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Flashcards in Tokaj Deck (33)
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What's the difference between Tokaj and Tokaji?

Tokaj is the place; Tokaji is the wine.


What does Aszú mean and when was it first mentioned?

The famous Aszú are the sweet wines made fro shrivelled and botytis-affected grapes. They were first mentioned in 1571. It offered sweetness before crystal sugar became available, and it was enjoyed in royal courts across Europe. The sugary juice inside these shrivelled grapes is so concentrated that it cannot be effectively extracted by normal pressing. the ASZÚ grapes are therefore macerated in must, fermenting must or base wine to draw out their sugars and flavors. Classic ASZÚ is deep amber in color, high in acidity with low to medium alcohol and intense aromas of onge peel, apricots, and honey. The best can reach super-premium prices.


How long as Tokaj regulated their wines?

In the 18th centurey, Tokaj created one of the first controlled appellations, classifying its vineyards and decreeing which villages were allowed to use the Tokaj name.


What were the effects of the Communist takeover of Hungary on Tokaji?

When Hungary became a Communist state in 1945, the Tokaji focus shifted from quality to quantity, and the wines were often deliberately oxidized, sweetened, fortified, and pasteurized.


What has enabled Hungarian wines to bounce back after the demise of Communism regime in the country?

However, more vineyards remained in private hands in Hungary than in other Eastern European countries, meaning that, when Communism ended in 1989, producers in Tokaj were able to start rebuilding their reputation more quickly. Helped by the arrival in the early 1990s of foreign investors, such as AXA, Vega Sicilia, and Hugh Johnson, winemaking has evolved considerably in the last 25 years iwth a return to a fresher and fruitier style of Aszú and the development of a new generation of high-quality dry wines and new styles, such as Late Harvest.


Describe where Tokaj is.

The Tokaj region likes in the north-eastern corner of Hungary. it extends from the town of Tokaj into the foothills of the Zemplén Mountains towards the Slovakian border (and a small part of the region continues into Slovakia).


Describe Tokaj's climate and vineyards.

Tokaj has a moderate, continental climate: summers are warm whilst winters can be cold, although the region is sheltered from the worst of the cold, northerly winds by forested mountain peaks. The vineyards are mainly planted on sloped which helps reduce the risk of winter cold and frost damage. Importantly at this latitude (48-49 degrees N), the slopes face south, south-west, and south-east to take maximum advantage of the sunlight. Autumns are warm and dry, providing ideal conditions for the shrivelling of the grapes. In hotter, drier years, yields of ASZÚ wines will be significantly reduced.


What is the average sunshine hours during the growing season in Tokaj?

Sunshine hours in Tokaj are between 1400-1500 hours in the growing season.


Describe the rainfall in Tokaj.

Rainfall ranges from around 500-600 mm per year. Although this is relatively low, around half of this falls during the growing season. Irrigation is not permitted.


Why is Tokaj so great for botrytis?

Two major rivers (the Tisza and Bodrog) meet in the town of Tokaj. The Bodrog floods regularly, creating shallow marshes and water meadows. The moist air results in frequent morning fogs in the autumn, ideal for the development of botrytis. In the autumn, the warm, sunny afternoons control the development of botrytis and limit grey rot.


Describe the soil in Tokaj.

Tokaj is a region of hundreds of extinct volcanoes. This deep volcanic bedrock is overlaid by a complex variety of soils, the most significant of which are NYIROK, a volcanic soil which is said to produce the most powerful wines, and loess, a sandy silt with high clay content found particualry around the Tokaj hill (to the west of the town) which is thought to produce lighter, more delicate wines.

The soft volcanic bedrock means vines can root very deeply, making water stress and nutrient deficiencies rare. It is also ideal for diffing the cellars which are widely use in the region of aging wine. These cellars are famous for the grey-black cushiony growths of the cellar fungus ZASMIDIUM (previously CLADOSPORIUM) CELLARE, which is believed to help regulate humidity.


Describe the vine training systems in Tokaj.

Traditionally vines were grown on single posts at a density of up to 10,000 vines per hectare. This is still occasionally seen in small old plots, but almost all vines are now grown on trellis, using replacement-cane pruning or cordon training with VSP and at lower densities (on avg. between 4,000 and 5,000 vines per hectares).


Describe how Tokaj vineyards are worked.

The modern training systems allow mechanisation. However, many vineyards are still worked by hand, especially on the steeper slows, and hand-harvesting is required for careful selection of the ASZÚ berries; several passes through the vineyard are necessary.. Labor availability is not currently a problem but may be in the future.


Describe the disease and pest issues in Tokaj.

The main disease concerns are powdery mildew and, in wetter years, grey rot. Managing the canopy to ensure good air circulation is particularly important for grapes intended for dry wine. Pests include wild boar and birds.


Describe the yields in Tokaj.

