My research on producers of Tokaj wines prior to my trip to the area in April of 2019 turned up quite a good number of candidates to visit. In narrowing down the number, necessary because of time constraints, I relied much on the advice of leading Hungarian wine writer – and friend – Daniel Ercsey. Among the producers Daniel advised to visit was Tokaj Nobilis, and this was further reinforced by that name cropping up in several other lists. So, a visit was called for.
Tokaj Nobilis is at home in Bodrogkeresztur, sort of just around the corner of the hill from Tokaj town itself. Winemaking and -ageing takes place partly in spanking new facilities and partly in ancient cellars dug into the hillside. The family runs a B&B on the property, and have a stylish new winetasting facility across the road from it.
Tokaj Nobilis is a family business, owned and operated by Sarolta Bárdos and husband Péter Molnar. They are both well-known characters within the recent history of Tokaj wine, Sarolta having worked for large producers Degenfeld and Béres, and Péter being the managing director of large producer Patricius.
One might be forgiven for thinking that this makes Tokaj Nobilis a hobby project on the side for the busy couple, but this is a very serious, high-quality undertaking in its own right. Production is around 20,000 bottles / year in a good year, from 7 hectares of organically farmed property. There are several of the big-name vineyards in the portfolio.
Winemaking is simple, clean, quite modern, using stainless steel vats for fermentation, selected yeasts and preferably used oak barrels where oak ageing is employed. The aim is to produce clean, elegant, vertical wines that reflect their terroir as much as possible.
I have discussed elsewhere the merits of using neutral selected yeasts to bring out a consistent vineyard character over time. I think that this is a valid approach, and it is being used to good effect here.
I sometimes come across opinion pieces by wine writers about the relative merits of producers that make “nose” wines vs. “mouth” wines, the notion being that in making wine one must choose whether to go for the wine’s potential aromatic qualities or for the potential mouthfeel and structure. I don’t necessarily agree that this is such a clear-cut choice, but in the case of Tokaj Nobilis one could actually talk about a producer whose wines have it more in the mouth than on the nose. I am not implying that the wines do not have aromatic qualities, because they certainly do, as you will see from my tasting notes, but they really shine in the mouth.
The wines come across as very stylish, lithe, elegant, much like Sarolta herself, in fact, with racy acidity and a lean, minerally intensity that prolongs the aftertaste significantly. The balance between acidity and sweetness is towards the dry side in these wines, with rather low residual sweetness numbers except where wines are made deliberately sweet; I like that a lot.
I rarely comment on label design etc., because I am much more into the contents, but the bottles and labels here are also very stylish and elegant.
My tasting notes follow. As usual, no colour notes, and no points scoring. They wouldn’t tell you anything relevant anyway.
Tokaji Furmint 2018
100% Furmint. Sourced from estate vineyards. Aged 5 months, half in steel vats, half in 6-7-years-old oak barrels. Residual sugar 3-4 grammes per litre, acidity 6 grammes per litre. Alcohol 12.5%.
Sweet apple with sweet spice and sweet florality. Juicy, slender, high acidity, very minerally. Good length, lightly spicy aromas somewhat toned down compared to the nose.
Tokaji Furmint Barakonyi 2017
100% Furmint. From single vineyard Barakonyi. Fermented and aged for 5 months in 6-7-years-old oak barrels. Residual sugar 2-3 grammes per litre, acidity 7 grammes per litre. Alcohol 14%.
Somewhat neutral nose with dry apple, mineral and a touch of smoke. Medium full, excellent acidity, super juicy, quite tense. Long, vertical and super minerally. Volcanic. Intense.
Tokaji Hárslevelü Barakonyi “Hárs” 2017
100% Hárslevelü. Fermented and aged for 5 months in old oak barrels. Residual sugar 2-3 grammes per litre, acidity 7 grammes per litre. Alcohol 13.5%.
Barely ripe peach, flowers and hints of smoke and clay on the nose. Juicy-tight, delicious, zingy, minerally, with a hint of sweet fruit. Long, clean and beautiful, lightly floral.
Tokaji Sárgamuskotály 2018
100% Sárgamuskotály. Fermented and aged in steel vats. Further data escaped me, except that it was deliberately made slightly sweet.
Fresh and charming, floral, aromatic, lightly spicy nose with hints of nectarine and lightly bitter herbs; tiny bit of reduction. Lightly sweet in the mouth, very fresh, with good acidity. Good length, elegant, freshly aromatic.
Tokaji Late Harvest “Amicus” 2013
100% Furmint. Fermented and aged in old oak barrels for 6 months. Residual sugar 120 grammes per litre, acidity 7.5 grammes per litre. Alcohol 12.5%.
Delicious, fresh nose of apricots, botrytis, bright minerals and flowers. Considerably sweet, offset by fresh acidity and towering minerality; great freshness to this all-out sweet wine. Lingers for very long, repeating the aromas from the nose.
This winery exudes style, elegance, clean lines and freshness, both in appearance and in the bottle, without in any way sacrificing terroir. That is an impressive balance to strike. Highly recommended.
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 Tokaj Nobilis.