Some days you lose.
Some days you win.
Some days you win wine!
Back in December, Sauska Wines US and the wine blog Wine Esquire sponsored an Instagram contest. The winner would receive a bottle of Sauska Tokaji Aszú 2003, 6 puttonyos. Entry was simple: follow SauskaWineUS on Instagram. Boom. Done. Of course, I wouldn’t win. I never win contests.
On December 27, 2016, my luck changed. (It’s been continually improving since then, but that’s another story.) I received a private Instagram message from SauskaWinesUS informing me I was the winner of the Tokaji contest! A bottle of this golden nectar would soon be on its way to me. The bottle arrived at my office a few weeks later, with much fanfare (Well, in my head anyway. My coworkers couldn’t have cared much less. Silly coworkers.)
This would be my first excursion into Hungarian wines. Ever since the winning bottle’s arrival, I’ve been waiting for just the right time to open it. Last night was that right time.
Before we get into my description of just how incredibly decadent this wine is, let’s explore the story behind the wine…
Tokaji is the most famous and popular Hungarian wine. It hails from the Tokaj region in northeastern Hungary. The primary grape varieties used in Tokaji wines are Furmint, Hárslevelű, and Muscat Blanc. Tokaji is known for its rich, nectar-like flavors and sweetness. This characteristic is the result of the use of botrytized grapes. Botrytis is a type of fungus that affects grapes. When controlled and allowed to develop, it is known as Noble Rot, and dries the grapes which concentrates the sugars and flavors. Not all Tokaji wines use botrytized grapes. Those that do are labeled as Aszú, and are further categorized by their residual sugar levels, indicated by the designation “puttonyos.” Aszú wines range from 3 puttonyos, with 25 grams of residual sugar per liter, to 6 puttonyos, with 150+ grams per liter. The bottle I received was at the top of that scale, with 6 puttonyos.
Sauska Wines is a family owned winery, with vineyards in Tokaj and Villany. Using indigenous and international varietals, they produce a varied portfolio of wines, including sparkling, whites, rosés, and reds. The Tokaji Aszú 2003 that I received was crafted from hand-picked Furmint and Hárslevelű grapes. Barrel fermented with only indigenous yeasts, it spent 36 months in new oak before bottling. At 222 grams of sugar per liter, it’s definitely sweet, but at only 10% ABV, you can sip and enjoy it all evening.
Tokaji wines have a royal history. Kings and noblemen throughout history, including King Louis XIV of France, Peter the Great, and Catherine the Great have coveted the golden elixir. With such an impressive following, I knew this must be a wine of elegance and distinction.
However, in the interest of full confession, neither my guest nor I are fans of super sweet wines. Although we were excited to experience such a majestic and noble wine, we were also a little apprehensive when opening the bottle. As soon as I pulled the cork and took my first sniff, all apprehension evaporated. This isn’t your run-of-the-mill sugar bomb. This wine has depth, character, and complexity beyond anything I’ve experienced in a dessert wine.
Rich, golden color in the glass. Opened cold (+/- 40F) and allowed to open as it warmed. Initial aromas on ripe apricot and honey. While sweet, this is so much more. There is an incredible complexity on the nose that entices and invites one in. On the palate, the mouthfeel is rich and creamy, almost syrupy, with flavors of apricot nectar, honey, overripe peach and pineapple, and golden raisin. This wine is dessert unto itself. The finish is sweet and lingers for several minutes. Very impressive, indeed!
I’d once again like to thank Sauska Wines US for their generosity in offering this incredible wine prize, and Wine Esquire for sponsoring and promoting this contest. For those of you who haven’t experienced the magic of Tokaji Aszú, I encourage you to seek it out and give it a try. Even if you think you don’t like sweet dessert wines, I think you’ll like this!