Friday, December 11, 2015


Wine, great wine at any rate, is pure liquid romance - it's not just something to drink, it's history, legend, memories, poetry, inspiration, and other such things. In my first wine job I had a manager who really bought all those things alive, he was also the one who introduced me to really good sweet wine. It's not always the most appreciated category, which is maybe no bad thing, because it's still possible to get really amazing wines for affordable amounts (by which I mean between £15 and £50, anywhere on that scale represents an extravagance for me, but one that's worth while. It's a
Ways about quality over quantity). 

The first time I tried Tokaji, which has had a glamorous reputation for its sweet wines since the 17th century, all I could do was smile. This was a reaction the boss was well acquainted with - it's the response that some wines demand, really good ones made us giggle with happiness (not inebriation). 

When I say Tokaji, I mean a 5 Puttonyos Aszú, a lusciously sweet, topaz coloured, gem of a wine that has woven itself into history and literature (the list of famous historical fans on Wikipedia is impressive). It's made from grapes that have developed noble rot (it basically drys them out leaving a very concentrated juice with a distinctive 'botrytis' character) is a delight with food (foie gras if you can stomach it - I prefer not to - blue cheese, chocolate desserts if they're not to sweet, or something fruity) but perhaps best on its own where the balance of rich sweetnes and uplifting acidity gets the spotlight. When people tell me they don't like sweet wines (fools!) it really annoys me - I feel they're just not approaching them in the right frame of mind. Treat them as the sweet thing at the end of a meal and ditch a pudding altogether if need be. (I do, begrudgingly, accept that some people really never will like these wines, and that's okay, but for the most part it's just a case of putting aside a few prejudices). 

Tokaji gets plenty of mentions in literature; Bram Stoker apparently had a fondness for it and Dracula actually wouldn't be a bad choice - the wine lends itself to the gloriously gothic (though I feel it's true heart is in the baroque) but my bottle is being saved for a couple of evenings with Stefan Zweig. 'Beware of Pity' was one of the best books I read last year, I loved the way it caught the tensions of a changing world. Tokaji is an opulent survivor, an aristocratic wine that made it through the communist regime. I have 'The Invisible Collection' (Tales of Obsession and Desire) waiting to be read, and that too seems to me like it would taste of Tokaji. 

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