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Hetszolo Tokaji Aszu 5 Puttonyos (2001)

Review: Hetszolo Tokaji Aszu 5 Puttonyos (2001) 91.5/100
Review by Chip Dykstra (Aka Arctic Wolf)
Published October 28, 2012

Tokaj-Hétszolo white dessert wines are made from 100% Furmint grapes at the Tokaj-Hétszolo Estate, which lies on the south side of Mount Tokaj in the north of Hungary, 200 km east of Budapest. This part of the world is known for its exceptional growing climate; and in fact, has been protected since 1772 by the first appellation of origin awarded in the entire world, (a full 83 years before Bordeaux wines were officially classed). The Tokaj-Hétszolo dessert wines are unique not just for where they are created; but also because of the unique manner in which the grapes are harvested. The grapes selected to produce the wine are not picked when they have ripened; rather they are left to “rot” or “Botrytise” on the vine and picked by hand as late as possible in the growing season.

I should point out that the appearance of the “noble rot” depends not only upon the location (or terroir) of the vineyards, but upon the irascible weather. It is not uncommon for no Aszú grapes to appear for several years at a time. This makes the Hetszolo Tokaji Aszu a special wine which can only be produced when conditions are right.

The agent at work is a specific fungus called Botrytis cinerea which affects grapes by absorbing their moisture making them dry (or Aszú in Hungarian). As the fruit loses moisture, its sugar content increases dramatically. Other factors may be at work as well with the final result being that the “botrytised” or rotten grapes are able to produce an intensely sweet and flavourful wine. Aszú grapes are harvested by hand as late as possible to allow time for the fungus to do its work. In the not too distant past, the grapes were harvested in wooden baskets called puttony. Each puttony would hold about 25 kg of grapes, and this is the measure used today to indicate the quantity of botrytised grapes added per barrel during winemaking. The higher the number of puttonyos, the sweeter the final product. As a result, Aszus are classified as 3, 4, 5 or 6 puttonyos. After the harvest, the selected grapes are fermented for one month’s in barrels, and the resulting wine is aged in oak for two years, followed by one year in bottles.

The particular Aszu wine I am reviewing today is the Hetszolo Tokaji Aszu 5 Puttonyos (2001). I was provided with this bottle by Thirsty Cellar Imports who is the local importer here in Alberta.

In the Bottle 4/5

The Hetszolo Tokaji Aszu arrives in a the clear corked wine bottle shown to the right. This style of style of wine bottle is well suited for storage on a common wine rack, and therefore can be stored in any wine connoisseur’s cellar for several years prior to consumption. I do however, find the overall look to be rather plain. I admit that the clear bottle displays the brilliant amber colour of the wine rather well. But the label is not what I would call inspiring. A wine aficionado may well know all about “noble rot” and that the first appellation of origin in the entire world  was awarded to Tokaj-Hétszolo. But, the majority of us (at least here in Alberta) do not really have a clue about such things. A more expressive label with more information about the history of this particular style of wine would do wonders for the overall presentation.

In the Glass 23/25

The wine displays a pleasing golden amber in the glass, and the initial nose brings forward immediate notes of green apple jelly and fresh green grapes. Swirling the wine gently in the glass brings much more into those breezes above the glass. The scents of freshly opened cans of apricots and pears; a sweet aroma of honey and caramel; light sensations of freshly sliced lemons and pineapple; and a vague but persistent impression of cashew peanuts all dance playfully above the glass.

The wine seems rich and luxurious, and full of fruit and honey. I suspect that whoever came up with the word “nectar” had exactly this sort of aroma in mind.

In the Mouth 46/50

A light acidity cleanses the mouth just a little; and in doing so, opens the palate to receive the full flavour of the wine. I can taste yellow golden apples and green grapes as well as hints of canned apricots and pears. There is an ever so light saltiness present, and a bit of citrus (lemon and pineapple) character too. Accompanying all of this is a layer of honey and spice with hints of ginger, and vanilla. A lightly nutty under current gives the wine a hint of softness.

What we have is a fruity dessert wine that is full of fruit flavour, very smooth and wonderfully sweet. I feel compelled to point out that the sweetness is not overdone. The honey and the caramel compliment (rather than overpower)  the intense fruit and never become cloying. Again that word ‘nectar’ comes to mind.

In the Throat  13.5/15

This Hetszolo Tokaji Aszu exits with flavours of green apple jelly, apricot jam and a fading impression of maple syrup. The palate and the back of the throat are left lightly puckered and I taste a wonderfully lingering spiciness. I have no problem pouring myself a second glass, and a third. (There is a reason why my photograph shows an empty bottle.)

My Final Impressions  5/5

I was blown away by the intense fruity flavour of the 2001 Hetszolo Tokaji Aszu 5 Puttonyos, and it was not only me that felt this way. I invited 6 friends to a dessert wine tasting early this fall, and the Tokaji Aszu was enjoyed immensely by all of us. I know that I am going to be looking for a couple of extra bottles to put in my wine cellar. I guess I am suggesting that if you are a fan of dessert wines, you should do the same.

PS: Paired with white goat cheese and lightly salted crackers, the Hetszolo Takaji Aszu dessert wine is absolutely marvelous!

If you are interested in some comparative reviews, here is a link to all of my Dessert Wine Reviews!


Note: My Wine Scores are computed in the same manner as my scores for distilled spirits. This means that my total score out of 100 is generally lower than what you would see in popular wine rating magazines. (Those magazines appear to have a system which scores almost all wines at 85 points or more.) My system is described below and you may (loosely) interpret my scores as follows:

0-25     A wine with a rating this low would actually kill you.
26-49   Depending upon your fortitude you might actually survive this.
50 -59  You are safe to drink this…but you shouldn’t.
60-69   Substandard swill which you may offer to people you do not want to see again.
70-74    A mediocre wine which will excite no one.
75-79    You may begin to serve this to friends, still rather unexciting.
80-84    Enjoyment begins here.
85-89    Very good to excellent!
90-94    You may want to hoard this for yourself.
95-97.5 The Cream of the Crop
98+       I haven’t met this one yet…but I want to.


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