Royal Tokaji
Royal Tokaji
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Essencia is in the Dagens Næringsliv
23 February 2016
Merete Bø writes in the Dagens Næringsliv about Royal Tokaji Essencia 2003
Essencia is in the Dagens Næringsliv

This wine has been given 98 points, but Vinmonopolet do not want to sell it. Tokaji Essencia is one of the world’s most legendary dessert wines but you cannot buy it.

We find this very strange, as we have given Vinmonopolet proof – in writing – that this is a wine, albeit with a low alcohol content, says Master of Wine Mr. Christopher Donaldson, from the producer Royal Tokaji.

Only five vintages of Tokaji Essencia has been produced in the past 25 years. We only manage to make around 2.000 half bottles each time, he adds. He is clearly surprised over the Norwegian bureaucracy.

Noble drops. Tokaji Essencia is the most extreme version of dessert wine and is also one of the wine world’s great wonders. So viscous that it is best served from a crystal spoon, so intensely sweet and acidic at the same time that one teaspoon is enough.

The wine is made from the juice that runs freely from the baskets of aszú grapes, - grapes that have hung on the vines for such long time that they shrivel and have attracted the botrytis fungus which gives noble rot.

This juice is so full of sugar that the yeast has great problems in digesting the sugar in order to make alcohol. A finished Essencia rarely exceeds three-four per cent alcohol, this again has taken years to obtain. The total sugar level in the finished wine can, - in extreme cases, exceed 800 grams. No wonder these wines have obtained a unique place in history.

According to the Alcohol Act, Vinmonopolet monopolizes the sale of alcohol over 4.7%, and we have the opportunity to sell non-alcoholic drinks.

It is also stated in this law that Vinmonopolet must not hold grant of sales for wines under 4.7%. Royal Tokaji Essencia has an alcohol strength of around 2%, if I am not mistaken. Thus, unfortunately we cannot sell this due to the rules, says Geir Mosether, Director of Purchasing and Supply of goods at Vinmonopolet in a mail to DN.

Unfortunately, the same rules hold for Special Ordering. It is, however, possible to sell through someone who has a grant to sell alcohol up to 4,7%, Mosether adds.

The world’s first. Tokaj is situated northeast in Hungary and this is where you find the best wines the country produces.

Production is tradition-bound and tied to grapes with noble rot, which one already in the 1600s had discovered and put in production.

The wine quickly became popular with royals all over Europe and was seen as one of the most exclusive wines you could have in the glass.

This meant that the area already in 1641 became the first in the world with a Wine Law to avoid any copies.

The area has three main grapes – furmint, hárslevelú and a small part of yellow muscat. All three are used in production of dry white wines and also in the more famous sweet wines.
In a genuine Tokaji, the noble rot grapes are referred to as aszé and are each picked by hand. Aszú grapes are extremely sweet and acidic and are famous for having an extreme balance between these two components.

The grapes are picked into puttonyos, originally baskets that take 25 kilos of grapes. Thereafter the grapes are crushed and added to a normal dry white wine or a grape must, and is then allowed to steep for up to 24 hours. All is mixed in a barrel called gönc and takes about 136 liters.

The sweetness in the finished wine is stated on the label by telling you how many puttonyos that is added to the wine, - a number that can vary between three and six.

Shortly after the collapse of the communism in 1990, The Royal Tokaji Wine Company was founded. The area had suffered negligence, lack of new investments and expertise for the past 40 years so it was a lot to deal with for the British wine buff Mr. Hugh Johnson and his friends that established the now famous Tokaji-producer.

In the supermarkets. When questioning the Norwegian importer if they will now sell the wine in grocery stores, Mr. Steinar Karlsen, CEO of Engelstad, writes in a mail to DN that this is worth considering.

This product was originally in Vinmonopolet’s assortment but was de-listed. When we tried to re-list the product, we were told that due to the low alcohol level this would not be accepted. This is in accordance with Vinmonopolet’s rules, rules that we have to comply with, says Karlsen.

Points: 98
Tokaji Essencia 2003

Producer: The Royal Tokaji Wine Company, Tokaj, Hungary
Price: NOK 2.990,- Outside the range.
Importer: Engelstad Vin & Brennevin

Compound and complex, a wine beyond belief with aromas of truffle honey, jasmine, dried citrus fruits and dried apricots. A wine cannot be more concentrated than this. Wonderful combination of sweetness and acidity, the sweetness is at 675 grams/liter. Viscous with a length that never ends. Enjoy it now or during the next two hundred years. MB

Dagens Næringsliv - 17th January 2016 - by Merete Bø