With the approach of fall and the expert guidance of Carolyn Banfalvi
about where to visit, I couldn’t have timed my trip to Tokaj, Hungary better. It was time to harvest the grapes in this historical wine region. We visited a few wineries to sample the area that is as famous in wine production as it is rich in its varied history.
Amidst beautiful rolling hills dotted with grape vines at the center of the Tokaj wine region, we stayed at the beautiful Grof Degenfeld Castle Hotel
. Receiving royal treatment with a late night tour and wine tasting by General Manager Gabor Banyal. The property is famous for being the only castle that comes with its own vineyard. There, we tasted an outstanding Tokaj Aszu 1999 and others, followed by an incredible dinner with perfectly seared foi gras and poached apple with aged balsamic as a starter.
|1999 Aszueszencia VS 2007 Harslevelu (Linden)|
One organic winery we visited was the Erzsebet Pince
(Elizabeth Cellar) in Tokaj. The history of the vineyard is as fascinating as the family itself.
There, I met Hajnalka Pracser, the daughter of the owner Elizabeth Pracser. She met her husband, the winemaker of Erzsebet Pince, while interning in Napa Valley for a year at various vineyards. The winery itself was once owned by a Russian Tzar who provided the court with Tokaj wine until Elizabeth Prancser purchased the property.
Another 100 hectares winery we visited is the Disznókő
, with an immaculate façade and incredible landscape. Its Southern facing vineyard gives it the warmest growing conditions in the region for astounding amounts of grape varieties. I was very fortunate to see the wine production in progress. Our host Katherine Chapman was more than accommodating and further fascinates me with amazing tastings to complement the kind of cuisine saffron 59 has been serving the last decade.
|Harvest time at Disznókő|
The whole region produces several wonderful varieties of grape. Here’s a variety sample from the Degenfeld Winery (from Dry to Sweet):
1 Furmint – Dry; hint of cinnamon and acacia blossom, good with everyday dishes.
2Muscat – Semi-dry; contains no Tannis, smells like Lychee.
3 Harslevelu – Semi-sweet; pear and clove characteristics, similar to Linden
4 Fortissimo - Sweet; grape blend similar to the Aszu grape variety (see below)
5Szamorodni – Sweet; hints of pineapple, orange peel and gooseberry. Harvest is only from October to November during 100% humidity during frost and barrel aged for a year.
6Aszu – Sweet; comprised of 88% Furmint and 20% Harslevelu, by far the most expensive of the group- it is barrel aged for 2 years.
For my first visit here, I was fascinated by the whole process of wine-making particular to the grapes of this region. All the wines had a great balance to enhance Asian cuisine. I can't wait to try out my new favorite wine to accompany a variety of dishes all my old favorite dishes!