Tokay Wines from Hungary
There are several types of Tokay made in Hungary: Tokay Eszencia, Tokay Aszu, Tokay Szamorodni (both sweet and dry), and Tokay Furmint. The first two – Eszencia and Aszii – are the wines that have made the great reputation of Tokay. Tokay ‘essence’ is reputed to have remarkable properties, including reviving people who were previously about to expire. This may be because of its high glucose content: actually it smells like toasted brown bread and treacle.
Tokay Aszii is made by allowing the action of Botrytis cinerea to work on the ripe grapes. These are collected in wooden containers called puttonyos: the juice oozing from them is collected and put into casks where it ferments slowly over many years; this is actually a form of Tokay essence. The grapes for Aszii are crushed (formerly by the foot, nowadays by machine) to make a type of paste, the richness of the wine being expressed according to the number of puttonyos of Aszii paste added to the special cask containing the must. This is not topped up and a flor similar to that of sherry forms on the surface. This special cask is called a gone and holds 26-4-30-8 gallons (120-140 litres). This type of Tokay is sweet – the higher the number of puttonyos the sweeter it will be – but the character of the wine is aristocratic, delicate yet definite, intensely sweet without being at all cloying, with a wonderful ‘bloom’ on the mouth. It is certainly one of the great wines of the world.
Wines are usually listed as 1-5 puttonyos, but one of 6 is also made. Tokay is bottled in 17 fl. oz (50 cl) bottles of a squattish shape with thin necks. The ordinary and dry Tokays are pleasant, usually fairly full-bodied white wines lighter in colour than the golden Aszu, and good partners for many rich, spicy Hungarian dishes.