|Other Harvest News:|
|Rainy Weather Dampens Prospects for Germany's 2002 Harvest|
|Loire Valley Producers Have Low Yields, High Expectations|
|2002 Harvest in Spain Marked by Cool Weather and Low Yields|
|2002 Reds and Whites Show Promise in New York's Finger Lakes|
|Hot Summer and Early Harvest Bode Well for Long Island|
|With a Near-Perfect Harvest, Burgundy May Have Its Long-Awaited Vintage|
|Despite August Floods, Austrian Winemakers Are Optimistic About 2002|
|Alsace Begins Harvest With Warm Weather and High Hopes|
|Pacific Northwest Harvest Shows Promise|
|Harvest Runs Smoothly in California's North Coast|
|2002 Champagne Harvest May Be Vintage Quality|
|Deluge Hits Southern Rhône, Languedoc at Start of Harvest|
|After Assessing Hail Damage, Few Barolo Producers Expect to Harvest Crop This Year|
|Hail in Piedmont Dashes Hopes of 2002 Barolo|
|Austrian Growers Suffer Heavy Rain, Floods|
|California's Bittersweet 2002 Harvest|
|Hailstorms Wreak Havoc in Italy's Vineyards|
Winemakers in Hungary's Tokay region were ecstatic on Nov. 3, which dawned with a bright sun, clear skies, light breezes and fairly mild temperatures. After damp, very rainy weather during the second half of September and most of October, they finally had optimal conditions for producing botrytized grapes for one of the world's great sweet wines, Tokay Aszú. However, bone-chilling temperatures set in that evening, and by the next morning, snow had covered the ground.
Despite the rain and snow, which fell before several top wineries had completed their harvests, the 2002 vintage could prove to be a very good one for Tokay Aszú (made by allowing Botrytis cinerea, or noble rot, to develop on grapes and concentrate their sugars) as well as other late-harvest Tokay wines, even dry ones.
"The advantages this year are that we had a warm spring, with flowering occurring about a week earlier than usual, and then a very long, hot and dry summer with temperatures hitting 96 degrees F," said László Mészáros, managing director of Disznókö winery.
"The first grapes picked after the onset of morning mists in early September were very ripe with good sugar content, Mészáros continued. "There was very fine botrytis on the Aszú grapes, although they did not necessarily have a lot of acidity. Still, they were some of the best we ever picked -- almost comparable to those of the classic 1993 and 1999 vintages."
The Zéta and Muscat grapes -- both early-ripening, aromatic varieties used in blending Aszú wines -- showed straightforward success in early September. But the real powerhouse varieties, Furmint and Hárslevelü, which often show their best fruit and acidity characteristics later in the season, are being put to the test.
"The rains have affected everything," said Isabelle Walderdorff, an owner of Füleky winery. "Yet, the Aszú grapes we picked in October and early November have much better flavors than those we gathered in September, because there was more time to ripen."
Walderdorff added that yields for the grapes used in Aszú are much lower this year. That was due partly to the hot, dry summer that resulted in small berries and partly to the fall rains.
Intensive grape selection had to be carried out this year, emphasized Sarolta Bárdos, enologist at Gróf Degenfeld winery. "Too much rain can be bad for the botrytized grapes, because the flavors can be diluted and even 'bad' fungi and bacteria, like penicillium and gray rot, can appear on them as well," she explained. "So we had to be very, very selective with each and every grape."
Renowned winemaker István Szepsy, whose own winery produces mainly the very sweet 6 puttonyos ("puttonyos" indicates the level of the wine's natural sugar) Aszú, believes that the 2002 vintage overall is "not excellent, but looks good."
However, with many of his vineyards situated high on hillsides exposed to winds that dry the botrytized berries, Szepsy insisted there still is a chance of greatness to come. "In the special terroirs of my Lapis, Úrágya and Szepsy vineyards, for example, the grapes often survive all weather conditions to become botrytized by the end of November, sometimes even in December. This year, I can expect perhaps just one or two barrels from these areas -- but they will be the absolute cream of the crop."
Sips & Tips | Wine & Healthy Living
Video Theater | Collecting & Auctions