Wine collectors brace yourself, as the rarest of Hungarian Tokaji wines has been released today. Just in case this occasion passes you by, this is only the sixth vintage since 1990 when the Royal Tokaji company was founded by Hugh Johnson after the fall of communism. The other vintages are 1993, 1999, 2000, 2003 and 2007.
It is not just the richest but also the rarest of Hungarian Tokaji wines, which makes it a collector's wine all around the world. Only the best 'A' grade Aszu grapes, that have been raisined by botrytis, are used – from Furmint, Harslevelű and Yellow Muscat grapes.
Royal Tokaji's winemaker describes the 2008 Essencia as: 'Fresh, ripe peach on the nose with complex honeyed, spicy, ginger notes and background presence of botrytis. Full but graceful to taste, intensely concentrated, rich and sweet, balanced with taut acidity.'
Once picked and pressed, the free-run juice is taken to deep cellars where a very slow, stop-start fermentation takes place. In the case of the 2008 vintage, that’s fermentation happened between November 2008 and May 2016. The result is a highly concentrated, intensely sweet, thickly textured 'wine' with an abv of less than 2%, and a minimum sugar content requirement of 450g/litre.
High acidity, however, means it can age for centuries.
The 2008 vintage, being described by the company as 'one of the greatest vintages in living memory', was characterised by a cool and wet September, which delayed the ripening of the grapes and provided the perfect conditions for botrytis to develop.
At harvest the grapes, which by now have lost 80% of their natural weight, are picked individually with scissors and less than 1kg will be harvested in an hour. To make a 37.5cl bottle of Essencia about 20kgs of berries will be needed. That works out at approximately 6-8lbs of grape over 7.5 years, to get one spoonful of the Essencia.
Royal Tokaji Essencia is served by the (crystal) spoon in UK restaurants like La Petite Maison, Plateau, Orrery and Galvin La Chapelle. The 2008 Essencia will be available from select retailers including BB&R and Farr Vintners, with an RRP of £391.25 (37.5cl bottle).