Historically referred to as “The Wine of Kings”, Tokaji is an iconic style of wine that has continued to ‘wow’ the palates of present-day wine drinkers. With these vineyard sites dating back several centuries ago, the region of Tokaj itself is considered to be the first in the world to implement a sanctioned wine classification system. And right there at the frontier of this significant milestone was the well-celebrated producer known as Disznókő, officially declared a First Growth back in the year 1732.
Still thriving to this day, Disznókő is still one of the very few estates in the region of Tokaj to produce wines from one single plot of land. Their 250 acres of vines are planted with four out of the six approved grape varietals for the region: Furmint at 60%, Hárslevelű at 30%, and then followed by Zéta and Sárgamuskotály (or “Yellow Muscat”). While the topography of the Great Hungarian Plain is by definition quite, well, plain, Disznókő’s vineyards are a rarity in the region being situated on steep terraces over soils of clay and a mineral-rich volcanic rock called rhyolite. That in addition to the south-east and south-west facing vineyards results in some of the highest quality grapes of the region.
A New Era
With the infamous Fall of Communism in the early 1990s, the prestigious French insurance company AXA Millésimes took ownership of the estate, replanted the vineyards and constructed a new winemaking facility. Marking the beginning of a new era for the winery, the release of Disznókő’s 1993 vintage Tokaji Aszú was widely acclaimed and became a staple of this particular style of wine. With the region of Tokaj declared a World Heritage Site in 2002, Disznókő is acknowledged by many as one of the area’s finest producers and by 2005 it was awarded “Winery of the Year” in Hungary.
And just what is the story behind Tokaji Aszú? The term Aszú consists of a dual phenomenon of grapes having both Botrytis (Noble Rot) and then shriveling on the vine. Caused by the morning mists of autumn that are brought on by the nearby rivers of Bodrog and Tisza, the Botrytis clings itself onto the grapes and begins sucking the water out through the skin. What’s left inside of the grape is highly concentrated sugars, therefore resulting in distinctly intense characters in the wines.
But as not all bunches are lucky enough to be graced by the botrytis, at Disznókő these particular grapes are picked by hand when they are at their optimal state and fit for Aszú wine production. This selection can take anywhere from two to four times before they have found the desired amount of qualified grapes, making the harvesting for Aszú one of the world’s most laborious in the world.
Essentially, the goal here is to achieve the maximum amount of flavors while maintaining the utmost prestige and balance in structure. Once fermentation is complete, the specific lots are aged separately for a minimum of three years – two of which much be in French and/or Hungarian oak. At Disznókő, once the aging process is done the team gets together at blindly tastes each lot in order to determine the final blends.
During production, the proportion of Aszú berries in the wine must indicates the concentration that will be labeled on the bottle. In Tokaj, the term “puttonyos” is used when describing this concentration level – ranging from 3 puttonyos to 6 puttonyos, and then the most concentrated level being called Eszencia. Disznókő’s Aszú wines include 5 puttonyos, 6 puttonyos and Eszencia. In addition, they also produce a late harvest and dry Furmint. See standard sweetness levels below.
Minimum residual sugar levels:
3 Puttonyos: 60 g/L
4 Puttonyos: 90 g/L
5 Puttonyos: 120 g/L
6 Puttonyos: 150 g/L
Eszencia: 415 g/L
Juicy to the touch with a succulent medley of peach, pineapple, ripe melon and honeysuckle on the nose. Bright golden hues foreshadow the wine’s soft structure that is zippy with crisp acidity while the palate is almost reminiscent of a Sauternes with flavors of candied lemon, caramel and toffee. A perfect bottle of wine for when you want something that is both sweet and refreshing.
A slightly deeper hue with amber hints further into an intense aromatic profile, revealing baked apricot, jasmine, warm honey and spicy cinnamon. Undeniably round bodied and sweet while remaining beautifully balanced with vibrant acidity, the palate continues onward with notes of persimmon, cardamom and an incredibly long finish of dried mango. Luscious with a distinct balance to ride it all out.
A rich amber color implies its maturing age while unfolding into a vast series of flavor profiles with blood orange, dried pineapple, acacia, dried mint leaf and crushed tobacco. Full-bodied and incredibly lush with a creamy sense of sweetness, the zesty acidity is still kicking with complex flavors of dried tropical fruit and baking spices. This little beauty will certainly stand the test of time and continue to improve beyond its years.