New products are always exciting. Especially, if they claim to provide you a one of a kind experience. Usually, these products come with a price tag that is proportional to their claims. The Tokaji Essencia 2008 i.e. the world’s most expensive wine is one such product.
Now, don’t think for a second that this being made by some young upstarts. Royal Tokaji, the makers of the world’s most expensive wine carry a rich and diverse history with them. Born in the Carpathian foothills of northeastern Hungary, this wine was once deemed the finest wine money could buy. However, due to some disastrous circumstances the region was reduced to a mere footnote in history.
In the 19th century, Tokaji’s Aszu wines were all the rage. People like Louis XIV endorsed it. He even went on to say that the most expensive wine was “The wine for kings, the king of wines”. Even the Vatican kept it by the Pope’s bedside. Some rumors suggest that the Pope made one hell of a wine from water, but I think it’s a simple coincidence.
People loved it so much that they claimed it had medicinal properties. Apparently, calling it medicinal made it socially acceptable to drink the most expensive wine from dawn to dusk. Heck, the Hungarians even mention the thing in their national anthem.
So, what changed then?
The century! The 20th century brought with it a plethora of problems for the world’s most expensive wine. First, World War 1 happened. That ended with the destruction of the Austro-Hungarian empire. Then, World War 2 came along with a double whammy and ended with a Soviet-aligned communist regime coming to power.
The regime collectivized wine-making operations. This resulted in quality degradation over the years and resulted in a significant hit to the industry. The most expensive wine, once crowned as the king was without a throne now. Even the traditions and techniques used to create the wine became obscure.
What’s different now?
The ownership of the vineyards has slowly returned to the families in the region. Some independent local interests have also adopted some vineyards. The region itself doesn’t want to be limited to only making the most expensive wine. They also aim to take over the average wine consumer’s taste-buds.
To help them achieve that foreign investors are savvily investing in the region. Varietals like Furmint, Harslevelu, and Sargamuskotaly are being prepared to be unleashed. After three decades of lost time spent in restoration of the grapevines. The winemakers are now ready to bottle quality wines across the board.
The release of the most expensive wine is an effort towards just that. By showing the world the best they can offer, they can effectively bring the Hungarian wine-making industry to the forefront. Add to that qualities such as sweet, rare and expensive and you can attract a lot of consumers.
The release also seems to be especially focused around China. Understandable, as in recent years the demand for wine has gone up in China. The fact that it is a fast-growing export market for European wine makers also merits the special attention. Heck, the first ever bottle of this expensive and luxurious wine was already shipped to Beijing.
The most expensive wine has finally returned to its rightful place and looks like Royal Tokaji will be confidently holding the crown.
Let’s talk about the wine itself.
Now, you must be wondering just why is it the most expensive wine? Well, that’s due to both production and scarcity. A single magnum of this sweet and syrupy goodness can use 400 pounds of grapes alone. Add to that the lengthy maturation, the fact that they are all individually picked and harvested by hand and you can see why. This is a quite labor intensive wine and that’s why it is so rewarding.
The berries used in the process are special as well. These Azsu berries need to be dried out by mold first. Not any mold will do the trick though. Only Botrytis Cinerea i.e. the “noble rot” can do that. The mold turns shrivels these grapes like raisins. This kicks the sugar concentration up a notch. After that, the winemakers tinker with various styles and levels of sweetness to create the most expensive wine.
The Essencia is also expensive because it exclusively utilizes the juice of the Azsu berries. While other wines from the region feature a mixture of some sorts, the most expensive wine utilizes only the most noble berries. That also means a long fermentation period of upto 8 years due to the sugary punch they pack. The berries, themselves, aren’t equal. Only the highest quality of them is used in the production and they only come as often as nature allows.
The most expensive wine itself is so rich and syrupy that it is only served in small doses; preferably in crystal spoons. It’s for the best though as only 18 bottles of this special wine will ever reach people. Aided by the fact that this wine can age for a 100 years this wine is easily the most exclusive and limited. Fitting for the equally rare buyer that will buy them.