The Royal Tokaji Company   
Amazing sweet wines from Hungary's Tokaji region
 

Website: www.royal-tokaji.com

Celebrated wine writer Hugh Johnson was one of the founders of the Royal Tokaji company back in 1990, when it was the first foreign company to invest in the region. During the communist era, all Tokaji winemaking had been in the hands of a single state-run company; now the region boasts some 20 private cellars, and this legendary wine has been reborn.

Royal Tokaji is located in the middle of the wonderfully named town of Md, and has a historic 14th century cellar system, a kilometre long. Since 1994 winemaking has been in the hands of the well regarded Kroly ts. These are remarkable wines, and it was nice to get a chance to try the legendary Essencia, which is so sweet it can hardly ferment at all.

The climate in the region, with dry autumns with early morning mists encourages the development of noble rot (also known as botrytis). The predominant variety here, Furmint (70% of plantings; the other varieties are Harslevelu and Muscat de Lunel) is particularly susceptible to botrytis. The grapes affected by this rot shrivel, and are referred to as the aszu berries. They are harvested separately, traditionally in 20 litre wooden tubs called puttony. These grapes are then crushed, and the super-sweet high acid juice is added to base wines made with non-botrytis-affected grapes. The number of puttony added per barrel gives the final puttonyos level of the wine, which is indicated on the label.

UK prices and stockists are listed; all the wines are available from www.bbr.com.

The Royal Tokaji Company ts Cuve Late Harvest 2007 Tokaji, Hungary
9.5% alcohol, a cuve designed for early drinking. Very pure nose: fruity, lemony, peachy with honey and melon notes. The palate is fat and broad with lovely melon sweetness. Quite light with a pure fruity character. 89/100 (10.95 Berry Bros, Averys, Wine Society)

Berrys Tokaji Aszu 5 Puttonyos The Royal Tokaji Company 2005 Tokaji, Hungary
10.5% alcohol. Complex, spicy nose with citrus peel, herbs and lifted honey notes. Still fresh and fruity. Open lemony herby palate with viscous apricot and lemon fruit. Very high acid keeps it fresh. Distinctive stuff: powerful, lemony and complex. 92/100 (19.95 Berry Bros, Laithwaites, Jeroboams)

The Royal Tokaji Company Tokaji Mezes Maly 6 Puttonyos 1999 Tokaji, Hungary
11% alcohol. Wonderfully complex: amazing spicy, lemon, lime, citrus peel and apricot notes on the nose with a hint of raisin. The palate is super-concentrated and rich showing raisins, syrup, apricot and lime with a long, pithy finish. Amazing. 95/100 (92.95 Berry Bros)

The Royal Tokaji Company Essencia 2000 Tokaji, Hungary
2.9% alcohol, 620 g/litre residual sugar. Remarkable stuff, fermented and aged in glass jars for seven years, and not technically wine because the alcohol level is too low. And it takes three years to ferment this far because of the incredibly high sugar level, creating a highly hostile environment for yeasts to work in. I tasted it from the special crystal Essencia spoon that comes with each bottle. Its amazingly intense, fresh and spicy with lovely acidity countering the wall of sweetness. Super sweet yet complex with notes of apricot, spice and herbs. Eternal finish. This is remarkable stuff, and its almost impossible to rate it with a numerical score, so I wont try. (313.15 for a half bottle, Berry Bros)

Wines tasted as 10/09

Older notes (from November 2002)

Royal Tokaji Blue Label 5 Puttonyos 1996
Deep orange brown colour. Raisined, slightly volatile nose is sweet and treacly. A bit rustic? Unusual, rich palate with notes of caramel, herbs and raisins. High acidity. Very good

Betsek 1st Growth 5 Puttonyos 1990
Rich, caramelised nose leads to powerful, pungent flavours on the palate. Raisined character with high acidity and lots of sugar. A striking wine. Very good

Szt Tamas 1st Growth 6 Puttonyos 1991
Lovely stuff. Complex nose of raisins, apricots and herbs is quite different to the other two wines. Marmaladey palate with spicy sweetness and good balance. Harmonious. Very good/excellent.

Szt Tamas 1st Growth 6 Puttonyos 1993
Sweet nutty, raisined nose. Rich palate shows marmalade, honey and spice. Although the good acidity provides some balance this is quite syrupy. Very good+

Nyulaszo 1st Growth 5 Puttonyos 1991
Honey and syrup notes dominate the nose. Quite mellow. Rich, thick-textured palate with nice balance. Very sweet; a bit raisiny. Very good

Nyulaszo 1st Growth 6 Puttonyos 1993
Complex herby, spicy, raisined nose. Rich, complex spicy, marmaladey palate. Thick textured and extremely sweet. Delicious stuff. Very good+

Mezes Maly Great 1st Growth 6 Puttonyos
Balanced, complex nose of caramel, honey and raisins. Rich, thick-textured palate with spicy, marmaladey character and high acidity. Very intense. Very good/excellent

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