Tokaj Tasting Notes – Erzsébet Pince


On my scouting trip to Tokaj, Hungary, in April 2019, I visited one of the producers recommended strongly to me by several sources: Erzsébet Pince.

This was a revelatory visit. I obviously knew about, had tasted and had read up on Tokaj and its wines, but I had not tasted Erzsébet’s wines before. I was not prepared for just how good dry white Tokaj had become, so Erzsébet’s wines had a huge impact.

But more on that later. First, an introduction to the winery and the people.

 

Erzsébet Pince is owned by the Prácser family. Pater familias, Miklós Prácser Sr., and his wife Erzsébet, arrived in the Tokaj area in 1974, working for the state farm. As early as 1989, during the fall of communism in Hungary, Miklós started his own winery. Within short, he also became estate director for the large Degenfeld winery in the Tokaj area, and remained so for 17 years. During the same period, Erzsébet worked for several of the other large foreign investments in Tokaj, and among other things planted many of large producer Oremus’ vineyards. I think it would be reasonable to say that few other families would be able to match the Prácser family when it comes to sheer experience in making Tokaj.

Over the years, the Prácsers’ knowledge and acumen allowed them to pick up parcels in some of the greatest Tokaj vineyards. Total holdings currently stand at 15 hectares, of which 12 are in production. Vineyards include such hallowed names as Sajgó, Veresek, Betsek, Király and Zafir. They also have holdings in the Pécsi vineyard on the southeastern slope of Tokaj Hill, and the Betsek parcel is in the steep, terraced Burja subplot at the very top.

From the 12 hectares in production, the Prácsers produce around 10,000 bottles per year. While that is partially the result of selling grapes to others, that is still astonishingly little, and is testament to the singular quality focus at Erzsébet. Yields are kept very low, and even then, only the best grapes are kept for themselves. It is no coincidence that Erzsébet have won recognition, medals and prizes galore.

Current winemaker is Miklós Sr.’s son, Miklós Jr., who uses high-quality Hungarian and French oak barrels for the majority of the production. Production is state of the art, and the cellars are absolutely spotless. Non-aromatic selected yeasts are used for the entirety of the production, as Erzsébet want maximum consistency, to allow the terroir and vintage – and not whatever spontaneous microorganisms might appear – to come through every year. Some would say that ultimate terroir fidelity requires you to use ambient yeasts, but I have a lot of time for those that say that if you actually want to be able to consistently taste the difference between different vineyards and different vintages, you should provide as neutral a fermentation background as possible. And I would dare anyone to say that Erzsébet’s wines lack terroir transparency or fidelity.

Marketing and public relations are done by daughter Hajni, and it was Hajni I met during my visit. To my relief, Hajni spoke excellent English (I believe her husband is English…), and so conversation flowed effortlessly. Hajni came across as precise, extremely knowledgeable and with an undercurrent of deep passion for Tokaj, its wines and the family mission.

The name Erzsébet obviously derives from the mother, but also has another significance: The beautiful 18th century cellars in the centre of Tokaj town that form the backbone of the Prácsers’ enterprise once were the fermenting and ageing cellars of the Russian Wine Trading Company, which supplied the court of the Russian Tsars. So, since Erzsébet means Elisabeth, it was also obvious to use the name as a reference to famous Tsarina Elisabeth.

 

The Erzsébet house style is precise, elegant, lithe and fresh, but with great intensity and depth, even in the Estate wines. Terroir variation comes through strongly in the wines, in particular with a sense of scintillating minerality throughout the range. I get the feeling that I could never tire of these wines, their freshness, quality and sheer drinkability.

 

My tasting notes follow. As usual, no colour notes, and no points scoring. They wouldn’t tell you anything relevant anyway.

 

Tasting notes:

Tokaji Furmint Estate 2017

100% Furmint, fermented and aged in 80% Hungarian oak and 20% steel tank.

Delicious, elegant nose with notes of apple, fresh and minerally, lightly floral. Again, delicious and elegant in the mouth, excellent acidity balanced by very slight residual sugar (no sense of sweetness). Intense, long and super delicious. And this is only entry level!

Tokaji Furmint Estate 2018

100% Furmint, fermented and aged in 80% Hungarian oak and 20% steel tank.

Fresh, delicious, ripely fruity nose, lightly floral. Medium full, great acidity is slightly less than 2017, lovely sense of fatness. Long, minerally, handsome.

