How Hungary produced the ‘world’s most expensive wine’

(CNN) — There is certainly no denying that excellent wine will come with a rate, but $40,000 seems rather steep.

Having said that, Hungarian winemakers Royal Tokaji say their confined version Essencia 2008 decanter is truly worth each and every cent.

Only 20 of the special 1.5 liter magnums, built by Hungarian-based mostly artist James Carcass, exist, 18 of which ended up introduced final calendar year.

It was explained as the “world’s most pricey wine” at the time of its start, and although this statement is hard to quantify, the Essencia 2008 magnum decanter was certainly the most pricey wine put up for sale in 2019.

Each and every of the decanters, which appear in a lacquered black box with a swap that illuminates the bottle, is specifically hand-blown, this means no two are fully similar.

Somewhere around 11 have now offered, so it appears to be possible Royal Tokaji will offer the remaining 7 right before the wine’s 2300 expiry day.

But what helps make this individual vintage so useful?

‘Miracle of nature’

Essencia is built in Hungary’s Tokaj wine area, positioned northeast of Budapest, which serves as a well-known day trip for travelers viewing the cash city.

The sweet wines created below are reliant on botrytis cinerea mildew, acknowledged as “noble rot,” that dries out grapes on the vine, shriveling them into what appears to be like like brown raisins.

Only the best aszú grapes are applied for Essencia, which is built totally from the juice of aszú berries (the other wines made in the region have a base wine added to dilute their sweetness).

Site visitors can arrange non-public excursions of the vineyard, positioned all around a two and a half hour generate from Budapest, in purchase to taste it.

“Essencia in itself is a miracle of character,” claims Orsi Szentkiralyi, a London-based mostly Hungarian wine professional. “It is really really labor intense and can take lots of a long time of very careful work in the cellar.

“It only reaches a pair of levels of alcoholic beverages but has loads and loads of purely natural sweetness. It is so loaded it’s usually served on a spoon rather of a glass.”

Essencia can only be created in years with far more or fewer perfect weather conditions ailments for botrytis. And 2008 marked a especially extraordinary year.

It requires about a kilogram of “very ripe” aszú grapes to develop just a teaspoon, though all-around 20 kilograms of grapes shriveled to aszú berries are needed for a 37.5 centiliter bottle of wine, which typically has all around 3% liquor.

Though a ton of do the job is associated in gathering the grapes, the fermenting approach is reasonably basic, as “you just bottle it and depart it.”

“It really is generally the winemaker’s final decision when we bottle an Essencia,” describes Zoltan Kovacs, general manager at the Royal Tokaji Vineyard, positioned in the Tokaj district of Mád.

“It could be soon after three, or 4 a long time, or even 10. This [2008] Essencia was bottled right after eight decades of maturation. It’s a a little bit unusual Essencia for the reason that it has a better liquor volume — all over 4%.”

Important classic

A specific permit from the Hungarian authorities was needed to bottle Essencia 2018 in 1.5 liter decanters.

Courtesy Royal Tokaji Wine Enterprise

This results in a distinct and vastly extreme taste, with hints of honey, apricot and tea, which is virtually unbearably sweet. The liquid is so thick and syrupy, it really is frequently served by the spoon. It really is so mouth filling, it’s hard to imagine acquiring much more than a handful of sips without feeling a tiny gentle-headed.

While Essencia 2008 has been on sale ahead of, it can be the exclusivity of this distinct set that would make the decanters much additional important than a normal bottle.

Royal Tokaji had to get hold of a specific permit from the Hungarian governing administration to bottle Essencia in 1.5 liter containers — current regulations only enable a optimum capability of .5 liters.

“It truly is 1 of a sort,” claims Charlie Mount, handling director of Royal Tokaji. “I you should not know if we are going to at any time be in a position to repeat it.”

The design of the strange decanter was evidently motivated by the wine “slowly but surely dripping from the independently picked aszu berries.”

Once finished, the decanters were transported to Portugal, exactly where they were being scanned and fitted with tailor made equipped corks, ahead of staying returned to Royal Tokaji, crammed by hand and sealed.

In accordance to the crew at Royal Tokaji, which was established by British wine historian Hugh Johnson in 1990, one of the largest successes of the undertaking is the fact that it is really obtained the entire world speaking about Hungarian wine once again.

“This undertaking is a image of a person of Hungary’s best exports,” claims Mount. “Hungarians are pretty very pleased of the diversity of the wine made in the region.

“They make a excellent variety of wine. But I believe from an outsider’s point of view, Tokaji wine has this mystique. It is really even mentioned in the Hungarian nationwide anthem.”

Szentkiralyi shares this sentiment, stressing that the place continue to has a lot of unexplored prospective with regards to its wine sector.

“The lengthy winemaking traditions, the effective local climate and the variety of wine kinds make it a excellent wine producing nation, but the the greater part of generation is even now consumed locally,” she claims.

Though the collection could have place Tokaji, and proficiently Hungarian wine, firmly again in the spotlight, its enchantment, notably that of Essencia, goes back again centuries.

Wealthy heritage

Royal Tokaji vineyard images, Mad, Hungary

France’s Louis XIV famously referred to Tokaji wine as “the wine of Kings and King of wines.”

Tamara Hardingham-Gill

“Even at the commencing of the 20th century, Tokaji was the most costly wine in the world,” states Mount.

“Doctors employed to prescribe it to their patients. If you had been fortunate ample to be in a position to find the money for it, you would be prescribed a teaspoon of Essencia in the morning and a teaspoon at night.”

“Pope Pius X retained it in his bedchamber and survived significantly for a longer time than everyone anticipated since he was consuming Essencia.”

Perhaps the most renowned reference is in Bram Stoker’s “Dracula,” in which the character Jonathan Harker is served a bottle of Tokaji on his initially night at Depend Dracula’s castle.

“The well known sweet wines of Tokaj have been appreciated by the wealthy close to the globe for centuries,” says Szentkiralyi.

“Essencia is a really exclusive products that may perhaps have been the privilege of royalty, but every person can request out and appreciate a glass of Hungarian wine to see the quality for them selves.”

However, these willing and able to shell out $40,000 for the privilege of possessing this distinct bottle will no doubt be number of and considerably among.

Upscale London division retail store Fortnum & Mason not long ago procured one of the decanters, though a collector in Beijing was the initially unique buyer to snap one particular up.

“Of system, it truly is high-priced,” admits Mount. “But legitimate wine collectors will spend multiples of that [$40,000] each yr on setting up a perfect cellar.”

Even though all uncommon vintages improve in price in excess of time, Essencia features a significantly appealing expiry day (2300) owing to its high sugar level and acidity.

This proficiently usually means the decanters will just about surely be worthy of a large amount more in many years to appear.

So the moment a wine collector has additional a single to their cellar, how very likely are they to actually drink it?

In accordance to Mount, the 1st bottle to promote was opened at a Chinese New Yr social gathering not very long right after the consumer received it.

“It pains me when some thing just sits on exhibit,” he suggests. “Wine is designed to be drunk. But equally, you would want to preserve this just one for a special occasion.”

Essencia 2008 is accessible by the spoon at numerous eating places and hotels in the United States and Italy.

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