Royal Tokaji release Essencia 2008
The gift of an Essencia vintage occurs once in a blue moon! Since Royal Tokaji was founded by Hugh Johnson, following the fall of communism in Hungary, Royal Tokaji have only released five Essencia vintages in over 25 years: 1993, 1999, 2000, 2003 and 2007. The 2008 will be their sixth precious vintage to be made available, on allocation, to wine lovers around the world.
Essencia is the world's most concentrated essence of the ripest grapes. It is the liquid gold that very slowly oozes from a pile of Royal Tokaji's "A" grade Aszú grapes raisined by botrytis in this remote corner of north-east Hungary. It can only be made in years when there are perfect conditions for botrytis to develop so that the Furmint, Hárslevelű and Yellow Muscat grapes are shrivelled into ugly brown raisins.
The 2008 winter was very mild, followed by rain in early summer. August was dry and warm, September cool and wet delaying the ripening. A lovely long Indian summer began in October turning a good vintage into one of the greatest in living memory. From mid-October to mid-November the "azsuzas" took place with the pickers selecting and snipping off the berries with scissors one by one, harvesting less than 1 kg an hour.
About 20kgs of Aszú berries make a 37.5cl bottle of Essencia. The free-run juice is collected into rotund glass demijohns then carried down into the deep, dark cellars. In this chilly cellar environment yeasts have a tough time to do their duty in an intensely thick, sweet, syrup-like juice. A gentle transformation gradually took place with the fermentation stopping and re-starting between 2008 and 2016, whilst combining with the acid and flavour compounds of the grapes to give an unctuous, perfumed elixir. The newborn Essencia was ready to bottle in May 2016. There are only 2,906 bottles, some presented individually in rich burgundy red, lacquer presentation boxes with a Hungarian crystal spoon for serving and others in traditional wooden wine cases of six bottles.
Royal Tokaji's winemaker describes the 2008 as: "Deep gold colour with a hint of amber. Fresh, ripe peach on the nose with complex honeyed, spicy, ginger notes and background presence of botrytis. Full but graceful to taste, intensely concentrated, rich and sweet, balanced with taunt acidity".
Royal Tokaji Essencia is served by the spoon in leading restaurants including: UK-La Petite Maison, Plateau, Orrery, Galvin La Chapelle. USA-Trump Hotel, Saison SF, Wynn LV. Initial retail listings include: UK-BB&R, BI, Farr Vintners, Laytons USA-Acker Merrall & Condit, Hart Davis Hart Wine Co., K & L Wine Merchant. Anticipated retail price a 37.5cl bottle is £391.25 inc. duty + vat. US$ 980.00.