Robert Parker 98
The 2003 Essencia has a fabulous bouquet with profound scents of lemon curd, frangipane, apple crumble, dandelion, wild mushroom and a slight adhesive note. The palate is extraordinarily pure with perfect acidity. It is perfectly focused with a crescendo of honey, quince, and Seville orange marmalade with lemon peel. This is out of this world. I would love to have been a witness to Hugh Johnson’s rally cry in the town hall of Mad, a behest that the historical wines of Tokaji should not be forgotten, a catalyst for the resurrection of the Royal Tokaji Company. I would like to imagine it was something like Sir Lawrence Olivier addressing the troops in Henry II (but with a Hungarian twist.) Hugh was not there in the flesh when I visited the winery, although I paid homage to his bust that stands on a plinth outside the winery, keeping a watchful eye over the day-to-day running. I must confess that the winery was larger than I had presupposed. Perhaps I have been so bewitched by their aszu wines that I had not paid enough attention to the success of their entry-level dry Furmints. One only needs to look at their advertising campaign or even their permanent booth stationed in Budapest Airport to understand why Royal Tokaji Company is not just for connoisseurs seeking single-vineyard wines, but also caters to those making their first foray into the region’s wines. Of the estate’s 107 hectares of vineyard, around half of that area was designated first growth in the 1737 classification, including Nyulaszo, Szent Tamas, and Betsek in Mad and Mezes Maly in Tarcal. Winemakers have come and gone since its inception in 1990, many to form their own enterprises, such as Samuel Tinon. I met with present winemaker Istvan Turoczi, an energetic gentleman with obligatory bleached moustache, whose passion and enthusiasm was infectious. He made several interesting observations during my visit, one being that in Tokaj they can no longer reach the acidity levels common up until five or six years ago. Global warming perhaps? That certainly seemed to be true as I spent the week tasting both old and new vintages. He also mentioned a stylistic change. “The older I get, the less alcohol I look for,” he remarked sagely, and sure enough recent vintages displayed modest levels. It goes without saying that the wines of the Royal Tokaji Company form an ideal entry to the delights of Tokaji, both for connoisseurs and the uninitiated. That is not to say that I think the wines could not have been improved in the past, and some of the levels of new oak on the dry Furmint seem excessive in retrospect. But if you want a lesson in single vineyard expression through the medium of aszu, then seek out one of their limited edition bottlings from “Mezes Maly” or “Betsek,” go compare and contrast. The Escenzias are some of the finest Tokaji has to offer, up there with Pajzos and Disznok?, and are destined to outlive all of us. Importer: Wilson Daniels and through various importers in the UK.