The three most popular grapes of the Tokaj Wine Region, the Furmint, Hárslevelű and Sárgamuskotály, are all products of natural hybridization, which can be a hundred, or even a thousand year long process. The potential ancestors of these grapes can nowadays be pinpointed via the assistance of modern genetic research. The origins of Zéta, a grape type that is grown in the smaller regions, are known to us, however: Dr. Ferenc Király and his colleagues created Zéta by crossing Furmint and Bouvier in 1951, in Pécs. It’s a sort of „half-sibling” to the Zengő, Zenit and Zeusz types. The grape previously known as Oremus was later renamed in 1999 due to it having the same name as a vineyard in Sátoraljaújhely. Its new name was declared Zéta, which was inspired by a hero of a novella written by Géza Gárdonyi. The goal of the grape breeding agenda was to take the qualities of the popular, late maturing white grapes like Ezerjó and Furmint, and transfer them into early maturing and safer grape types. The early maturing is thanks to the usage of Bouvier: the french-sounding name is that of Clotar Bouvier, a grape breeder, who most likely developed the Bouvier type based on a grape discovered in current-day Slovenia in 1900, through further cross breeding.
Out of all the Zéta that was approved by the state in 1990, only 34 hectares were being tended to in the year 1999 in the Tokaj Region. At the start of the 2000s, a rapid development of growth started and today, Zéta is planted on nearly 100 hectares in the region. From a viticultural standpoint, it’s much more demanding than Furmint or Hárslevelű when it comes to the greenwork. It produces many sprouts, and its hidden buds break out frequently on the stems of the vine. The timely removal of these unnecessary parts are vital to maintaining a breezy and loose foliage.
The maturity is at least 10 days, often two whole weeks or more in relativity to the Furmint’s time of maturing. Given the potentially wild autumn weather, this can very often make or break a harvest season. Even without the presence of aszú, it can still be considered as a late harvest grape before the autumn rains arrive around here. If aszú is indeed present, however, its stuffed clusters go through the process quite evenly and in a balanced fashion, therefore, the collection of aszú berries can be rather quick. The berries attacked by Botrytis are prone to falling off the stem of the cluster, and so it so important to harvest the Zéta aszú very carefully. Both the late harvest and the Zéta aszú are quite concentrated in terms of taste, carrying a rich, honey-like palette of aroma, which of course applies to most of the sweet wines created from it. The only disadvantage of the type may be its relatively low average acid levels. It is for this reason that many recommend combining it with the much more acidic Furmint after an especially hot summer and autumn.
translated by Áron Várhelyi
Although there are more than 200 grape varieties called Muscat, a majority of them aren’t actually related to Sárgamuskotály or the Muscats of Alexandria or Ottonel. When it comes to the ancient origin, popularity and intense smell of a grape, Sárgamuskotály is and always will be the absolute winner.
„Muskotály” is one of the few words in our language. The persian word muchk, or the Greek moschos, Latin muscus, French musc, English musk and the Hungarian mósusz are referring to a material known since ancient times as an aphrodisiac, its main source being the sexual secretions of a hoofed animal called the musk deer, which makes its home in South-East Asia. Since the extreme hunting of the animal from the 1970s, the musk deer are considered a vulnerable species, therefore the material is mostly artifically produced for the perfume industry nowadays. The smell and the rare perfume-like scent of the Muscat types reminded many wine-makers and consumers of an especially valuable perfume. When it comes to Muscat, it was referred to in around 1230, later to be described in French texts. In the sense of Yellow Muscat it was first mentioned in 1304, found in an Italian source of transcripts.
One widespread – but never confirmed – theory suggests that Sárgamuskotály originates from Ancient Greece and made its way to Rome by the way of traders and merchants. The romans later brought it to the mediterranian areas of France, where it grew to be recognised as Muscat de Frontignan, Muscat (de) Lunel. Genetic research proves its relation to Greek varieties, alongside an obvious parent-offsping relation to the Muscat of Alexandria and several other Muscats. The “official” name of the grape in France is “Muscat Blanc à Petits Grains” (small-berried white muscat).
