Tokaji Essencia – or commonly known throughout history – the wines of the kings.
Tokaji is considered the rarest and richest wine in Hungary and has a long, intricate and popular wine history since its very beginning.
So what is about this wine that makes it so unique and admired?
Tokaji Essencia is an immensely sweet wine, specifically from the region of Tokaji, Hungary on the North-eastern most part of the country. Although many countries have mimicked the wine, the standard, and methods are almost exclusive to this area. The grapes used in Essencia are Aszu berries’ free run juice. The grapes are often handpicked to ensure only the best are used in production. The focal point of the grapes is the development of noble rot, which can push the residual sugar up to 85% and leaving the fermentation process to last anything from 2 to 8 years. After fermentation and bottling, this wine can last for centuries. This truly makes this wine incredibly intricate, unique and loved among many.
The appreciation for this wine was first evident in the 1700’s when the first ever appellation system created was specifically created for this wine. The system classified the wine into first, second and third class according to soil, sun and noble rot of the vines. This appellation system was founded more than 100 years before the system in Bordeaux.
Other than that, throughout history in sections across the globe, the mention of this wine was documented by authors, musicians, monarchs, and philosophers. Since sugar and alcohol were such high commodities – especially in France – these wines were like liquid gold to most people throughout history. In the centuries to follow, Hungary became a hugely popular destination with monarchs all over the world in search of this wine. And it is with good reason that this wine was so sought after.
Modern-day Essencia tends to be complex beyond comprehension. The liquid is thick with common aromas of honey, citrus, blossoms, and peach. What captures most consumers are the layers of apricot, caramel, and orange flavors that linger on the palate. Because of the sweetness of the wine, it is often only consumed in small amounts (a tablespoon at most.) In fact, it is commonly served in a crystal spoon. The crystal spoon is a significant expression of the wine’s rarity and status. One might be surprised that often they will only have 2% alcohol yet with perfect balance able to live so long.
With the production of Essencia, only a few thousand bottles of each vintage are produced and released and it may only be a few vintages every decade that are able to produce it. The wine did suffer in the 20th century largely due to the communist regime that lasted well into the 1990’s and inhibited private producers and prevented the exportation of these wines. Only in recent years did the world get to experience the magic of this wine with its revival in quality and exposure on the world stage..
Essencia is often served alongside desserts that are slightly more savory to balance out the sweetness of the wine but one can argue that this wine should be dessert on to itself and thus does not need an accompaniment. Although the wine has a hefty price on it, most would agree that it is a price worth paying for the extraordinary experience that lays in the crystal spoon. With a long and ever-prestigious history, this wine should be something tried at least once in a lifetime.