The Tasting Panel magazine

June 2018

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Page 97 of 100

june 2018  /  the tasting panel  /  97 Advanced Sommelier Miklós Katona (far right), who was born and raised in Hungary, and Master Sommelier Brandon Tebbe (second from left) were the two U.S.- based sommeliers officially recognized this year in a Confrérie de Tokaj ceremony. Katona serves as the Director of Wine Education for Confrérie de Tokaj USA. "For sommeliers, the Great Tokaji Wine Auction is also a great opportunity to visit vineyards, touch the soil, meet producers, and experience Tokaj firsthand," he says. They're pictured with Attila Balla, President of Vinum Tokaj International; Eniko " Magyar, Wines of Excellence Project Director; and Dr. Péter Molnár, President of the Tokaj Wine Communities. harvest wines, another blooming category from the region, where most of the winemakers can have fun without worrying about the minimum residual sugar." As the new "Year of Aszú" began to take root, the Confrérie de Tokaj held its sixth annual Great Tokaji Wine Auction on April 21. Katona says the auction helps the organization "reposition Tokaj as the international treasure it is." "This year there was a record number of 31 wines made by 24 producers going under the hammer," he adds. "Each year members of the trade as well as private collectors, importers, and sommeliers come from all of Tokaj's major markets—Hungary, Poland, Germany, France, China, the U.K., and the U.S.—to bid on wines available only at the auction. On the same day, before it began, everybody had the opportu- nity to blind-taste each and every wine slated for bidding." At this year's event, a 1963 5 Puttonyos Tokaji Aszú sold for the highest price per bottle in the history of the auction as simultaneous live bidding unfolded in London for the first time. "Next year we plan to organize live bidding from a city in the U.S.," Katona says. "We have already done Tokaji wine dinners in New York and D.C. that were very well received, so we know there is growing interest in those markets." When asked to share insights into what makes Tokaj unlike any other region in the world, Katona explains that "Tokaj is located in proximity to two rivers, which create humid conditions that encourage noble rot [also known as botrytis]." "There are six grapes permitted in the region, but the one with the highest acid and skin most susceptible to botrytis is Furmint. It's not only the best variety for Aszú, but also for dry wines because of its acidity and dense phenolic feel," he continues. "Because of that, we can serve Aszú or late harvest styles of Furmint with dishes like foie gras, spicy Asian dishes, and everything from duck confit to creamy stone fruit desserts and classic American cheesecake." According to Katona, Hungarian wineries are producing two styles of dry Furmint or Hárslevelu " : "zesty fruit-focused wines and richer, creamier, oak- influenced wines." "We love the pure fruit styles with white fish and especially crustaceans or langoustines—savory, salty dishes seem to have a connection with the mineral taste unique to the grapes as well as the terroir of Tokaj—while we serve bigger, richer styles with chicken, pork, and turkey." Unique Wines Not Available Elsewhere The wine auction presents an array of unusual and exceptional wines representing the very best of Tokaj. Lots offered feature both wines still in the barrel and some already bottled; they cover a range of Tokaji wines including Furmint, Hárslevelu " , late harvest, sweet and dry Szamorodnis, and, naturally, the noble sweet 5 and 6 puttonyos Tokaji Aszú for which the region is most famous. This year saw new wineries participating as well as the largest number of produc- ers to date, each of which brought a wine only available at the Confrérie's annual auction. These special wines are part of the Confrérie's mission to "open the treasure chest that is Tokaj," said Dr. Péter Molnár, the newly elected President of the Tokaj Wine Communities organization.

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