Royal Tokaji Aszú Berries
Aszú is a Hungarian word that literally means “dried” or “shriveled” depending on how you translate it. Aszú berries are grapes that have been shriveled by a combination of “botrytis cinerea,” or “noble rot,” the wind and the heat of the region. Tokaj sits at the confluence of two rivers: the Tisza and the Bodrog. These rivers create a morning mist which creates the perfect conditions for botrytis to develop.
A healthy grape with the effect of botrytis, the sun and the wind will gradually shrivel. It will lose its water content but also the botrytis will alter flavor compounds within the grape. It’s a very expensive way of getting to what we need. Five kilograms (11 pounds) of healthy grapes will become one kilogram (2.2 pounds) of aszú berries.
Sadly, those aszú berries don’t always sit on the same vine. Collecting those berries is a very specialized job. To harvest 10 kilograms (22 pounds) of aszú berries requires one man a days picking, and that’s in a good year.