Top 100 Wineries of 2015: Royal Tokaji
“Since Hugh Johnson and his team swept into Tokaj after the fall of the Berlin Wall, they’ve not just restored the region’s famous sweet wines to their former stature, but also created new possibilities for the region’s varied vineyardswines that could become classics in their own right.
“Old Grape, New Personality: Furmint has long been king of the vineyard in Tokaj, the basis for the region’s late-picked aszú wine. But not all vineyards in Tokaj are suited to sweet wine production; in the past dry furmint was an acquired taste, fiery in alcohol and acidity and oxidized to boot. Royal Tokaji set out to change that with careful farming, obsessive selection to avoid any botrytized berries, and a discreet amount of oak to take the edges off the wine. Their dry furmint consistently has been one of the best examples. The 2013 The Oddity is especially firm and savory; the 2008, from the iron-rich Szt. Tamas vineyard, is still lively and powerful in its stone-fruit flavor and volcanic warmth-an indication of how well dry Tokaji can age.
“Vintage Luck: Great vintage don’t come often in the cool, damp hills of Tokaj, but when they do, the volcanic soils sunny skies and acidic furmint combine to produce some of the most profound, long-lived sweet wines in the world. Royal Tokaji’s 2008 Tokaj aszú 5 Puttonyos-the firm’s basic aszú wine is impeccably balanced between crisp white peach flavors and earthy chamomile notes, a fresh and elegant Tokaji that’s savory enough to pour at a celebratory holiday meal of braised duck and apricots.
“Innovation: As aszú wines account for only a small percentage of Tokaj’s production, former winemaker Károly Áts developed Mad Cuvee, a late-harvest wine. The 2012 his last vintage before passing the baton to his assistant, Fruzsina Osváth is a bargain: While it’s sweet, furmint’s acidity sweeps through the wine like a cool breeze, leaving the palate refreshed rather than coated. The honey notes last, with an underlying savor that brings pairings with cheese to mind. And it’s a fraction of the price of an aszú wine.”