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Royal Tokaji on premium push

The Royal Tokaji Wine Company is attempting to raise the profile of Tokaji with an emphasis on exports as well as single vineyard sweet and dry wines.

The Royal Tokaji 2007 Single Vineyard collection which will retail in the UK for £400-450

In particular, as part of a drive to increase international sales of its aszú wines made from shriveled late-harvest berries, the operation is reducing its reliance on the domestic market and pulling its Blue Label – a five puttonyos aszú – out of the Hungarian off-trade altogether.

According to the company’s Charlie Mount, such a decision was due to both discounting on Tokaji in Hungary’s competitive retail market as well as limitations on the supply of the aszú berries.

“We don’t want to deal with people who are just looking for the next discount,” he told db.

“We are pulling out of that, so this year our sales of Blue Label will fall by three-quarters,” he added.

He explained that this would release supply for 2014 onwards for more profitable markets such as the UK, USA and Scandinavia, as well as new markets such as Taiwan and Mainland China.

Mount also admitted that The Royal Tokaji Wine Company was “facing a whole” in terms of stock from 2016 onwards at the current rate of sale.

This is because the conditions were not conducive for the production of aszú grapes in 2010, 2011 or last year – the berries need a combination of botrytis and wind to shrivel and dry the grapes (aszú means dried in Hungarian).

Comparing the difficulties of producing Tokaji Aszú with Sauternes, Mount said, “2012 was the first vintage skipped by Château d’Yquem in 20 years, but we haven’t made an aszú for three years in a row.”

Continuing he pointed out that when it comes to aszú wines, “You can’t make a bad vintage, because if the conditions aren’t right, you don’t get the Aszú berries.”

Due to the tiny yields of under 10 hl/ha for Tokaji Aszú, as well as infrequency of aszú vintage releases, Mount believes the region’s produce is underpriced (The Royal Tokaji 6 Puttonyos “Gold Label” sells for under £30 per 50cl bottle).

However, as previously reported by db, the company is hoping to increase the prices and recognition for the region’s top wines by focusing on single vineyard offerings.

Indeed, the producer is about to ship a collection comprising 6 Puttonyos Tokaji Aszús from its “first growth” vineyards of Mézes Mály, Nyulászó, Szt. Tamás and Betsek, as well as one from the Birsalmás vineyard along with a bottle of its Gold Label blend.

Royal Tokaji dry furmint

Just 300 collections have been produced containing wines from the 2007 vintage, and each one comes in a black lacquered wooden case.

According to Mount, 70 collections were sold pre-release through UK fine wine merchant Farr Vintners (for £280 in bond), while the rest of the boxes will go to the US, continental Europe, and Taiwan, with the latter country taking as many as 100 boxes.

Royal Tokaji plan to repeat the collection with the 2009 vintage, a year when the producer also made its first single vineyard dry wine from the 19-hectare Mezes Maly site, followed by a 2010 vintage, which has just been released with a 2000 bottle production.

“Mezes Maly is now standing above others for dry wines as well,” said Mount.

The single vineyard dry wine, which is made entirely from the Furmint grape and aged in 100% new oak, won’t be made every year and sells for around £20 a bottle.

“Furmint is gaining a following,” said Mount, although he added, “But the world isn’t crying out for single vineyard Furmint.”

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