Posted by: tomciocco | June 7, 2010

A WINE OF KINGS INDEED

Every so often, you come across a wine that has a truly profound story to tell if you know how to interpret its narrative. The KIRALYUDVAR TOKAJI SEC 2006 that we drank last night was one of those wines. And directly after trotting out such rarified  and laudatory language, I’ll tell you that Jen wasn’t too crazy it about it, though I’m not surprised, and that’s OK too.   

By way of a little background…Tokaji (TOE-kai)  is a region in northeastern Hungary that represents THE oldest controlled appellation in the world (even older than that of Port or Bordeaux), with the establishing documents dating to the early 18th century.  This region was then, and indeed still is best known for Tokaji Azsu, or sweet Tokaji. And from earliest times, to just six or seven minutes ago (last time I checked) Tokaji has been considered to be a “wine of Kings”, both literally and figuratively. For many decades the wines produced in this region were made exclusively for the Kings of Hungary and later, for the courts of Austro-Hungarian Emperors. Today, the wines made by the best producers in the finest vintages can fetch several hundreds of dollars for a 375 ml bottle.

This wine is not those wines. Not in terms of price, or style, or composition, but in terms of the unique class that a long tradition and a unique terroir planted to native varieties brings to a wine, this wine is every bit  a royal. This bottling is, as the French word “sec” on the label indicates, a thoroughly dry wine made from just one of the six traditional Tokaji grape varieties, Furmint, which is the noblest and most important (with the other five being Harslevelu, Yellow Muscat, Koverszolo, Zeta, and Kabar).

As I mentioned above, Jen wasn’t diggin’ this one so well, and indedd in a very marked way, all of the Tokaji region’s peccadillos proudly shine thorough. This is not a “beginner’s wine” to be sure. That said, Jen’s not a beginner, so it might make sense to go further  and say that a fair number of even some of the most experienced drinkers would not find a great deal of pleasure in this bottle, and I can can understand why. BUT, I STILL think this wine rocks, and so would some of you!  This is a wine that is more than just a delicious drink. It’s a wine whose intensity, depth, complexity, and absolutely distinctive flavors CONJURE, EVOKE, and SING the place from which it comes. This might sound like so much wine fanatic bullshit, but I got my story and I’m stickin’ to it: X number of you will as I did, find this wine tantalizing and wonderfully challenging if not downright sublime, others will be nonplussed and  maybe even put off. If anyone out there turns up a bottle let us know which side you come down on. Or invent our own side. Here’s mine:

KIRALYUDVAR TOKAJI SEC 2006

Bright medium gold with subtle green reflections. Impossibly complex and exotic nose of apricots, herbs and grasses, marshmallows and caramel corn, brook stones, cinnamon and ginger. Flavors of candied lemon, orange, and lime peel, beeswax and honey, peaches in syrup, and pineapple nectar are embedded in a fine and powerful structure with lot of glycerin, broad, lip-smacking acidity, and “sweet” and sapid flavors that go on for many seconds after swallowing. This wine, as is the case with many wines of real breeding and high quality, developed for over an hour in the glass, and might have continued to so had we not drunk it all.

TOM CIOCCO

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