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Fighting for the Quality

Written by: Emerson Baun | Date of Published: 25th July 2016

Mr. Charles Thomas, International Commercial Director of Domaine Reybier talks about Tokaj-Hetszolo and how the Hungarian Sweets enters the Asian Palates. 



A RICH HISTORY

Founded in 1502, Tokaj Hetszolo is one of the few who has both history and quality as the  main weapon in today's world oenophiles' attention. Tokaji, a historic vineyard  and a classified World Heritage Site is dubbed to be the Wine of the Kings as most of the known royalties bewitched by the wines it produced, "Yes it was famous. We have King Louis XIV who has been a great promoter of Tokaji, I can say. He's surprised that the wine can travel quite a long time to ship it and keep the quality of the wines" says Charles sharing how the region had its popularity and recognition in the past centuries. "..we have that history before, Tokaji is the first appellation control in the world..it was created a long time ago before Bordeaux, Lafite, all the vineyards or even some Burgundy wines become famous." he proudly added. Tokaji was known in the Northern and Eastern Europe as well as Russia and considered to be the first sweet wine in Europe, centuries prior than Sauternes.


FOREIGN INVESTORSThe historical Dessewffy Castle now houses the offices of the Tokaj-H├ętszolo Estate

Nothing is forever for sure but it doesn't mean that you need not to bring back and re-introduce to the market what it has been a great name in the past. Most of the wineries were ruined during the communism period and that didn't exclude Tokaji, where all the vineyards were surrendered, resulted the name to be silenced for decades. It was only in 1989 when the communism was ended and privatisation and foreign investors came into the picture "We are starting a new phase. We did invest heavily in the vineyard, in the facility to make the best wine possible so we are thinking of enough cru, of enough terroir or parcellation and everything,  a bit like the Bordeaux approach in making the best wine possible, that the fight is about the quality" explained by Charles when asked about the effort of regaining the popularity and attention to Tokaji wines, "...it's still a big gap to be filled, a big gap to (you know) but I'm quite happy so far." he added.


FIRST AMONG EQUALS

As we know, Tokaj (Tokaj-Hegyalj) is a region and there are a couple of wineries in the area, but when speaking about the edge and what Tokaj-Hetszolo sets apart from any other neighbouring wineries, Charles was pleased to tell that they are located at the mount Tokaj, the heart of the region. Tokaj Hetszolo is one of the first wineries to make parcellation of the vineyard from premier cru to differentiate it according to terroir, "We have the history, we have the oldest vineyard, we have the oldest winery started in 1502 and the most important is the terroir." Their name was derived from Hungarian word "Hét Szolo" means 7 parcels of the vineyard. Aside from the Garai family who established it, the estate was later owned by different prestigious owners including Gaspar Karoli, translator of the Bible into Hungarian, Gabor Bethlen, prince of Transylvania, then the Princes Rakoczi, a grand aristocratic family until it became an Imperial Estate when the Habsburg royal family took over. Hetszolo also owns the 15th Century old Rakoczi cellars, the real sanctuary of Tokaj wines, owned by the kings and exactly the place where the orders elected János Szapolyai the king of Hungary in 1526.


INTRODUCING TO ASIA

Even though Asian is quite new with Tokaj wines, countries like Singapore, China, Japan and Hong Kong are starting to do well. According to Charles, they are spending enough time in the field to educate people, to make sure to train individuals like sommeliers and importers to be confident of the brand. To him, everything is a process:

"A few years ago, people doesn't know how to drink sweet wines, we need to train and speak about sweet wines, the benefits, and what you can pair with it. So, it's all about promotion and education."

 

Tokaj wines are also not to be boxed during aperitif and desserts, he even recalled one dinner in Hong Kong where only wines from Tokaj Hetszolo were showcased "We start with dry furmint with some Chinese dish, pairing quite well. Late harvest with a nice lamb, pairing quite well. And then we have 5 and 6 Puttonyos with blue cheese and we have some fruits. So we can combine everything, it's like champagne, you can drink champagne or have a full dinner with champagne. You just find the right time and the right item that you can pair with the food you want."


HUNGARIAN WINE TO ASIAN DISH

When asked about the best pairing with local Asian dish, he found it very interesting to have it on Chinese food particularly the spicy dishes as the sweetness of the wines can challenge a bit of the spice. It can also drink well with fruits like melon, peach, apple or luxury food such as blue cheese and foie gras. During our Tokaj-Hetszolo launch in Singapore, we tried to pair the wines with ngoh hiang, prawns, grilled vegetables, risotto with Parmigiano cheese and Chinese sausage - all the tandem surprisingly went well!


WHAT WE DON'T KNOW

Unlike any other wines, Tokaj Hetszolo wines don't need to be finished after opening, the wine can be stored in fridge 6-7days yet still drinking very well. In addition, Tokaj wines were traditionally used for health benefits, in fact, their Eszencia is being sold in pharmacy as studies show that that Tokaji Aszú is higher in vitamins, minerals, and trace elements than other white wines. It also has significant levels of polyphenols, which have strong antioxidant properties. 


To know more and purchase our available stocks of Tokaj Hetszolo wines, please click here.