All Hungarian tasters have some idols from Tokaj. You just cannot escape falling in love with some aszús on the way. But we always wondered how these idols show their class when tasted blind. We also wondered if we are able to tell good aszús from excellent aszús apart, and frankly, I also wondered if a pecking order may exist. So we emptied our wallets, our pockets, and checked the suits hanging in the gardrobe in order to pick up the most memorable aszús from our cellars, added some benchmark wines, and had a blind tasting. This is how it went:
We chose 3 wines from the EdAlc which scored the maximum of 10 points in the history of the blog: Disznókő 6 puttonyos aszú 1999, Kapi vineyard, plus the Oremus 6 puttonyos aszú 1999 selection, and the Oremus 2000. These wines have scored maximum points a few years ago (just as some other great aszú wines did, but you cannot include everything you would like.) You can find the notes of this retasting by the current blog editors here. (Yes, it is in Hungarian, sorry about that, please use Google translate, or any other service to obtain more info.)
Disznókő 6 puttonyos aszú 1999, Kapi Vineyard (21.900 HUF, cca. 80 EUR, Présház)
This wine is a 6 puttonyos aszú from the Kapi vineyard of Disznókő, one of the leading wineries of Tokaj-Hegyalja. This vineyard selection aszú has been made since 1993, the latest one being just released from vintage 2005. These vintages seem to pride on high acidity, so you are advised to lay these wines for a while, but you may also hope they will last long.
Disznókő is releasing this product only in years like 1999 and 2005, as far as I know, so they will probably not look friendly at first sight. In other vintages you have to settle with their domain aszú, not a secondary choice by any chance.
Amber colour, slightly deep, still looks pretty young. A very reserved nose with lots of dried apricots, a compulsory note in botrytis wines, also some orange marmalade, plus some herbal notes in the background with a vegetal hint of tomato stalks, something I rarely observe, but truly like in aszús. I suppose it is a possible footprint of barrel ageing.
Really lively in the mouth, vivid acidity makes the body float around lightly. (Quite a deed with cca. 200 grams of residual sugar per litre.) Citrus fruits and dried apricots dominate the flavour profile.
A very well composed wine, with a surprisingly “light” mouthfeel, where all parts fit together nicely, but very reserved for me at the moment. It still reaches up to 93 points with me, though I hoped for a slightly more intense experience. As it still has its time to run, and time could round off the acids a bit more, I honestly hope we might meet some time later.
Oremus 6 puttonyos aszú 2000 (16.565 HUF, cca. 60 EUR, Bortársaság)
Another one of the most reliable producers on Tokaj-Hegyalja, probably mentioned fewer times than it deserves.
Amber colour again, slightly lighter than the Kapi, while citrus fruits, namely lemon and orange marmalade dominate the nose. Rosemary shows up in the background, and a solid note of ginger bread appears later on. Impulsive, lean and fruitful, but also relatively reserved for its depth.
A really different taste in the mouth, very intensive, and its primary flavours are all sweet & spicy: fennel, anise, cardamom, with a bit of caramel. Fruits seem to hide somewhere, but noone seems to be lacking them. They seem to have found they part to play on the nose.
Acids seem to be rounder, probably due to the different vintage, but they are doing a fine job on balancing the sugars, the wine is not overly sweet. I really like the structure of this wine, it is smooth, well balanced, and deep at the same time, with a really long aftertaste. 95 points, no doubts on that.
Chateau Dereszla 6 puttonyos aszú 2000 (13.590 HUF, cca. 50 EUR, Monarchia)
A wine of a bit deeper amber colour, moving slowly around in the glass. A dusty nose, probably due to botritys, apple, plus some light chemical notes of nail polish (volatile acidity, some would say, but that would make it look faulty, and it is not faulty by any chance.) Bread crust, you know, that typical, old fashioned stuff from the baker’s, not from the supermarket.
Dried apricots on the palate, stronger acidity, and a considerably larger body. More fruitful taste than the nose suggests. Muscular, broad, intensive, while not overwhelming, not really my type of wine. Definitely shows less than the previous wines tonight. 88 points, or maybe 89, but still short of the 90 point barrier for me. (Note: The other guys have rated this wine higher, reaching the 90 points barrier, not to mention the Wine Spectator’s 96 point score, something that we were unable to reproduce in the evening. I admit that it could possibly do better on its own, but this was Judgement Day.)
Sauska “Harmat” 6 puttonyos aszú 2000 (4.990 HUF, cca. 18 EUR, In Vino Veritas)
The odd competitor for the day, result of an impulse buy. Much cheaper than the legends at 4.990 HUF (cca. 18 EUR), just arrived at a local store, made by a respected winemaker (we guessed János Árvay, winemaker and partner of current owner Krisztián Sauska at the time), absolutely no info from the shop assistant, no info on the internet (??), just fitting the tasting profile… Let us have a go.
Deep gold or rather a light amber colour, and a different nose this time: simple at first, also a bit odd with bread crust, and a hint of glue again, it appears to come of an older school of winemaking, producing more oxidative notes. And then the silence breaks, white flowers blossom, dried apricots appear, and a little bit of smoky bacon makes the wine more appealing now.
The taste is deep, though, and also more intense with apple and peaches, but the acids are lazier here, and sugar claims the driving seat. And I like it, I do like it. I guess some people would like it less, as it is a bit out of the current mainstream, but its merits would probably still be acknowledged. A 90 point wine for me, anyway.
Oremus 6 puttonyos aszú 1999 selection (13.000 HUF, cca. 55 EUR original price, from a friend)
Deep amber colour, and a stop for a deep breath now. This wine hits the glass at full pace, extreme intensity with fresh citrus fruits on the nose, fresh apricot jam, quince, and a bouquet of herbs. Lemon balm, peppermint, a bit of rosamary or perhaps sage, I am getting lost for word, smells, and memories. A hint of dill in the background. Fascinating. Later on it settles for quince and the herbs.
It has the same intensity on the palate, lively, vigorous acids care for an impressive showdown, bringing rich flavours, very much like the nose. They are so comlex and well integrated that escape me a detailed description, though. A 97 point wine for me, probably the best I ever had (or rather, the best I ever had, and was able to appreciate.)
Its younger brother from 2000 shows the way to a possible 100 point aszú – the perfect balance and composure of the 2000 vintage with the intensity and the rich aromas of 1999 aszú would make a truly perfect wine for me. But there are other ways, too, this is just one direction…
I think Oremus 1999 does a great job in describing very directly what is the tokaji aszú capable of, while the Oremus 2000 is friendlier, calmer, more stable wine, that might be better suited for actual drinking and enjoying a great company on a truly special occasion.
Unfortunately the story ends here for the moment, basically due to reaching a budget constraint, but tasting the similar wines of István Szepsy, Zoltán Demeter, and Királyudvar winery would also be on my (very) short list. A regular shortlist would be just too long.