When exposed to the sun, its bulky clusters are made up of small, yellow, then rust-brown colored berries, which take place either loosely or quite close together. Yellow spikes on the edge of its older leaves separate it from other Tokaj varieties. Younger shoots and leaves also emit its familiar scent when rubbed together, making this grape type clearly special.
It’s considered one of the more difficult grapes to grow when it comes to viticulture. It creates multiple, but not as intensively growing shoots. Its hidden offshoots also break out occasionally, becoming a necessity to remove them in order to create a loose foliage. The shoots don’t grow upwards as much as Furmint or Hárslevelű, therefore it becomes vital to keep them as much inbetween the wiring as possible. It’s recommended to use the Guyot-method, one of the more popular cultivation methods of this grape, instead of the other cordon-based cultivation style. The skin of the berries can easily get “scorched” if exposed to a large amount of sunlight, creating slight amounts of scar tissue on the fruit. It’s quite susceptible to acetic rot, especially after a large amount of rainfall, making the berries blister and puff up, tightening to each other before eventually bursting. Its fruit is well-liked by hornets, wasps, deer and boar as well. Being a naturally good sugar collector, it makes for great aszú material. It is mostly used for creating products for fresh consumption and making nicely scented dry wines, although its unique taste palette can be used for producing late-harvest or even aszú wine from Sárgamuskotály.
Its flavours’ primary components are terpene compounds (monoterpenes), which are primary aroma components found in the ripe berries themselves. Due to consumers usually lacking the experience in tasting the original musk, its scent is usually associated with a “grape’s fruit scent”, or perhaps a rose’s flowery smell. Other grape varieties have also proven to emit the muscat-like scent (such as Chasselas) and the Gewürztramini’s special taste is also thanks to terpene compounds. The preservation of the primary aroma is the most challenging factor of working with this grape, since these valuable substances are quite sensitive to high temperature and oxidation. In past years, the dry, elegantly scented, relatively low-alcohol wines’ fruits are usually harvested at the end of a hot August, or an early September. During these times, an early morning picking and the cooling of the berries – before the processing of the fruit – is a great way to preserve the natural scent and taste substances.
Sárgamuskotály is the most popular muscat in terms of planted areas in the world. It’s grown on 7620 hectares in France (2009), 13280 in Italy (2010), 713 in Spain (2008), 693 in Portugal (2010) and 647 hectares in our “slightly more competitive” home country of Hungary (2008). 486 hectares of the total are to be found in the Tokaj Region, according to recent statistical data (2018, HNT). Its oldest mention is from 1570 as “Muskotal”, although, like the other types grown in the region, it regained popularity after the replantation following the phylloxera swarm. It is most likely the oldest grape type produced in the Carpathian basin, being a great base for the rich wines made around Somló, the Mátra and the Balatonboglár regions as well.
A tokaji Malomfeli-dűlő legmagasabban fekvő tábláiból szüreteltük a szépen beérett, illatos szőlőfajtát. A bort az elsődleges - fajtából eredő - illatanyagok és aromák legtökéletesebb megőrzése céljából tartályban erjesztettük. Palackozására 2021. áprilisában került sor.
Ebben a - teljesen száraz - változatban igazi ritkaság.
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száraz | dry / 0,75l
alkohol | alcohol: 12,87%
maradékcukor | residual sugar: 0,7 g/l
sav | acidity: 6,7 g/l
készült | bottled: 1332 palack | bottles
nébih engedélyszám: IHZE
édes késői szüret | sweet late harvest / 0,75l
alkohol | alcohol: 12,72%
maradékcukor | residual sugar: 77,2 g/l
sav | acidity: 6,14 g/l
készült | bottled: 2319 palack | bottles
Október első hetében szüreteltük az aranysárgára érett, gyönyörű fürtöket ehhez az illatos, buja borhoz.
Az erjedés nyugodtan ment végbe a tartályban, melyben további idejét is töltötte egészen a palackozásig.
