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The grape varieties Furmint, HßrslevelŘ and, to a small extent, Muscat Lunel are used to produce the famous Tokaj wines.

Tokaji Szamorodni

In years that produce only few noble rotten berries, selecting those berries manually would not be economical. In that case, grapes are processed as they were harvested, without selection. However, a certain content of Asz˙ berries is obligatory for the Szamorodni. Depending on their proportion, the resulting wine will be either dry or sweet. Szamorodni is storable up to 20 years. A sweet Szamorodni must contain at least 30 grams of residual sugar per liter. The denomination of Szamorodni has its seeds in Polish, meaning ôas grown.ö

Tokaji Asz˙

The Tokaj Asz˙ is the typical noble sweet wine from Tokaj-Hegyalja. The basis of this wine are hand-selected, dried and noble rotten berries. After selecting, those dry berries are processed to an Asz˙ paste. Taste and quality of the Asz˙ mainly depend on the number of baskets (puttonyos) filled with dry berries (25 kilograms each), which are added to a cask (G÷nc type, 136 liters) of dry base wine. Consequently, the proportion between asz˙ berries and dry base wine is about 1:1 for a 6 puttonyos Asz˙. A 3 puttonyos Asz˙ needs to contain at least 60 grams of residual sugar; 90 grams are required for the 4 puttonyos, 129 grams for the 5 puttonyos and 150 grams for the 6 puttonyos. After several months of fermentation, the Asz˙ normally matures for 3 to 8 years - traditionally through oxidative ageing with air contact. Its decent, stable acidity charactzerizes this dessert wine, which is one of the slowest maturating wines worldwide.

Tokaji Asz˙ Essencia

After the Essencia, the Asz˙ Essencia (often confounded with the Essencia) is the second highest quality level among Tokaj wines. Its preparation is the same as that for the Asz˙, and it is produced only in excellent years. The quality level is not indicated anymore by the number of puttonyos. However, it is much higher than the 6 puttonyos Asz˙. The Asz˙ Essencia has more than 180 grams per liter of residual sugar content and over 50 grams of sugar-free extracts. Fermentation often takes years, and needs to be kept up by support of special yeast. Before being sold, the Asz˙ Essencia must maturate in casks for at least five years, three of them in a wood cask.

Tokaji Essencia

Tokaji Essencia is the most valuable and rarest type among the Tokaj wines. Hand-selected and noble rotten berries, which are later needed for the Asz˙ preparation, are gathered into a keg and kept in it for a couple of days before the Asz˙ paste is prepared. Then, due to the berriesĺ own weight, some highly concentrated juice of noble quality will have accumulated on the bottom of the keg. This is the juice the Essencia is made from. Its fermentation process is incredibly slow, yielding an alcohol content of 5 to 8 % only after a couple of years. Normally the Essenciaĺs residual sugar content is between 400 and 500 grams, yet record-breaking 900 grams and more have also been measured. One keg containing 25 kilograms of dry berries produces only between 1 and 1.5 liters of Essencia. It is also added to Asz˙ wines for ennobling them. It is said that the Essencia has medical benefits. As medicinal wine it was often sold in farmacies in former times.

How to enjoy Tokaj wine

Tokaj wines are brought to market only after maturation in barrels and a certain storage time in the bottle. Once a bottle is bought, it is ready to be consumed. The bottle can still be stored for some years; higher qualities can even be stored for some decades. Some excellent qualities from very good years are still drinkable after more than 100 years. Tokaji Asz˙ is best consumed at a temperature of 11 to 14 ░C. Warmer temperatures enhance its flavour but make it appear less fresh. Szamorodni can be enjoyed at slightly cooler temperatures than the Asz˙.
If the Asz˙ has been matured in the traditional, oxidative style (which the majority has), the well-closed bottle can be stored in the refrigerator for a couple of weeks after opening without any loss in quality. This way you can easily open several bottles at the same time for parallel degustation. Enjoy the Tokaji Asz˙ in a glas with a small goblet, as you would use it for Sauternes or other sweet wines. The Asz˙ is one of the few wines that go very well with chocolate. It is a very elegant companion to desserts. Make sure that the sweetness of the wine is higher than the sweetness of the dessert! Also, Tokaj wines blend very well with blue mold cheeses such as Roquefort and Gorgonzola.

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