Happy International Tokaj Aszú Day everyone!
And what a perfect time of year chosen to celebrate, as we run headlong into the holiday season. With all the parties, family gatherings, and impromptu wine dinners, finishing off the festivities with a wonderful chilled glass of this classic (and dare we say...best?) dessert wine is exactly what is needed to warm up the cold weather!
Did you know this is only the fourth year of the holiday? In 2017 the idea came from Dániel Kézdy, an enthusiast, published author, and heralded expert of Tokaji. Thanks for the effort Mr. Kézdy, we'll try and make you proud!
As always, we are going bring you a brief overview of what makes this particular style of wine so very, very special. Enjoy!
Firstly, lets go over what makes a Tokaji into an Aszú. It's simple enough, when botryis/Noble Rot forms on the grapes, they are referred to a Aszú berries. Up to six different varietals can go into these:
Traditionally, the Aszú berries were collected in large baskets called puttony, kneaded almost like dough into a paste, added in measured amounts to barrels of non-botrytis grape must where the paste soaks.The wines were then produced and labeled based on how many Aszú baskets were added to the must. Thus, the system of labeling wines with ~3–6 puttonyos was developed. Tokaji Aszú wines can take up to seven years of maturation, after which it can sit and retain its structure for decades.
Times change however, and in 2013, the term puttonyos was technically abolished for Aszú wines, as producers don’t use baskets to measure sugar levels anymore. Wines labeled as Tokaji Aszú are now required to have a minimum of 120 grams/liter of sugar. Producers may still use the phrase 6 Puttonyos to signify an Aszú wine with 150+ grams/liter of residual sugar. Wines between 120–150 grams/liter of sugar are now labeled as Tokaji Aszú. Of course, you may see wines still labeled with 3 and 4 puttonyos for marketing reasons, but these do not meet the minimum sweetness requirement to be Tokaji Aszú.
One of the most fun aspects of drinking these wines is the food pairing. As many of you know, dessert wines go very well with blue cheese (no, not crumbles, so don't even ask), but there are other aspects of food pairing that are regularly overlooked - Chinese cuisine! The best dishes are Beijing duck (specifically with a Tokaji Aszú under 10 years old), and sweet and sour pork with the Tokaji Aszú having been aged for 15+ years. You will be amazed with how well these dishes dance on your palate :)
And that's it! We hope you have gathered enough knowledge and interest to head out and see what kind of labels you can find and enjoy - and don't be afraid to shell out a little more if possible, it makes a difference. And remember to serve your delicious Tokaji around 40°F - you'll thank us later.