Hello there! I'm Dr. Vinifera, or "Vinny" for short. Ask me your toughest wine questions, from the technical aspects of winemaking to the fine points of etiquette. I hope you find my answers educational and even amusing. Looking for a particular answer? Check my archive and my FAQs. You can also follow me on Twitter: @AskDrVinny.
Dear Dr. Vinny,
What is the meaning of the numbers 3 through 6 in the names of Hungarian Tokaji? Is it a measure of sweetness? I notice that the higher the number, the more expensive is that vintage of Tokaji.
—John P., San Francisco
Yes, that number on a bottle of Tokaji, which ranges from three to six, is directly related to the wine’s level of sweetness. Three is sweet, and six is really, really sweet. Originally, the number referred to the number of puttonyos, or buckets, of sweet botrytis-affected grapes called aszú that were added to a dry wine. The more that were added, the sweeter the final wine would be.
The days of counting buckets have passed, so now the number refers to the wine’s residual sugar. Three puttonyos means a minimum of 60 grams per liter of residual sugar, all they way up to the 6 puttonyos classification, which refers to a minimum of 150 grams per liter of residual sugar. If that’s not enough residual sugar for you, you should keep an eye out for bottlings marked “Eszencia,” which are made entirely from aszú grapes. These are some of the rarest and most expensive bottles of wine in the world.
You’re also correct that there is a direct correlation between the sweetness and the price of a Tokaji. Making wines with botrytis comes with a set of risks and expenses, but if you ever get a chance to try it, it’s pure nectar.
Do you have a question for Dr. Vinny? Ask it here...
Learn to taste wine like a pro, pull a cork with flair, get great wine service in a restaurant and more
Learn from the experts and get the most out of each sip. Take one of our online courses or take them all—from the ABCs of Tasting to in-depth seminars on Food Pairing, California Cabernet, Bordeaux, Tuscany, Sensory Evaluation and more.
Passionate about wine? Wine Spectator magazine is looking for an enthusiastic copy editor in the New York office.
Sips & Tips | Wine & Healthy Living
Video Theater | Collecting & Auctions
New! Ratings Flash