My Saturday morning began getting lost for about 30 minutes in downtown Budapest, driving around in my freshly rented Smart car, trying to find the exit to highway M3. Roughly two and a half hours later I was entering the outskirts of Tokaj, arriving at my first stop of the day, Disznókő. I was given a comprehensive guided tour by Attila. He was a very knowledgeable tour guide, and had a complete perspective on wine due to his time spent abroad, including one year as a sommelier in London.
Disznókő is one of the most historically well known estates in Tokaj, dating back to the 1600s when the Rákóczi family had ownership. After ownership was transferred among various aristocratic families, in 1992 the winery ultimately ended up in the hands of AXA Millesimes, a giant French insurance company. AXA also owns the likes of Chateau Pichon-Longueville Baron in Bordeaux and Quinta do Noval in Oporto. Disznókő is located on Road 37 and is the first estate that one reaches when coming from Budapest, just before entering the town of Tokaj. When AXA took over they essentially replanted the whole estate, lowering the yield to 4,500 vines per hectare and switching to the now standard low cordon training system, to increase the rate of botrytisation. The estate currently manages 130 hectares of vineyards and produces about 500,000 bottles of wine per year. The varieties planted include, 60% Furmint, 30% Hárslevelű, 5% Yellow Muscat, and 5% Zeta. László Mészáros is the managing director and winemaker. Certainly Disznókő is one of the big names in Tokaj today, similar to the Royal Tokaji Wine Company. They receive a lot of attention internationally by publications like Wine Spectator, who has highlighted the estate in past editions.
Disznókő’s top vineyard is Kapi, which has proven to be a perfect plot of land for Furmint. The south-facing slope protects the vines from the cold winds and the well-drained clay soil produces grapes with very fine acids, preventing the sugars from becoming too cloying. However, the true character of the vineyard is a product of the rhyolite bedrock, which gives the wine its unique identity.
In addition to the textbook explanation, outlined above, Attila gave me some more insight on Disznókő wine. They use 50/50 French and Hungarian oak for their barrel ageing. Attila believes that 1993, 1995, 1999, 2000, 2003, and 2005 have all been great vintages. Regarding the eszencia, Disznókő produced a 1993, 1999, 2003 and 2007 vintage. It was remarkable to hear that their 2007 eszencia reached a level of 900 grams per liter of residual sugar, compared to the average of around 500. I asked Attila about the latest 2008 vintage and he mentioned that the summer was short and dry and it was an average year at best. No aszú wines were produced. Regarding the 2009 vintage, although it’s certainly too early to make any forecasts, Attila was optimistic, noting that 2009 has been good so far, with sufficient rain and fog that will aid in the formation of botrytised berries.
Attila and I tasted through the following selection of Disznókő wines …
2007 Dry Furmint
Vinification: No barrel ageing, residual sugars 1 g/l, 13.5% ABV
Tasting Notes: Very summery nose with apples, ripe fleshy fruit, banana, wet stones, citrus and violets. Acidic, juicy, great balance, silky, smooth, and round texture. Flavors of minerality, sour green apple, and a citrus finish.
Price: 1,530 Ft / .75L @ winery
2007 Late Harvest Furmint
Vinification: A few months of barrel ageing, residual sugars 104 g/l, 13% ABV
Tasting Notes: Honey, apricot, mineral, fruity aromas. Syrupy texture on the back of the palate. Bitter with flavors of honey, apricot, peach preserves and a raisin finish.
Price: 2,500 Ft / .5L @ winery
2002 Szamorodni Edes (Sweet) Furmint
Vinification: 1.5 years barrel ageing, 1 year bottle ageing, residual sugars 92 g/l, 13% ABV
Tasting Notes: Smokey, floral, oak, dried apricot, melon, and almond aromas. Oily, sour, complexity on the palate. Bitter citrus flavors, canned peaches, raisins.
Price: 2,900 Ft / .5L @ winery
2004 Aszú 4 Puttonyos Furmint
Vinification: 3.5 years barrel ageing, 1 year bottle ageing, residual sugars 120 gm/l, 13% ABV
Tasting Notes: Very pleasant and elegant nose with ripe fruit, raisin, and mineral aromas. Great acidity, full-bodied, mouth coating, silky smooth texture. Flavors of raisins, prunes, dried apricots, and orange.
Price: 4,400 Ft / .5L @ winery
2000 Aszú 5 Puttonyos Furmint
Vinification: residual sugars 140 g/l, 12.5% ABV
Tasting Notes: A great complexity on the nose with noticeable dill and green olive aromas, as well as peach and flower. Full-bodied, rich, slightly cloying and syrupy sweetness but great balance and acidity. Lots of raisin flavors, plus peach and wet stones.
Price: 7,300 Ft / .5L @ winery
1999 Aszú 6 Puttonyos Furmint
Vinification: residual sugars 160 g/l, 11.5% ABV
Tasting Notes: Less complex nose than the 2000 5 puttonyos, caramel, raisins, prune juice, date aromas. Crushing acidity, sour peach, and long finish of dried apricots that stuck to the palate.
Price: 11,800 Ft / .5L @ winery