Patrick d’Aulan of Château Dereszla in Hungary’s Tokaj region was in the United States on vacation and stopped by our office to show me the latest releases of the estate’s two Eszencias.
Both are from the superb 2000 vintage, a year d’Aulan calls “one of the best vintages of the last century,” and along with 1993, the best contemporary vintage since the fall of the Communist-controlled production there.
“It’s very important for me [to release the wines now]—as we are new—to wait and make it perfect, especially since Eszencia is the quintessence of Tokaj and the vintage,” he said.
In 2000, after a very hot summer, rain in September and the beginning of October set the stage for the formation of botrytis, the benevolent fungus that attacks and shrivels the grapes. The resultant grapes, called Aszú berries, are essential to the production of the sweet Tokaji wines.
“Nature gave us in 2000 this perfect combination of ripeness and freshness,” noted d’Aulan.
The Tokaji Aszú Eszencia Imperium 2000 ($130/375ml) was made from blending the Aszú berries with dry white wine. After macerating for 14 days, it was aged for 22 months in French barriques before bottling in 2003. It’s a selection of the best lots from the estate vineyards.
It exhibited rich, complex, yet fresh aromas of apricot and orange marmalade, vanilla and spices. An orange peel tanginess and lively acidity was in harmony with the sweetness and thick texture. A picture of power and finesse, it ended with a lingering, savory quality.
The Tokaji Eszencia 2000 ($300/250ml) comes from parcels of the oldest vines (60- to 70-years-old) in a five-acre vineyard. Rather than blending Aszú berries with dry wine, this is simply the free run juice from botrytis-affected grapes. Thus, it contains a whopping 685 grams per liter of residual sugar versus the 320 for the Imperium. In contrast to the Imperium, the Eszencia is fermented in glass containers.
More nectar than wine, the Eszencia offers the essence of apricot with hints of orange and smoke. It’s thick and viscous on the palate, dissipating ever so gradually with a gracefulness aided by the fresh acidity. Very pure and concentrated, it’s balanced and refined, with mineral emerging on the finish.
D’Aulan, whose mother is Austrian, grew up drinking Tokaji and he dreamed of one day owning a winery there. The Tokaj region and its wines are steeped in history, and now the future for this distinctive area looks bright again.
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