25/06/2009

World Heritage (II)

TOKAJ – a little town which is quiet, yet lively. After visiting Tokaj, I got a new point of view on WINES.

The first time I visited some wineries was a tour to Rhone Valley in France. That was an invitation from the Trade Commission. During my visit, I found the difficulties for the winery, from vine-growing process, to selling of wines. Not to forget, the financial burden which brings winery some kind of worries.

In contrast, what I felt in Tokaj about wines was the residents’ passion towards wines, and how they have mixed together wine & living. Wines are basically part of their lives. I could find grapes growing somewhere on the side street. There were the stainless steel fermenting vats right out there in the backyard. Even for an ‘ordinary’ small house, there you could find an underground cellar. Perhaps that’s not a very good brand, you might even could not find the wines bottled. Seemed quite some for them are not for selling at all, just “in-house consumption”. In fact, there are some wines for sale, but simply sold in plastic bottles when you buy them!

About wine styles, most probably the very first one comes up in mind is ‘Tokaji Aszu’. Like the very renowned sweet wines in Saurternes, these wines are ‘Noble Rot’ wines. The grapes for making such wines are affected by the fungal growth before harvest. In addition, the wine-making process has brought the wines very special aroma and unique flavours with very good complexity. Compared to ‘ordinary’ white wines, these wines are extremely glamorous. Also because picking the grapes is a labour-intensive process, plus not every single grape could be affected by the fungus, the yield is very low. All these make the wines more expensive at the end.

So, what else in Tokaj? There are some dry whites indeed. The main grapes in this region include Furmint, Harslevelu, and Muskotaly. During my trip, I visited a family wine cellar, and tried 3 different types with these varieties. Though they are of the same vintage, they all tasted different with different styles. Interesting.

My own experience right there in Tokaj, made me realize the very close relationship between wines and everyday life, plus the difference of this relationship in different countries. So much attracted by wines…





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