Tokaji Aszú – 5 Puttonyos
The classic 2013 Aszu 5 Puttonyos is a worthy successor to the great 5 Puttonyos wines from the 1999, 2003, 2005 and 2009 vintages.
The growing season began early and flowering occurred in the first half of June under ideal conditions. July was exceptionally hot and dry, with many 100 degree days. August was cooler with occasional beneficial rains. These conditions brought the grapes to optimal maturity with exceptional concentration and very high sugar levels. The crop was ample in size and in perfect condition at harvest time, both for the dry, base-wine and the Aszu. The harvest of the non-botrytis effected Furmint grapes began in mid-September but was cut short by the hail storm of October 5th. The significant day-night temperature differences in October and November, together with the moisture from the morning dew on the sugar-rich grapes, enabled the development of botrytis. These were ideal circumstances for the production of Aszu wines.
The grapes for the Aszu wines were hand-picked from mid- October to mid- November at an outstanding level of ripeness in many passes through the vineyard. The blend for the 2013 is: 75% Furmint and 25% Harslevelu. The wine was aged for two years in 220 liter, Hungarian oak casks, of which 30% were new, followed by two years in stainless-steel tanks. It was then assembled, lightly filtered, and bottled in August 2017. The stunning residual sugar level of 246 grams per liter qualifies the wine to be classified at the 6 Puttonyos level, and it is balanced by 5.40 grams per liter of acidity. The 2013 vintage’s ideal combination of great ripeness and vibrant acidity is the epitome of the Pajzos house style, and is considered an ideal vintage by the estate.
About the Producer
Hungarian Tokajis were historically among the most highly prized wines in the world. Long before Sauternes, they graced the tables of European elites and connoisseurs. In the summer of 1991, the late Jean-Michael Arcaute and Jean-Louis Laborde launched the Renaissance of Tokaji. They led a group of 12 wine lovers and acquired Château Pajzos, carrying out the same year the first “private enterprise” harvest and vinification. Today, the 100ha domaine (55ha of vineyards) is under the sole ownership of the Laborde family, who also owns Château Clinet in Pomerol.
The estate is located in the heart of the Tokaji region, on slopes surrounding the famous wine village of Sárospatak. It was long acknowledged for having one of the finest vineyards of the region. Its volcanic, rocky soils ensure that the native varieties - Furmint, Muscat, Hárslevelu and Zéta – are both rich in natural acidity and concentration and the location between the Bodrog and Tisza rivers makes it ideal for attaining noble rot, indispensable for producing the sweet Aszú wines.
The property is managed by Ronan Laborde and his winemaking team. In recent years, they optimized the vineyard to enhance the development of botrytis, essential for Aszú wines. They changed their pruning method to single guyot in order to reduce yields and advance ripening. Depending on the moisture content of the soil, it is either plowed or left un-tilled; nets are placed in the fall over the botrytis-affected grapes to prevent them from being eaten by animals.
For the Tokaji Aszú wines, a base dry white wine is first made (Château Pajzos uses the Dry Furmint they produce), then mixed with Aszú berries - botrytised, shriveled grapes that were originally picked from bunches into 20 liter wooden tubs called puttony. During harvest, it can take up to 30 passages in the vineyards to pick them at the perfect time, as Château Pajzos only selects fully botrytized -not just passerillé- grapes. Traditionally, the concentration of the Tokaji was defined by the number of puttony added to the base. Nowadays, the "Puttonyos" is based on the content of residual sugar in the final wine. It takes about 44 pounds of Azsú berries mixed with 100 liters of base wine to reach 1 Puttonyos - and an experienced picker a full day to harvest that quantity. The sweet wines are aged in 1.5km of underground galleries that offer constant humidity and temperature; they are only produced in the best vintages. Since 2013, Château Pajzos focused its range to Azsú wines from 4 to 6 Puttonyos. Their approach is to highlight freshness, when other houses promote a more oxidative style.