Jelentős természetes maradékcukor tartalma mellé tartalmas ízvilág is társul, melyet kiemel és sokáig frissen tartanak szép savai is.
Illatában természetesen a muskotály fajtajelleg, a finoman megjelenő bodzavirág és citrusok viszik a prímet, de halványan egy kis vanília is felsejlik.
BORTESZ | Ripka Gergely-Tokaj Guide / 2020. június
"Szappanos, erős, intenzív muskotály jegyek tobzódnak illatában. Ízben szép édesség, behízelgő, nőies karakter, tiszta zamatosság, bukés jelleget áraszt minden irányból. Mégis hosszú ívű korty, tiszta utóíz, szép lecsengés. Halványabb 6"
BORTESZT | PÉCSI BOROZÓ / 2019. tél
"Virágok, rózsa és jázmin plusz némi fekete tea. Jó cukor és sav arány. Gazdag ízek, hosszasan tartó zamatosság, érett és aszalt gyömölcsök dominálnak" 88/100 pont
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There are varying accounts regarding its origins. Based on historical and linguistic evidence, the most common theories claim french, italian or syrmian sources, although its diversity with many subvarieties located on Tokaj-Hegyalja claim the region to be the source. The most recent genetic research claims that its parents are the Gouais blanc and the Alba imputato, the natural cross-breeding of the two being the result of it appearing until the 16th century.
Taxonomy dictates that the grape is a subtype, specifically belonging to the pontian subgroup, of the common grape vine (Vitis vinifera). Along with the currently grown White Furmint, collections preserve the Red and the Variable Furmint types as well. The latter receives its name from the berries’ early green colours changing into red, then shifting into a shade between greenish to golden yellow, not unlike the White Furmint.
Ampelography is the discipline which works with the detailed description of grape types. I won’t delve into the Furmint’s total ampelographical explanations here, but I’ll mention some of the more significant details; first, its upright sprouting system greatly helps regarding the ’green-work’ of the grape, which consists of the shearing and other handiwork up until the harvest arrives. Thanks to the fact that the shoots growing from the buds grow vertically upwards, the foliage are much easier and convenient to maintain, at least compared to other unruly and spreading types (such as Sárgamuskotály). The Furmint’s shoots also fortunately tend to stay nestled inbetween the wiring that keeps the foliage together. Later on, the first tendrils above the clusterzone twist around the wires, ensuring that the shoots are safe from being blown out or simply broken by a stronger wind. The leaves’ edges are serrated yet lacy, its teeth rather pointy, therefore with some experience it may be told apart from the Hárslevelű’s lacy, rather round and dull teeth.
The stamp of the 1972 I. World Wine Competition held in Budapest. A stylized Furmint cluster and leaves hide behind a popular aszú bottle, the background showing Tokaj and its traditionally cultivated vineyards from the other side of the Tisza. The stamp was made by József Vertel, one of the most employed hungarian stamp designers. Note the berries’ differing hues, potentially indicating overtly ripened grapes or even the appearance of aszú.
Regarding its ripening tendencies, it is considered a late type, placing its harvest to the second half of October. In its complete ripeness it appears greenish yellow and, if exposed to the sun, a distinct golden yellow hue. The most important qualities include defined acid and high alcohol contents in the balanced overcropped plantations, but also a high susceptibility to shrinking and therefore ’aszú-ification’. Although the Furmint doesn’t have any characteristic primary aromas (let’s mention the muskotály type as a counter-example and as Irsai Olivér), during the process of fermentation the secondary flavours can include apple, pear, peach, white flowers and other similar evocative qualities. Most Furmint enjoy being fermented in oakwood, which ensures tertiary aromas to enrich its already versatile taste.
Ripened clusters, also beginning to show signs of aszú. Furmint is susceptible to ’scrubbiness’, meaning that if the badly fertilized, small (runt) berries find majority on a cluster, it can significantly decrease the yield of the grapes. The left image, however, shows the positive side of this phenomenon, providing healthier, looser clusters, which are more suitable for creating dry wine. The large, stuffy, blistery berries on the right image (Hólyagos Furmint) are much more susceptible to aszú.
