Tokaji: The Best Wine That Too Many People Still Don't Drink


Though its fans are among the most passionate in the world of wine, sweet Tokaji still remains a mystery to the lion’s share of wine consumers. Which is unfortunate, as it is easily among the greatest wines of the world, the best of them up there with Grand Cru Burgundy, First Growth Bordeaux (and Sauternes), and the top appellations of Napa.
Much of this confusion likely has something to do with the production of Tokaji, which differs from other sweet wines in a number of significant ways. (Click here for a primer.) And some of it is the old issue with language: Consumers tend to shy away from wines they have a hard time pronouncing, and the combinations of that silent ‘j’ and the puttonyos grading system perplexes the uninitiated.
It shouldn’t. Because when all is said and done, all that really matters is the wine in the bottle. And truly great Tokaji is among the most profound expressions of what the grape can do anywhere in the world. Below are my tasting notes for two: Both the more familiar sweet style, as well as a dry Tokaji--both of them excellent.
Very interesting nose of grapefruit and something approaching gooseberry--it reminds me, in a number of aromatic ways, of Sauvignon Blanc. But, of course, it’s different than that, with complimentary notes of wax and flowers and very subtle yellow plum complicating it in unexpected ways. Very unique, high-toned flavors of wax, nuts, apricots, and spice are zipped along with mouthwatering acidity, as well as grapefruit and lemon and a distinct minerality, plus a hint of key lime. Fascinating and very food friendly.
An utterly addictive nose of sultanas, apricot, citrus peel and spice lead to spice-kissed flavors of rye bread with apricot preserves, dried and fresh pineapple, apple, honeyed lemon zest, and hay. This is wildly complex, with singing acidity to balance out the sweetness, and a lifespan that promises to extend a decade or more. Wonderful wine, and a steal given all that it delivers for the price.