Wine & Spirits Glossary
Dry and Semi-Sweet Wines
The winemaking process for Tokaj dry wines is straightforward: the grapes are harvested, pressed, fermented, matured, and bottled.
Furmint: Furmint is the most important grape in Tokaj (it makes up about 60-70 percent of the grapes grown here). Furmint wines are full bodied, often matured in oak, and can be száraz (dry) or félédes (semi-sweet). Dry furmint wines are a classically Hungarian flavor. The grapes have high acidity and tannins, making them ideal for sweet wine, as well stunning dry wines.
Hárslevelű: Hárslevelű is the second most important variety grown in Tokaj (about 30 percent). Hárslevelű wines can be dry, but are more often semi-dry or sweet.
Sárga muskotály: Known internationally as muscat lunel, this grape can produce floral and fruity dry wines, and is often added to aszú wines.
Tokaji Aszú and Eszencia
Tokaji aszú and eszencia are what have made Tokaj famous over the past five centuries.
Tokaji aszú: The wine is made from late-harvested, raisin-like, botrytized grapes, with concentrated levels of sugar and aroma (also known as ‘noble rot’). The grapes are selectively harvested one at a time, and the wine is measured in terms of sweetness from three puttonyos to six puttonyos (however new regulations have ended production of three and four puttonyos aszú). Aszú wines are aged in oak for several years and are primarily dessert wines. To make any aszú, first a base wine is made earlier in the harvest (this should have high acidity and alcohol content), and then the shriveled, botrytized berries are picked and macerated for a few days in the base wine. After maceration, the juice is pressed and goes into the barrel for aging.
Tokaji aszúeszencia: This is a rare category (not officially allowed anymore), which is even sweeter than six puttonyos aszú. This is made by adding even more shriveled berries to the base wine. It would be the equivalent of a seven or eight puttonyos wine.
Tokaji eszencia: Eszencia has such a high sugar content (which causes it to ferment extremely slowly, over years sometimes) that the alcohol content rarely reaches more than five percent. To make eszencia, a vat is filled with aszú berries and the pressure of the grapes pushing down on each other pushes out the eszencia, which is a thick, honey-like syrup. It’s not really meant to be drunk straight, but more to be used as a component in aszú blends. It’s the kind of wine that is rarely seen outside of Tokaj, and is worth seeking out there for a once-in-a-lifetime taste.
Late Harvest and Szamorodni
These wines are made from grapes that are harvested late in the season, after becoming over-ripe. Some of the berries are shriveled, some can be botrytized, but the majority of the bunch has healthy berries. They are crushed, fermented, and aged together.
Tokaji szamorodni: After the aszú grapes are harvested by hand, berry by berry, whatever clusters are left are then picked whole during the szamorodni harvest. Szamorodni is aged in barrels for one or two years and can be either dry or sweet (depending on the amount of botrytized grapes left in the clusters). The dry version, which is matured under flor, is wonderful and is one of Tokaj’s old traditional wines. Don’t miss it if you have the chance to taste it! It’s high in alcohol, can be reminiscent of sherry, and makes an excellent aperitif. Up until the 18th century Poland was a major market for Tokaji wine, and this wine was one of the best sellers. The name szamorodni is derived from a Polish word, which means ‘as it was born’.
Late-harvest: These wines first began appearing in the mid-1990s, and are similar to szamorodni, but with a shorter aging period of just a few months.
Tokaji Fordítás and Máslás
These wines aren’t as popular as they once were, and these days are only produced by a few dedicated wineries. They have been described as “aszú’s of the second try”.
Tokaji Fordítás: Fordítás was once popular in Tokaj, but is now made in very small quantities. Fordítás means “turning over” and the wine is made by macerating the residue left after pressing the berries the first time for aszú. Since it still contains plenty of sweetness, it is soaked in fresh must for a second time, which results in fordítás. Fordítás can be as sweet as a three, four, or five puttonyos aszú wine, but not as full bodied, and with more tannins.
Tokaji Máslás: Máslás, which means “copy”, is made by pouring must on the aszú lees (the sediment that has accumulated during fermentation and aging) and then fermenting it again.
ágyas pálinka: pálinka with fruit or herbs at the bottom of the bottle (“bedded” pálinka)
borpárlat: a drink made from distilled wine; it’s essentially brandy
erdei or vad: wild
kisüsti: small batches of pálinka made by using the traditional method of double batch distillation
pálinka: brandy distilled from fruit with no added sugar or alcohol
pálinkafőzde: pálinka distillery
párlat: any kind of distilled drink
szeszes ital: a distilled spirit of lower quality than a true pálinka
szilvórium: a high-quality plum pálinka
törkölypálinka: pálinka distilled from pomace (the residue left after pressing grapes for wine)
barack, sárgabarack, or kajszibarack: apricot
birs: quince; it’s often called birsalma in years when it’s shaped like an apple and birskörte in years when it’s shaped like a pear
cigánymeggy: a collective name for any type of small cherries
erdei vadmálna: wild raspberry
fehér eper: mulberry
fekete ribizli: black currant
kökény: sloe (a wild European plum-like fruit that comes from the blackthorn)
meggy: sour cherry
mézes: honey flavored
ringló: greengage (a type of sweet plum with a light green colored flesh and red or greenish-yellow skin)
sárgadinnye: cantaloupe or honeydew melon
som: European Cornel (a species of dogwood that produces fruit)
szamóca: wild strawberry
vadalma: a type of crabapple native to Central Europe
vilmos körte: Williams pear (or Bartlett pear in North America)
asztali bor: “table wine”; the lowest-quality wine
bikavér: Bull’s Blood cuvée
borkereskedő: wine merchant
borkorcsolya: snacks to eat with wine
(boros)pohár: (wine) glass
borkóstoló: wine tasting
borvidék: wine region
csúcsbor: top wine; this designation is given annually by the Pannon Bormíves Céh (Guild of Pannonian Wines) at the Pannon Bormustra competition, which is Hungary’s most prestigious. Five Bikavérs, 20 dry whites, 10 sweet whites, and 25 dry reds receive the designation, and their bottles are then stamped with the gold Pannon Bormustra seal.
dűlő: slope, hill, vineyard
fajbor: varietal wine
folyóbor: bulk wine (literally “running wine”)
gyöngyöző bor: lightly sparkling, or frizzante wine
késői szüretelésű: late harvested
minőségi bor: “quality wine”
palackozta: bottled by
pincesor: cellar row
primőr: another word for újbor, the first wine released from the new harvest
siller: A wine that’s lighter than red, but darker than rosé. The winemaking process is similar to rosé, but the skins aren’t removed from the grapes and the fermentation process is longer. Siller wine largely disappeared since it wasn’t recognized as an official type of wine when the industry was nationalized. It’s low in alcohol and high in acidity.
termelői bor: wine made by the wine grower
termelte: produced by
újbor: new wine
Wine Varietal / Style Decoder
Kékfrankos: Blaufränkisch / Lemberger
Kisburgundi: Pinot Noir
Muskotály: Muscat Ottonel
Pezsgő: Sparkling Wine
Portugieser: Blauer Portugieser
Rajnai rizling: Rhine Riesling
Sárga muskotály: Yellow Muscat / Muscat Lunel
Szürkebarát: Pinot Gris
Zöldveltelini: Grüner Veltliner