Essencia, forditaš, mášláš: Tokaj wines that you must try!

Categories of Tokaj wines

Tokaj wines are a real gem among wines. Their uniqueness lies not only in the specific conditions of the Tokaj region, but also in the careful and precise processing of the grapes. Tokaj wines are divided into several categories according to the content of residual sugar, the method of production and maturation.

The basic division of Tokaj wines is into dry, semi-dry, semi-sweet and sweet. Dry wines have a residual sugar content of up to 4 g/l, semi-dry 4-12 g/l, semi-sweet 12-45 g/l, and sweet wines with more than 45 g/l of sugar. However, this division is not so important for Tokaj wines, as their real value is hidden in specific categories such as native, selection, essence, forditaš or mášláš.

Natural Tokaj wine is made from unsorted berries, i.e. a mixture of healthy and cibeb (raisin-like) berries. The proportion of cijeb depends on the weather in a given year. In worse vintages, a dry natural wine with a residual sugar content of up to 10 g/l is produced, in better years, natural wine can be sweet with a sugar content above 10 g/l, usually 30-60 g/l. Oxidative maturation in barrels that are not completely full is typical for natural wines. The wine is separated from the air only by a layer of yeast, which contributes to the distinctive color, taste and aroma of these wines. Traditionally, native wines are aged for at least 2 years, of which at least one year in a wooden barrel. From the 2016 vintage, the aging time in the barrel was reduced to 6 months.

An exceptional category are selected wines from Tokaj , called "aszú". They are made by adding a precise amount of cibeb to cider or wine. The amount of cibes is measured in putnias (approximately 25 kg of cibes) and added to a 136-liter barrel, the so-called goons. According to the number of putni cijeb per barrel, selected wines are designated as 3-6 putni. The more it travels, the sweeter and more concentrated the wine. In the past, there were also 1-2 travel selections, but they have not been produced since 1997.

The production of Tokaj selections underwent a significant change in 2013. Instead of the putna system, 4 categories were introduced according to the residual sugar content - 60, 90, 120 and 150 g/l, which corresponds to approximately 3-6 putna selections. The name "aszú" is reserved only for the highest category with 150 g/l of sugar and more, up to the limit of 450 g/l, where the Tokaj essence begins . As with native wines, select wines are aged oxidatively in partially full barrels. They are traditionally matured for at least 3 years, of which at least 2 in wood. After 2013, the aging time in the barrel was reduced to 18 months.

The real pearl among Tokaj wines is the Tokaj essence . It is produced by the slow fermentation of samotok - pure juice that spontaneously flowed from the ground seeds under its own weight. This is an extremely rare and expensive product. To produce 1 liter of essence, up to 3 tons of cijeb are needed, which corresponds to the harvest of 10 hectares of vineyards! Due to the high sugar content (400-900 g/l), fermentation takes place very slowly, on the order of 1% alcohol per year. The result is a drink with an alcohol content of 4-6%, with hundreds of grams of residual sugar and an almost oily consistency. The essence matures for at least 3 years, of which 2 years in barrel. The lifespan of Tokaj essence is practically unlimited, with proper storage it can last for hundreds of years.

Other interesting Tokaj specialties are " forditáš " and " mášláš ". Forditáš is created by pouring must or wine on matoliny (presses) from the seeds, while mášláš is created by pouring it on the yeast sludge that remained after the production of selection or native. Wines enriched in this way acquire a more pronounced bouquet and taste. Currently, they are not sold commercially, but many small family wineries still produce them for their own consumption.

In recent years, more modern Tokaj specialties have appeared, which combine traditional Tokaj varieties with new production methods. Tokaj ice wine was first produced in 1999 at Chateau Pajzos in Hungary. It uses the classic method of making ice wine in combination with Tokaj varieties. Thanks to growing demand, the production of Tokaj ice wine has increased significantly in recent years.

In Slovakia, we find the tradition of producing Tokaj straw wine . It is a straw wine production method applied to Tokaj grape varieties. After destemming, the grapes are left to dry on straw or mats, which concentrates the sugars and produces a sweet, distinctive wine with an unmistakable character.

Also interesting are Tokaj appellation wines , which use Tokaj varieties in combination with the classic system of attributes. In Hungary, these wines are usually labeled as "késöi szüretélésü" (literally translated means late harvest ), in Slovakia a similar labeling system is used as in the Czech Republic. Some Hungarian late harvests can only match our selection from berries and selection from cjeb in quality of cider.

Finally, we must not forget the unique Tokaj specialty Vinum Tokajense Passum , also known as Stanza Eszencia. It is a Tokaj delicacy, unfermented sweet essence with several hundred grams of "residual" sugar. Until the middle of the 20th century, this alcohol-free essence from cijeb was sold only in pharmacies as a wine product beneficial to health. Currently, most of the production is imported from Japan, where it is distributed as a natural food supplement to prevent civilization diseases. This product is characterized by an oily consistency and a distinct taste of cijeb.

Tokaj wines are famous for their long shelf life. Choice wines and essences can mature and develop for tens to hundreds of years if properly stored. There are known cases of Tokaj wines that were in excellent condition even 200-300 years after harvest. Of course, the potential for long-term aging depends on the quality of the vintage, care during production and the right storage conditions.

Whether it is dry native, sweet 6-putna selections or a rare essence, Tokaj wines offer an unforgettable taste experience. They are the embodiment of careful human work in perfect harmony with favorable natural conditions. Each bottle hides a piece of history and reflects the mind of Tokaj winemakers, who have honed their craft for centuries. Tasting genuine Tokaj wine means touching this living tradition and feeling the pride and humility with which Tokaj winemakers approach their mission.