Best Value Tokaj Wine

December 9, 2007

Tokaj is most famous for its Aszu desert wine, but there is a lot more to this region than Aszu. In fact most experts agree that the real future in Tokaj will be in dry whites, predominantly from the Furmint grape, which is also the main varietal in Aszu. You can already see many dry Furmints on the market from top wine makers, such as Szepsy, Kiralyudvar and Demeter Zoltan.

There is a whole other category of Tokajis, which are late harvest wines, also predominantly furmints, though some are hárslevelű, the other grape used in Aszu. While strictly speaking all Aszus are late harvest as they leave the fruit on the vine to botrytise, or in simple words to rot, late harvest wines in Tokaj do not rot, they are picked before they are botrytised. Most of these late harvest wines are also expensive, but one can occasionally find good values. The best I have ever found was Tokaji Hétszőlő‘s Dessewffy Kastély Hárslevelű. This is a beautiful late harvest wine, which although is sweet, it is not too sweet to enjoy more than a small glass of it. It is full of concentrated tropical fruits, pineapple, mango layered with honey. Yet, it is not too heavy, it is quite drinkable standalone and pairs perfectly with spicy Asian dishes. I would think, though never tried it, it also pairs well with foie gras as most Tokajis and other similar wines, such as Sauternes do. Now all I ask, where do you get wine that pairs well with foie gras at 6 euros a 750 ml bottle?

Name: Dessewffy Late Harvest Hárslevelű, 2005

Rating: 8.5 out of 10

Body: Medium

Price: 6 euros

Got it at: Monarchia Wine Store, Budapest, Hungary

Dessewffy Late Harvest Hárslevelű, 2005

Canadian Ice Wine

December 8, 2007

I have heard that Canadian Ice Wine is among the best, if not the best in the world, though never tasted any before. A couple of weeks ago our friend Cindy, from Nova Scotia came over for dinner and brought us a gift. The gift is called Ortega Ice Wine from Jost Vineyards of Nova Scotia. And what a gift it is.

The wine comes in a 200 ml bottle, so it is a bit more than a 1/4 bottle. I sense the reason for this is because you could turn diabetic instantly if you consume more of it. This desert wine, made from the Ortega varietal, must have higher residual sugar content than the brown sugar you get at your local grocery store. Imagine tangerine, apricot, and melon syrups blended together and magically turned into an elegant wine with a significant dense body. That is this wine. Truly a trip and a very good one at that.

The reason for the extreme concentration is because they leave the grapes on the vine until late in December and only harvest them in ice-cold temperatures (below -10 Celsius). You can imagine the grapes are basically raisins by this time. Also, because of the high sugar content, the alcohol level is only about 10% in this wine. Not that it matters, you will never drink more than a few sips because of the super high concentration.

If you like desert wine, you have to give this one a try. I imagine it is not an easy one to find in your local supermarket, but it should be available at least via online merchants in North America or perhaps even in Europe. Do seek it out, it will be one of the best desert wines you will ever have.

Name: Ortega Ice Wine, Jost Vineyards, 2004

Rating: 9 out of 10

Body: Full

Price: Free (present), but regularly approx. $45 per 200ml bottle

Got it at: My House

Ortega Ice Wine, Jost Vineyards, 2004