Because ASZÚ berries have shrivelled on the vines, yields are tiny (2-3 hL/ha). To ensure quality, yields for dry wines are also kept relatively low (on avg around 30-40 hL/ha). It is possible to have higher yields in warm, sunny vintages, but in poor years, yields must be controlled to ensure ripeness.


Name the three most important of the six permitted grape varieties in the Tokaji PDO?

1. Furmint
2. Hárslevelü
3. Sárga Muskotály (Muscat Blanc à Petits Grains)


Describe the Furmint grape in Tokaj.

Furmint makes up 69% of all planted grapes in Tokaj. It is very versatile, capable of producing high-quality wines from dry to sweet. It is late-ripening and needs Tokaj's long, sunny growing season to ripen fully . However, even when fully ripe, it retains high levels of acid. It is well suited to the production of sweet wines. Despite being thick-skinned, Furmint is particularly susceptible to botrytis, making it a vital component in ASZÚ wines. As they ripen, the grapes naturally accumulate high levels of sugar, which are further concentrated by the botrytis, shrivelling and late-harvesting. However, this is balanced by high acidity in even the sweetest wines.


Describe the dry wines from Tokaj.

Dry wines are produced in a variety of styles in Tokaj, from those intended to be drunk young to more ageworthy examples. The latter are often matured in oad. Due to the high sugar levels, they can be full-bodied with high level of alcohol. However, due to improved viticultural practices, it is now possible to get wines that are ripe and at medium alcohol levels. Single-varietal dry wines are increasingly common.


Describe Hárslevelü in Tokaj.

Hárslevelü is the second most planted grape in Tokaj (18%). It produces wines that are fruitier than Furmint with distinctive aromas of white peach and orange blossom. Hárslevelü appears mainly in a supporting role in blends, adding its distinctive perfume, although it is sometimes made as a varietal wine, both dry and sweet.


Describe Sárga Muskotály in Tokaj.

Sárga Muskotály (Muscat Blanc à Petits Grains) accountes for around 9% of Tokaj's vines. It add floral notes in blends in both sweet and dry wines, but also appears as a varietal wine, mainly dry but occasionally sweet.


Describe the process of ASZÚ grapes from picking to the end of fermentaion.

ASZÚ grapes are picked individually in several passes, then stored until required. Prior to maceration, most producers mash the ASZÚ grapes into a paste by crushing or breaking open the grape in some way, usually by passing them through a pump. Some producers, however, prefer to use uncrushed grapes to avoid any bitterness from the skins and seeds. The paste or grapes
are macerated usu. for between 12 and 60 hours. Where uncrushed grapes are used, regular punchdowns will be necessary. Maceration usually takes place at ~12-15 degrees C, but may rise to 16-20 degrees C with strongly fermenting must. The choice depends on the desired style: maceration in must gives the lightest styles followed by maceration in young finished wine. Maceration in fermenting must gives the strongest extraction and most complex wines, but unless berries are both ripe and clean, it can also extract unpleasant bitter, unripe charcteristics. The timing of the maceration also affects the final style of wine: strongest extraction occurs when the must is fermenting most actively early on while some producers prefer the later stages for a lighter extraction.

Where base wine is used for maceration, it must by law have a min. potential alcohol of 12.08% abv, though in practice the base wine is often 14.5-15.5% abv (which is lowered by the addition of the ASZÚ berries/paste). Otherwise, winemakers are free to choose which grapes varieties they use (Furmint and Hárslevelü are the most common) and how botrytised the grapes that make this base wine are. Some producers prefer a rich and botrytised base wine to give extra complexity and creaminess. Others prefer minimal botrytis in the base wine to allow the character of the ASZÚ grapes to show through. The base wine for ASZÚ is different from the dry styles of wines produced, for which over-ripeness and botrytis are avoided.

When maceration has taken place in must or fermenting must, the juice is drained and the ASZÚ paste or berries are pressed. The must is then fermented (or continues to ferment) to gain the desired balance of sugar and alcohol. Some producers use ambient yeast for fermentation but many prefer cultured yeast for their reliability, as the high sugar levels can make fermentation difficult. Both stainless steel tanks and barrels are used for fermentation.

Depending on the desired style of wine, some target a higher level of alcohol (12-13.5% abv) to produce a less sweet style. Fermentation may stop naturally, esp. at higher sugar levels (180 g/L and above) and these wines will be naturally stable. However, many producers stop fermentation (by chilling or racking the wine or adding SO2) to avoid the risk of refermentation and to control house styles.


Describe the storage of ASZÚ wines.

ASZÚ wines must be stored for a min. of 18 mos. in oak, though some producers prefer longer. Hungarian oad, often from the Zemplén Mountains, is widely used for fermentation and ageing. Traditionally, wines were matured in small 136-liter barrels (known as gönci); however, most producers are now switching to larger barrels (300-500 L). There is a mixture of new and older oak in use. ASZÚ wines must be bottled in a traditional, clear-glass 500 mL Tokaji bottle.


