Szepsy Tokaji Aszu 6 Puttonyos 1998 (500ml)


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“This was still fermenting, but fortunately I tasted it anyway. Yeasty freshness in the nose but beneath that a lovely combination of walnut oil, honey and lemon candy. Looks likely to make a bright, elegant, not-too-viscous wine. Finish shows an amazingly vivid flavor of walnuts.

Szepsy has been making wine all his life, bottling Tokaji from his own property beginning in 1987. This acreage was folded into the initial Royal Tokaji venture from which Szepsy himself later withdrew. His reputation has spread widely by word of mouth. No less a vin liquoreux luminary than Alois Kracher first introduced me to the wines. There was no wine to taste from bottle when I visited, all of it having been sold. Szepsy is now the president of the “Tokaj Renaissance-Union des Grands Crus,” of which nearly all the estates I visited are members. His production has been tiny until now, although estate acreage has grown to 25 acres in eight Mad crus. Beginning in 1998, under the name “Kiralyudvar” (“the court of the king”) and together with a partner from New York, Anthony Hwang, Szepsy embarked on a venture with more than 200 acres in 11 different crus and many participating growers. Wines made with the Szepsy touch will therefore soon be in the United States, including the 1998s reported on below and others that were still fermenting in June. Szepsy says he is not really keen on oxidation, “but sometimes I am leaving my wines for three years in cask in order to get permission to bottle [as Tokaji Azsu].” He harvests late, vinifying by parcel and entirely in barrel. “With low yields and the right selection, we can have sweet wines every year,” he says, “and I never had an interest in making anything else.” But the Kiralyudvar venture has been the mother of invention and Szepsy promises some surprises in (new-) barrel-fermented dry wine if nature cooperates this autumn. Kiraludvar will be housed in an old imperial building in Tarcal. More and better sites will be acquired and there will be new, densely planted vineyards as well. “I can tell you confidently,” he says, “that the quality of wine I have so far achieved is not more than 55% or 60% of what is possible, maybe less.””

David Schildknecht, Vinous (09/99)