The variety identifying as a "Hungaricum" is located on around 4000 hectares in the country, most of it being in the Tokaj Wine Region itself. The most recent data suggests that out of the 5603 total hectares 3726 (67%) is home to its most significant grape.
It’s also on the list of traditionally grown grapes in many other regions, such as the Somló Region and around Pécs and Balaton, amongst several others. The Sopron Region has contained much of its plantations some time ago but today it has almost completely disappeared from there. Beyond our borders it is widely represented in Slovenia, Croatia, Slovakia and Austria.
translated by Áron Várhelyi
The rapidly changing natural and economical environment poses multiple challenges to our current grape-producers and winemakers – global warming and the quarantine caused by Covid-19 and its drastic changes in everyday life represent such challenges. Located in Tarcal, the Tokaj Wine Region’s Research Institute for Viticulture and Oenology handles several grapegrowing region’s research while also exclusively dealing with Tokaj’s wine related topics as well. In the following article, I’ll briefly describe the Institute’s activities and elaborate on more of them in the coming few months.
The Tokaj Wine Region is home to a unique structure of varieties. Out of its six allowed the most dominant is Furmint, which – most likely originating from the region itself – is the most common plantation in Tokaj-Hegyalja. The multifarious Furmint’s „clones” – artifically propagated types – require constant preservation and research; the same can be said about Hárslevelű, a similar ’hungarikum’. Along with other older, hungarian grape varieties, the above two are preserved in a single hectare Variety Collection on the Szarvas-vineyard, located in Tarcal and available to analysation. In order to keep up the spectrum of variety, my colleagues located close to five hundred old, valuable vines across the Tokaj Region. These will eventually be reproduced to grow the collection – after years of research, of course.
Our plant protection expert utilises an automated meteorological station to help warn us against the dangers of insects and infections which could harm our vineyards; along the „traditional” illnesses, including powdery mildew and other types of mildew, each year presents new issues to our grapes, like black rot or even invasive ladybugs. Protection against these is one of our most important tasks. However, our region has a special connection to the so-called gray rot, since in the correct conditions, this fungus, called Botrytis cinerea can produce noble rot – which means the appearance of precious aszú.
The production of healthy and delicious grapes begins from the ground up and the original roots of our desired species – the subject – are also highly important. In order to protect against phylloxera, our European species are planted onto North-American species, which are located just below the ground under the vines. Certain rootstocks ensure protection against dryness, while others can speed up or slow down the process of ripening. Choosing the ideal rootstock variety is as important as the soil’s nutrient contents, the well-being of the soil-microbes’ community and preserving the structure of the ground, which is tended to by our colleague expertising in soil science and nutrient management.
We’re currently making our first moves in two vital areas: the highly resistant grapetypes’ newest generation is appearing today in several vineyards. In about 20-30 years, they will become a topic of much discussion and study regarding the evaluation of them as „Tokaji” wine and cross-breeding them with other types and species. Geographic information systems and automatisation represent the precision-based area of the winemaking field, although these systems are still not as widespread as the large-scale production of plants. Despite this, the sight of drones and harvesting machines might be an everyday sight in Tokaj’s future vineyards.
Our new microbiology and wine lab serves the Tokaj Region’s winemakers with high quality instruments and tools, since every step in the process of winemaking requires the appropriate analytical studies, which are required high quality production. These studies include the research of different strains of yeast found in Tokaj’s cellars, the different treatments’ effects on the nature of wines and older grapes’ microvinification; growing these in extremely small amounts. Ecological grapegrowing and organic winemaking – producing organic grapes and wine – requires the thorough and precise study of all of the above fields and demands a sort of „system theory” from the winemaker. We consider not only the gathering of information on these topics to be important, but also passing them down to the next generation and providing them with experience and knowledge of the past.
translated by Áron Várhelyi