Royal Tokaji
Royal Tokaji
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Royal return
11 November 2015
Square Meal Wine & Food - Chris Losh writes about a “Royal return”.

Hungary's Tokaj region makes some of the most aristocratic wines on the planet. And bottles such as Royal Tokaji's indulgent Blue Label are driving its long-awaited renaissance

Royal Tokaji Wines Blue Label 2009

The next time a French wine snob starts boring on about how our neighbours over the Channel were the first to really understand vineyards, you should mention the name Prince Rakoczi II. This Transylvanian prince classified the great vineyards of Tokaj according to how good they were back in 1700 - fully 155 years before the French got round to doing the same in Bordeaux.

Royal Tokaji Wines Blue Label 2009

These classic Hungarian sweet wines (pronounced Tock-eye) were the celebrity indulgence of their day. Voltaire wrote a poem about them, Louis XIV kept supplies for his mistress, Madame de Pompadour, and one Hungarian monarch even sent a cask of the stuff to Peter the Great, hoping to solicit his support in the Hungarian War of Independence.

Wines such as the 2009 Royal Tokaji Blue Label 5 Puttonyos are some of the richest, sweetest, most intense wines in existence. It is made mostly from the local grapes Furmint and Harslevelu (pronounced: harsh-le-vay-loo), and it's a mixture of 'ordinary' white wine mixed with incredibly sweet, late-harvested berries.

Leave a grape on the vine in humid Tokaj and it will start to shrivel, getting sweeter and more concentrated in the process.

These super-sweet grapes (measured out by the 25kg basket - or puttony - in which they're harvested) are then crushed and added to the base white wine. And the more baskets-worth that get added to the base, the sweeter (and more expensive) the wine, so a three-puttonyos wine, for example, is less sweet - and cheaper - than the five-puttonyos Royal Tokaji wine featured here.

Regal is a good word to describe it - so it's perhaps fitting that the region's greatest threat over the past few hundred years was the man-made dumbing-down effect of communism. But with those days happily long gone, Tokaji is re-emerging.

The Royal Tokaji company was founded in 1990, when 60 vineyard owners joined together. Of its 107 hectares of vineyards, 57 are in Prince Rakoczi's cherished First Growths, with their 13th-century cellars perfect for ageing the wines.

These are magnificent wines, with big flavours and terrific mouth-freshening acidity; perfect for everything from foie gras and blue cheese to Chinese and Indian food, Christmas pud and, of course, chocolate.

Intense dried-fruit aromas of apricots and lemon confit, with a light dusting of tea and roses on top. The palate is an indulgent bath of tropical fruits, with a cooling spray of acidity to keep things fresh.

High Street: £12.29 (25cl); Waitrose, £22-24 (50cl); Majestic, The Wine Society
Restaurants: Babylon at Kensington Roof Gardens, Bluebird, Heddon Street Kitchen, The Ledbury, Pont de la Tour

And online:

Click here to buy Royal Tokaji online from Waitrose

Click here to buy Royal Tokaji online from Majestic

Click here to buy Royal Tokaji online from The Wine Society