Tokaji has an identity crisis. You may have never heard about wines from this area of eastern Hungary. They are white wines and mostly all are sweet. And sweet wines are hard sell. Yet the Tokaji wines remain fresh, with bright acidity — even after years of aging. No cloying, overly sweet wines here. This makes Tokaji highly drinkable – and not just for dessert. Therein lies Tokaji’s issue. While it is a perfect after dinner drink, the wine, thanks to the crisp acid, pairs beautifully with all sorts of dishes, and not just creme brûlée or chocolate.
In the wine world we talk about the old world and the new world. The old world is basically Europe – France, Germany, Italy, Spain, etc. The new world is just about everywhere else – The US, Australia, South America, South Africa.
I am standing in the oldest of the old world. My travels have brought me to Tokaji, Hungary, a two and a half hour drive east of Budapest. You may not realize wine is made in Hungary. You may be surprised to learn that the area called Tokaji is the oldest delimited, or defined, wine region in the world, established by royal degree in 1737. The most famous wine here is the sweet wine known as Tokaji. It is called “the king of wine and wine of kings.” This golden to amber nectar has a long storied history, going back to the Middle Ages. Royal fans included French kings Louis XIV, Louis XV, Madame de Pompadour and Russia’s emperor Peter the Great.
Dutton Ranch. Durrell. Hudson. Hyde. Chenoweth Ranch. Pisoni. What do all these names have in common? Yes, they are all vineyards, and some are wine brands too. But they all provide grapes for the single vineyard Chardonnay and Pinot Noir wines of Patz & Hall.
The Sonoma-based winery isn’t the first to put single vineyard designations on their wines but they also champion the grower. “The longest grower relationship we have is with Larry Hyde. We started to buy Hyde Vineyard Chardonnay in 1990,” says winemaker James Hall.