Describe the ASZÚ classification system.

Until 2013, ASZÚ was classified by its level of sweetness, using the puttonyos schedule. Traditionally this measure counted the number of pickers' buckets or hods (puttony) of ASZÚ berried added to a traditional gönci barrel of must. However, more recently it had been measured by a set minimum residual sugar levels, with 'three puttonyos' having the least RS and 'six puttonyos' denoting the most. In 2013, Tokaj regulations changed significantly: the minimum level of RS was increased to 120 g/L, the equivalent to the previous minimum for five puttonyos. Wines with lower levels of sugar are now labelled Late Harvest or Tokaji Édes Szamorodni, depending on how they are made. ASZÚ wines can be labelled as 'five puttonyos' or 'six puttonyos' (above 150 g/L RS) but this is not mandatory. (Wines can be labelled 'three puttonyos' or 'four puttonyos' if the producer wishes, as long as they have a min. of 120 g/L of RS.)



Eszencia are extremely rare, and therefore expensive, wines made from the tiny volume of syrupy free-run juice that trickles from ASZÚ berries. The juice is so sweet that it can take years to ferment and even then only reaches very low levels of alcohol (usu. <5%). The legal min. RS is 450 g/L, and the wines are full-bodied (syrupy) with pronounced, highly concentrated flavours. High in acidity, these wines can retain their freshness a long time.


What is a LATE HARVEST ASZÚ wine?

Recently, as a reaction to the amount of time and investment needed to produce and mature Aszú wines, a new style of Tokaj has been emerging produced in a similar way to sweet wines found in other wine-producing regions (the maceration process is not used). Late Harvest wines are typically produced with a lower proportion of botrytizedgrapes than for Aszú wines. Late Harvest wines tend to be lighter bodied and less concentrated than Aszú. The legal minimum residual sugar level is only 45g/L although most wines are between 90 and 110g/L. Oak ageing is not compulsoryand many wines spend little or no time in oak (and instead are stored in stainless steel) as producers aim to emphasise the fruit characteristics. The result is that Late Harvest wines are ready for release much earlier than Aszú, typicallybetween 12 and 16 months after harvest [1] .



Szamorodni is a Polish word meaning ‘as it comes’, indicating that this traditional style is made from whole bunches with varying amounts of healthy and botrytized grapes. It is produced in either a sweet (édes) style or as a dry( száraz) wine, depending on the level of ripeness and botrytis.

The sweeter style is the more common. The minimum residual sugar level is 45g/L, although most are bottled at around 90 to 110g/L. Following a change in the law in 2016, the wines need only be aged in oak for 6 months, considerably shorter than for Aszú. As a result, a number of producers are placinggreater focus on the category, seeing it as a more authentic Tokaji wine than the more recent Late Harvest style. Bottled in the same traditional, clear, 500 mL Tokaji bottle as Aszú, the best édes wines can be of equivalent qualityto Aszú, though in a fresher style.

Dry Szamorodni is aged under a thin film of flor yeast (much thinner than those formed in Sherry production) for up to 10 years without topping up. The wine is protected from excessive oxidation and it develops nutty and green apple aromas.


Describe the dry wines in Tokaj.

For much of Tokaj’s history, dry wines were essentially a by-product, produced when botrytis did not develop. However, as in many regions whose reputation was built on sweet wines, there has been a significant move towards dry wines in the 21st century and some high quality examples are now being produced. Production has tripled in the last five years.

Producers have started to understand the different approach required to produce dry as opposed to sweet wines. For example, good dry wines need healthy grapes with no botrytis: producers are planting new vineyards on higher and windier sites above thefog zone and using more open canopies and appropriate vine treatments to prevent rot.

At first, the new breed of dry wines were made from very ripe grapes, underwent full malolactic conversion and lengthy periods of ageing in new oak barrels. However, since then, many producers have reined in their approach, using less ripe berries, fermentingin stainless steel and generally taking a less interventionist approach to produce lighter-bodied wines which better show varietal character. They are also increasingly looking to express terroir and a number of single-vineyard (Dűlő) wines are now produced.

Dry wines are most often made from Furmint but Hárslevelű, Muscat and Kabar are also used and blends are also made. Under PDO, wines labelled as a single varietal must contain at least 85 per cent of the specified grape.


When did Hungary join the EU?

Hungary joined the EU in 2004 and has adopted a PDO/PGI system of wine appellations.


Describe the Tokaji PDO.

Tokaji PDO is further broken down into more specific categories of village and estate wines and certain designated vineyards can be named on the label. From the 2013 vintage, PDO wines must be bottled in the region.


What is a Zempléni?

There is a PGI (Zempléni) which is used for wines made from other grapes, in particular international varieties, and for inexpensive wines produced at yields higher than those permitted by the PDO.