Tokaji Zafir 2016

90% Furmint, 10% Hárslevelü. The Zafir vineyard in Tarcal is mainly loess, but with some clay and volcanic rock intruding. Fermented and aged in oak.

Broad, almost meaty nose with peach, sweet green herbs and light honey. Slender in the mouth, the taste borne by scintillating acidity. Long and beautifully minerally. Glittering, beautiful.

Tokaji Zafir 2017

90% Furmint, 10% Hárslevelü. The Zafir vineyard in Tarcal is mainly loess, but with some clay and volcanic rock intruding. Fermented and aged in oak.

Open nose with peach, wax, clay and the sort of soft greenery you get from loess soils. Beautifully enveloping fruit around a core of beautiful acidity. Looooong and soft and dry. Great. Give it time.

Tokaji Betsek 2017

80% Furmint, 20% Kabar. Fermented and aged for 6 months in oak. 900 bottles/year.

Sweetly fruity, broad nose with an undercurrent of minerality, light oak spice and a smoky hint. Very intense, broad, dry, with extract supporting sweet apple fruit and spice. Extends into great length. Still very young.

Tokaji Betsek 2018

80% Furmint, 10% Hárslevelü, 10% Kabar. Fermented and aged for 6 months in oak. 900 bottles/year.

Slender, aromatic apple on the nose, mountain brook minerality and hint of spice. Slender, intense, much extract, excellent minerality, slight hint of sweet alcohol and fine, sweet spice. Very long. Great future.

Tokaji Király 2016

100% Furmint. Fermented and aged in 100% new French oak for 6 months. Király (“king”) is a heavily volcano-influenced vineyard, with a subsoil of rhyolite and with obsidian intrusions. 600-900 bottles/year.

Sweetly green nose with clay, light exotic spice and wax. Scintillating acidity takes charge and gives you a vertical, mouthwatering, fresh, gigantically minerally wine. Long-long-long and intense. Super delicious.

Tokaji Király 2017

100% Furmint. Fermented and aged in 100% new French oak for 6 months. Király (“king”) is a heavily volcano-influenced vineyard, with a subsoil of rhyolite and with obsidian intrusions. 600-900 bottles/year.

Minerally nose with greenish hints, touch of wax and anise; still young and closed. Tight, mouthwatering, vertical, super-minerally, with glittering acidity. Very long, super delicious.

Tokaji Aszú 6 Puttonyos 2010

100% Furmint. 170 grammes per litre of residual sugar. 10 grammes per litre of acidity. Very few bottles made.

Nose with honey, stinging nettle, malt drops, minerals, spice, hugely complex, but still fresh and young; full-on botrytis aromas develop with time in the glass. Great sweetness is balanced by amazing acidity and great extract. Very long and intense, with cool minerality. Still very young, will last and even improve for a long time.

Tokaji Aszú 6 Puttonyos 2013

100% Furmint. 210 grammes per litre of residual sugar. 8 grammes per litre of acidity. Very few bottles made. 2013 is said to be a fantastic botrytis vintage.

Fantastic nose with peach, apricot, powerful bright minerality, great freshness and nettle-y botrytis. Great sweetness, almost liquid honey viscosity, but balanced by beautiful acidity. Extremely long and complex, repeating the impressions from the nose. Immortal. Wow!

 

We did not taste older dry wines at this sitting, but given the concentration, intensity, acidity and balance I expect enormous longevity and a staggering development in bottle, particularly for the single-vineyard bottlings. The dry wines should essentially develop like great dry Rieslings, which can be nigh-om immortal. By that, I also mean that complexity and minerality should increase significantly in bottle, even if from an already high level.

Tokaj sweet wines are obviously famous and have a long and glorious history, but the two Aszú wines tasted on this occasion were levels above what I had ever tried before, both in terms of intensity and in terms of freshness and cleanliness.

 

Erzsébet presented an extremely convincing flight of wines on this occasion. It is quite obvious that this was not a fluke, but the result of long experience and an ambition to reach the highest highs. This is a highly recommended, world-class producer.

 

Declaration of Interest: Apart from writing about wine, I am also a wine merchant. I do not at the point of writing import or sell wines from Erzsébet. However, given the quality on offer here, I will not at all rule out that I will try my hand at that later on, if they’ll let me.

This entry was posted in Dessert Wine, Hungary, Sweet Wine, Tokaj, White wine, Wine, Wine producers and tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

1 Response to Tokaj Tasting Notes – Erzsébet Pince

  1. Pingback: Ole Udsen Wine Blog – ERZSÉBET PINCE – TOKAJ

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