I'll be bringing Tokaji to the Old World/New World Solstice tasting.
A royal decree in 1757 established this as one of the world's first appellations, pre-dating Bordeaux (Chianti was the first in 1716). There's evidence of viticulture in Hungary dating back to a vast system of cellars that were carved out of solid rock between 1400 and 1600 AD. Even earlier, a petrified grape found in the region from about the 3rd century. So Tokaji is definitely Old World.
The Tokaj terroir consists of clay on volcanic subsoil in a mountainous region, with grapes that are grown on sunny, south-facing slopes in close proximity to the Tisza and Bodrog rivers.What gives the wine its natural sweetness, though, is Noble Rot, and the microclimate is conducive to the proliferation of Botrytis and the subsequent desiccation of the grapes.
As with the first person to have eaten a lobster, it took a brave soul to have first made wine from grapes infected with Botrytis cinerea, the noble rot. The fungus attacks the fruit, absorbing water and shriveling skins, and a metamorphosis takes place as ripe, healthy grapes shrink into a ghastly, desiccated mass.
But a nectar so sweet it is referred to in the national anthem of Hungary.
To try a good Tokaji aszu (pronounced TOKE-eye-ee AHS-oo) for the first time is a revelation. The color of a wine of recent vintage, say six or seven years old, is already a shocking orange bordering on red, and it can be rich, thick and lavishly sweet, with the flavors of dried apricots and oranges. Yet a high acidity keeps the wine in a thrilling balance, teetering between cloying and syrupy on one side and overly harsh on the other. Though far sweeter than a Sauternes, a Tokaji aszu will generally be more refreshing because of the higher acidity. New York TimesThis pale gold dessert wine has a lifted nose of apricot, honey, spruce needle and orange marmalade. It's mid-weight, medium sweet and braced by fresh acidity and bitter orange on the finish. Quite elegant and lively and not sweet enough for dessert. Bring on the orange, nut loaf and creamy cheeses. Score - 90. (David Lawrason, winealign.com, Nov. 2011)