I first came across the Tokaj Classic wines over 10 years ago, and bought some of their 2005 and 2003 aszu wines. The wines were stunning, and I still have a few left in my cellar. I’d never met the Hungarian founder of the company before, and when he contacted me in advance of Prowein it seemed like a good chance to find out more, and renew my acquaintance with the wines. András Bruhács is an interesting man. He was a cellist for most of his life (mainly playing at the Wiesbaden opera) but he only settled in Germany when he left Hungary in 1968 as a political refugee. His father had had a small vineyard in the south of the country, and András helped him out. However, after he fled the country his main focus on wines was as consuming rather than producing it. After the fall of the Iron Curtain Hungary opened up slowly, but András had rather lost touch with the country’s wines – if I understood correctly dry red Bordeaux was his focus, and he drunk good chateaux. In 1993 his wife saw a cover of the magazine Newsweek headlining T]tokaj as ‘the uncut diamond of Hungary’; this prompted him to return to his home country and buy a few hectares of vineyard. He was helped early on by one of the great figures in the post-communist revival of tokaj, István Szepsy. His first vintage – in 1994 – was only a few hundred bottles but one the first ever Hungarian Gold Medal at the International Wine and Spirits Competition – and successive wines continued to repeat this feat.
I asked András who his favourite composer is. A difficult question – but he said in the end Mahler. That makes sense, for the wines I have in my cellar are bold, intense and very complex wines with great length (though not quite the persistence of a Mahler symphony); perhaps as a winemaker he mirrors the composer – although he said he is now looking for elegance rather than intensity in his wines.
His 2013 szamorodni certainly has elegance. Although not an aszu wine it’s still sweeter than most sauternes, but with beautiful, beautiful acidity providing great balance. There’s lovely aromatic botrytis, and typical apricot jam and marmalade on the palate. Great value, as the price of Tokaj’s more prestigious aszu wines is rising more and more.