jura and Jerez. Drinking temperature for this Tokay Hungarian wine is 8-12°C (46.4-53.6°F) according to taste.
TOKAJI EDES SZAMORODNI HUNGARIAN WINE
In those years when too few aszú grapes with noble rot (botrytis) can be harvested to make a sweet Tokay, the Edes (slightly sweet) Tokaji Edes Szamorodni ('as it comes’) is produced instead.
For those who do not wish to wait so long for a pleasant and delightful wine, that is also less expensive, then a good Tokaji Edes Szamorodni is a solution. This Hungarian wine is comparable with a three puttonyos Hungarian wine (puttonyos relates to the amount of aszú added to the base wine) that is similar to a German Auslese, which has a wonderful bouquet of overripe fruit in which the upper notes are peach, apricot, raisin, almond, vanilla, and various floral notes such as lily-of-the-valley and may blossom. Szamorodni Edes is often served in Hungary as an aperitif or with goose liver. Drinking temperature for this Tokaji Hungarian wine is 8-10°C/46.4-50°F (but cooler is also possible).