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Only made in excellent years when the harvest of noble berries is particularly abundant, this is an incredibly rich and unique wine. It has exceedingly low alcohol (1 to 3%), as the amount of sugar concentrated in it does not manage to ferment, so that it is not unusual to find 500 or more grams of residual sugar per liter. The Aszú berries are collected one by one and left to rest for 15 to 20 days; the only crushing is from the slight pressure from the weight of the berries. The resulting must is put in 50-liter glass containers, where it undergoes an extremely slow fermentation. After 2 years, it is decanted into 68-liter barrels known as átalag, for further aging; after bottling, the wines are sged for several more years before release.
“Hungary’s legendary Tokaji, or Tokay, has a long and distinguished history. Botrytis Cinerea, the so-called noble rot, was recognized in this picturesque region of northeastern Hungary by 1650, a full 100 years before it was identified in Germany.
Its effect was dramatic : as Jancis Robinson noted in the Oxford Companion to Wine, “By the 18th century, this extraordinary wine was known to the French court, and was subsequently introduced to the Russian imperial court by the Hapsburgs.
Only Constantia from the Cape of Good Hope rivaled Tokay as ‘the wine of kings and the king of wines’ during this period of sweet wine worship, with Tokay Essencia regarded as an all-purpose restorative.”
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