Royal Tokaji launches 2008 Essencia

Royal Tokaji has launched the 2008 vintage of its Essencia, the sixth vintage produced since the Hungarian producer was founded in 1990.

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Just 2,906 bottles of Royal Tokaji’s 2008 Essencia have been produced

The 2008 vintage was launched with a dinner at the private residence of Damon de Laszlo, shareholder and company director of Royal Tokaji, in London this week.

Of all of the Tokaji wine produced in Hungary’s Tokaj region, in the foothills of the Carpathian mountains, Essencia is its most rare. Made from the very best Aszu grapes that have been raisined by botrytis, the result is a highly concentrated, intensely sweet ‘wine’ with an ABV that rarely tips above 2%, with a minimum sugar content required for a Tokaji Essencia wine 450g/litre.

Tokaji Essencia can only be produced in exceptional years when the conditions are perfect for botrytis to develop, which shrivels Furmint, Harslevelű and Yellow Muscat grapes into brown raisins.

Royal Tokaji’s 2008 is only the sixth vintage of Essencia to be released by the winery, which was founded by Hugh Johnson in 1990, with the five prior vintages being 1993, 1999, 2000, 2003 and 2007.

The 2008 vintage in Tokaj was very mild with rain in early summer and a dry August which was followed by a cool and wet September, creating the perfect conditions for botrytis to develop and affording grapes a longer ripening period.

A long Indian summer began in October which turned a “good vintage into one of the greatest in living memory”, according to Royal Tokaji.

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Essencia expressions of Tokaji wines are traditionally served on from a crystal spoon

Harvesting of the grapes began in mid October, and continued for the following month, with individual raisined grapes picked by hand with scissors at a rate of less than 1kg an hour.

About 20kg of Aszu berries make a 37.5cl bottle of Essencia, with their free-run juice collected in glass demijohns to ferment. The must is so sweet that it takes years to ferment, with the wine’s high sugar balanced by high acidity, resulting in an unctuous, perfumed elixr capable of retaining its acidity and ageing over centuries.

Traditionally served from a crystal spoon, just 2,906 bottles of Essencia 2008 have been produced.

Royal Tokaji’s winemaker, Fruzsina Osvath, described it as: “Deep gold colour with hint of amber. Fresh, ripe peach on the nose with complex honeyed, spicy, ginger notes and background presence of botrytis. Full but graceful to taste, intensely concentrated, rich and sweet, balanced with taut acidity.”

The 2008 Essencia will be available initially from select retailers including Farr Vintners and Hart David Hart Wine Co., with an RRP of £391.25.

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