This bottle of Tokaji Aszu Essencia, Monimpex, 1976, was given to our class in Napa, from Bob Trinchero's cellar. Thanks Bob!
The sweet, dark-honey-colored wine Tokaji is opulent, decadent and sexy. It has been known for bottles of Tokaji to last for over 200 years. Russian tsars used to drink this since the 16th century. Tokaj became the first European region to have its vineyards classified. Louis the 14th of France declared Tokaji "the wine of Kings and the King of wines" and it became the favorite drink of Peter the Great, Voltaire, Goethe, and Schubert. In the 18th century, Catherine the Great stationed soldiers in Tokaj to protect her vineyards.
A steep decline in quality production of Tokaji took place after World Wars I & II. But in 1989, wine writer Hugh Johnson revitalized the Tokaji industry by becoming part owner of the Royal Tokaji Wine Company (which included investors like Vega Sicilia). Truly, a fascinating history of a wine we rarely hear of!
I love this wine and all forms of this wine.
Appearance: Golden amber (with a bit of sediment).
Taste: Think of apricots bursting in the sky like fireworks and drizzling down on you like honey. It smelled that way, too (apricots, marmalade & honey).
Tokaji (pronounced, "Toe-KI" rhymes with pie), is made in the Tokajhegyalja ("Tokaji hills") region of northeastern Hungary. The wine is grown from the grapes, Furmint, Harslevelu, and Muscat Blanc. The harvest happens very late with "noble rot" setting in, and picking goes well into November.
Tokjai is usually measured in degrees of sweetness, that being, 3, 4, 5, and 6 puttonyos. 3 puttonyos equals 60 g/l of residual sugar, and it increases by 30 g, up to 6 puttonyos, which equals 150 g/l of residual sugar. What we (our wine class at the Society of Wine Educators) were drinking, was Tokaji Aszu Essencia contained 180 g/l of residual sugar. There also exists, "Tokaji Essencia" which is made of the free run juice of the dry, shriveled grapes. This is even more rare and can contain 450 g/l to 800 g/l of residual sugar.
I was going to take a picture of all of us having the Tokaji, but I felt like a big nerd doing so. But since we were all nerds, I should have gone ahead. Instead, I waited until the end of class and took a picture of the almost empty bottle. This was probably the only chance that I will ever get to try a wine like this. It was remarkable and beautiful.
References: 1). Jancis Robinson, "Oxford Companion To Wine";
2). "Tokaj - The Wine of Freedom", Laszló Alkonyi
* * *
When I usually have Tokaji at home for dessert (I can afford to buy the 4 puttonyos, which is about $26), I make an apricot compote and serve it with pound cake (which I buy from Trader Joe's.. it's very good for store-bought). Here is the recipe for the compote:
Apricot compote. For just over 1 1/2 cups of sauce:
1 cup dried apricots
1/2 cup brown sugar
4 tablespoons Dark rum (or brandy).
2 cups boiling water.
Preheat the oven to 350.
Rinse the apricots and put them in an oven proof dish that has a cover.
Stir in the brown sugar and 2 tablespoons of the rum (or brandy),
Pour the boiling water over them and put the covered casserole in the oven. Allow to bake for approx. 30 minutes.
When the apricots a soft, remove from the oven and strain off and save the juice.
Puree the apricots in a processor with the reserved water until you have the right liquidity, you may not use all the juice. Add the remaining liquor and stir.
The puree can be served either hot warm or cold.
Slice the pound cake into slices an inch thick. Serve warm compote on top. Pair this with the Tokaji and experience bliss.