Collecting, enjoying wine, curiosity, or pure trade? Whatever the motive may be, those who join the Great Tokaj Wine Auction on 23rd April 2016 will not regret it. The wines are wonderfully exciting.
The Confrérie de Tokaj staged the first Great Tokaj Wine Auction in April 2013. A trial auction, a format which is neither a tradition in the Tokaj wine region nor the sphere of Tokaji wines. At any auction, lots are rare wines that are difficult to procure, perhaps even impossible by any other means. And the Confrérie continues this practice so those interested in bidding have an array of wines to bid for that are not otherwise commercially available.
Preparation for the auctions always becomes truly dynamic with the arrival of the new wines. Producers ponder as to which wines to enter, the Confrérie de Tokaj Wine Committee starts the selection. What will remain the same in 2016 as in other years, what will be different? Every year changes. And not only because the lots that go under the hammer vary, but also because the attitude of the producers changes from year to year. The number of potential buyers is growing noticeably every year, and those “calling from the sidelines” already form a crowded camp.
Why is it worth someone making the journey to the Tokaj wine region if they do not want to buy? Well, they may join the tasting of all the lots on the morning of auction day. Only then and there, as just a few hours later this possibility becomes the exclusive right of the lucky buyer. So this tasting is a unique and unrepeatable opportunity to experience these wines of which only 130 to 250 bottles are produced.
For the 2016 Auction producers will have the option to sell lots that are already bottled. Naturally only in the quantity and form that would otherwise not be traded. This is particularly important for foreign buyers, who are appearing in increasing numbers and are most interested in the Aszú and aged wines. But another main aim of the Confrérie is to make more wine lovers aware of the potential in dry Tokaji wines.
The first selection of lots took place on 10th December in Mezőzombor, where the Confrérie’s Wine Committee tasted and evaluated 39 wines. The proportion of sweet and dry lots poured in the blind tasting that day was approximately half and half.
The 2015 vintage was incredibly hectic. After nearly three months of intensely hot and dry weather, the persistent September rains did not make for ideal weather conditions for the ripening of the grapes. But it seems that Tokaj got the better end of the vintage as the 2015 dry wines all show superior quality. They already offer superb structure, dynamic acidity similar to 2013 and refined tannins. The almost textbook-like balance brought particular pleasure during the blind tasting.
Until now a common problem was that even if the wines were lovely, the lots had slightly higher alcohol due to a lack of optimal harvest time, a little later or longer than would have been ideal, or less disciplined structure. This has swung in an excellent direction, and perhaps the serious potential of these (extremely enjoyable and elegant) wines show improvement on those of the 2013 vintage. I have not compared data of the two vintages, but it seems that alongside the impeccable structure, these new lots are somewhat fleshier and friendly. Naturally I cannot give a complete list, but I especially liked Stephanie Berecz’s Váti Hárslevelű and Lónyai Furmint, the Disznókő dry Furmintja, the Demetervin blend from the Király and Úrágya vineyards, as well as the Tokaj Crown Estates Kővágó Furmint and Barta Winery’s new dry wine. We also tasted lovely blends from Füleky Winery and Samuel Tinon’s Szent Tamás single vineyard.
The range of sweet wines was also exceedingly balanced. Here were very young lots from 2013, some of which were outstanding. Serious structure and depth of flavour, dynamic acidity and plethora of minerality. We can be confident in saying there are some real classics among them. The Disznókő single variety Zéta, Hárslevelű and Furmint Aszús already gave us a wonderful wine experience. But 2011 was also to bring us some surprises. This vintage resulted in supremely clean grapes, infinite richness and still a very drinkable wine in many cases.
Naturally we are not to know what prices these lots will fetch. But those who are carefully following the auctions and wines sold are sure to notice that we are meeting wines with far more polished style. The balance between dry and sweet wines strengthen people’s perception of the wine region as does the increase in quality. This presentation of both these aspects of Tokaj combined with the more definite representation of terroir can be the only way for the region to rise quickly. And part of this has to be a more specific presentation of Tokaj’s uniqueness, for example, through the Great Tokaj Wine Auction.
Written by Gabriella Mészáros, wine educator and member of the Confrérie de Tokaj Wine Committee
10th December 2015