The new Tokaj Product Specification (TPS) has been published on the website of the Council of Wine Communities in the Tokaj Wine Region, marking the final milestone in the process of enacting the changes initiated by the Council, newly elected in early 2013. The amendment of the TPS follows an October 2013 modification of the region’s Procedural Regulations for Vine Cultivation and Wine Production [Rendtartás in HU] and a subsequent amendment of the Wine Act.
The driving objectives of these recent changes are to strengthen Aszú as the highest category of Tokaji sweet wines and tighten appellation controls, as well as to simplify the range of Tokaj wine styles for easier understanding by consumers. Further amendments are expected to follow in the coming months and years.
Here is a summary of the most important changes:
NEW QUALITY CRITERIA ARE INTRODUCED FOR THE ASZÚ CATEGORY
Minimum residual sugar is set at 120 g/L for Aszú wines
The pre-amendment minimum residual sugar levels were 60 for g/L for a 3p Aszú, 90 g/l for a 4p Aszú, 120 g/L for a 5p Aszú and 150 g/L for a 6p Aszú. This means the use of the name Aszú is now restricted to the former two highest categories, 5p and 6p. The new Aszú category begins at 120 g/L, spanning the range of the now discontinued Aszúeszencia style, up to the domain of Eszencia, starting at 450 g/L. The underlying idea is that an Aszú should be a rich and highly concentrated wine, and this amendment only reinforces a common agreement that the wines truly representative of the Aszú category have always been those in the 5p or 6p categories.
Minimum total alcohol level is raised to 19% ABV for Aszú wines
It was 16.11 abv for 5p and 18.53% abv for 6p before the amendment.
The puttonyos grading system is abolished
The use of the puttonyos grading system became common by the early 19th century to distinguish between Aszú wines according to sweetness and concentration. With the new TPS referring to Aszú in general without any puttony-based subdivisions, the puttonyos system has been technically abolished. The indication of a puttonyos number remains within the producers’ discretion, but, contrary to current practice, many are expected to leave it off the label when the first 2013 Aszús hit the market in 2016 at the earliest. Curiously enough, puttonyos numbers 3 and 4 can still be used, should a producer choose to for reasons of marketing or other considerations. However, only Aszú wines with 150 g/L of residual sugar or above can be labelled as 6 puttonyos.
Barrel aging requirement lowered from a minimum to 2 years to 18 months for Aszú wines
No Aszú wine can be released before 1st January in the third year after the year of harvest, which is to say, the overall (that is, barrel plus bottle) aging requirement remains 3 years. Minimum acidity (expressed in tartaric acid), minimum actual alcohol, minimum dry extract and maximum allowable volatile acidity all remain the same at 6 g/L, 9% abv, 35 g/L (i.e. the former 5p min. level) and 2.1 g/L, respectively.It should be noted for clarity, though, that conformity with the above (and other) analytic criteria only allows any wine to be labelled as Aszú if such wine has been made using the traditional method of macerating separately handpicked botrytised berries in a base wine or a base must.
ASZÚ BERRIES TO FINISHED WINE RATIOS ARE AMENDED
A vastly complicated table of ratios is replaced with three concise stipulations, the most important being that a maximum of 220 litres of finished Aszú and Fordítás can be made from 100 kg aszú [i.e. botrytised] berries. The pre-amendment figures were as low as 113 L and 117 L for the 5p and 6 p categories, respectively, and the ratio for Fordítás was specified separately. Because actual yields of finished Aszú wines from 100 kg of aszú berries is always higher, this eventually resulted in the production of excess amounts of Aszú wines that could not be released as Aszú. The amended ratio more accurately reflects actual yields.
ASZÚESZENCIA WINE CATEGORY IS DISCONTINUED
A non-traditional category of Tokaji wines, Aszúeszencia was introduced as late as 1970 to cover wines between 6p Aszú and Eszencia, that is, those ranging from 180 g/L to, initially, 250 g/L in residual sugar. The upper limit was later raised to 450 g/L. It was very often mistaken for Eszencia, a pure nectar made from the free-run juice of botrytised berries. There was a failed earlier attempt to discontinue this category in a 2010 proposed amendment of the TPS. Wines of a concentration equivalent to that of the now ceased Aszúeszencia will fall into the Aszú category starting from the 2013 harvest.
RULES OF BOTTLING AND SWEETENING ARE TIGHTENED UP FOR ALL TOKAJI WINES
Enrichment, sweetening and bottling outside the region have long not been allowed for the traditional Tokaji styles (Eszencia, Aszú, Szamorodni, Fordítás and Máslás). This amendment phases out the practice of sweetening and external bottling for Late Harvest Tokajis and every other Tokaji-labelled wine (whether dry or sweet). It means that there will be no bottling allowed of any Tokaji outside the Tokaj Wine Region after 1st August 2014. Sweetening will be forbidden as from 1st August 2015. Also, enrichment is no longer permitted for Late Harvest category wines.