THE ASZÚ WINEMAKING
The extreme concentration and rich consistency of the aszú berry require a unique and complex winemaking. Our guiding principle is always the pursuit of absolute purity of fruit, freshness and balance combined with the power and depth of the botrytised grapes.
STEP 1: STORING THE ASZÚ BERRIES
Individually selected aszú berries are stored in vats until the harvest is completed.
Aszú berries are picked continuously from September to late October, early November and usually macerated in November. They are stored before vinification not because it is necessary for the technique (we could do the maceration right after picking them), but because of the organization of the whole winemaking process. We make several selections of aszú berries, and for practical reasons we do the maceration when we have harvested all our aszú berries or most of them. The concentration of sugars and acids means the aszú berries can be kept for a couple of months without any risk of fermentation.
STEP 2: ESZENCIA
Collecting every drop of Eszencia, an elixir produced from these aszú berries pressed by its own weight only, with 600-900g of sugar per litre.
The Eszencia is then stored in demijohns (glass containers).
The lighter Eszencia is added to the Aszú wines at the end of fermentation. The rest of this nectar will be kept for many years in our cool cellar without any intervention. Because of its incredibly high concentration, the fermentation is extremely slow, spontaneous but continuous, it can take years and results only between 1 to 4% of alcohol.
This video shows how Eszencia is made at Disznókő, from the harvest to the ageing in demijohns.
STEP 3: SKIN CONTACT
The aszú berries are almost raisined so it is impossible to press them directly. That is why we use skin contact: aszú berries are soaked in fermenting must or new wine for 12 to 60 hours to extract the sugars, flavours and acids. We pump over ("remontage") and/or punch down the cap ("pigeage") to increase skin contact. The nature and origin of the aszú determines whether we use fermenting must or base wine, the proportion of aszú berries and the length of their maceration.
Our aim is to attain maximum flavours and aromas combined with the precise and pure structure given by the maceration. This allows us at Disznókő to preserve the freshness of the fruit, achieving a surprising balance between sugar, acidity and alcohol.
The proportion of aszú berries to wine or must indicates the concentration. This is denoted with the word puttonyos: Disznókő Tokaji Aszú ranges from 5 to 6 puttonyos.
The number of puttonyos
Long ago the aszú grapes were collected into wooden hods (baskets), called puttony in Hungarian, with a capacity of 27 litres. The number of puttony on the wine's label indicated how many puttony of aszú grapes were used.
The puttony number indicates the concentration of sugars in the wines. The more residual sugar the wine contains, the higher is that number.
See the illustration
STEP 4: PRESSING
To finish the maceration, we draw off the juice from the aszú berries which have formed a paste. This paste is then slowly pressed (for up to 6-7 hours).The pressed juice is allowed to ferment until the wine reaches the desired balance (alcohol content).
STEP 5: AGEING
The Aszú wines are aged for around two years in oak barrels deep in our cellars. During the barrel ageing we taste the wines regularly to see how they are evolving. Our 225 l barrels are made from Hungarian and French oak. Up to 30% of new barrels are used for our Tokaji Aszú ageing.
STEP 6: BLENDING
As a result of the vinification of every lot of aszú grapes separately, there can be up to 20 or 30 lots. These are all aged separately. After about 2 and a half years of ageing the team gathers for the blending. Our winemaking team headed by László Mészáros together with Christian Seely blind tastes to evaluate the quality of the vintage and to choose the best blends for our Tokaji Aszú 5 and 6 puttonyos.