There are “three great wines in Europe”, proclaimed Hugh Johnson, “French, German and Hungarian”.

He continued that fine wines are always based on an existant wine culture, noting that the Tokaj appellation and classification predate those of Burgundy. And who better to proclaim such, than one who has spent his life writing about and intimately involved with fine wines.

The highly respected wine writer went on to express his delight that the Hungarian delegation was able to “confidently and successfully hold a Christmas Party for those who know best how to express what they taste”, the Circle of Wine Writers. He also noted the “state of excitement in the Hungarian wine business” and drew a comparison with the buzz about New Zealand Sauvignon Blanc in the mid 1980s, where many of the same faces were present as at the tasting at Westminster Cathedral Hall in early December.

Hugh Johnson’s love of Tokaji wines came shining through in his speech, not only his enthusiasm for their rise, but also for their beginnings as he fondly remembered the first harvest of Royal Tokaji after the privatisation in 1991 when, as a co-founder, he worked with István Szepsy in conditions that were far from ideal. And how far they and the other Tokaji wines have progressed since then.

In addition to the 23 Hungarian producers, the Confrérie de Tokaj presented four unique wines from different producers that went under the hammer at the first Great Tokaj Wine Auction in 2013. Never tasted before in a public setting, this was the first opportunity writers and guests had to sample the three 2012 vintage dry Furmints and a 2010 Tokaji Aszú 5 puttonyos Hárslevelű. Apart from the 136-litre barrel sold to the highest bidder, the Confrérie has a few bottles for tasting. And opinion was generally very positive. Indeed, one wine was among Hugh’s favourites of the night and accompanied him onto the stage. So, an exclusive and successful tasting indeed.

Tokaji Aszú has long been a legendary wine, the “Wine of Kings and the King of Wines”, and as Hugh Johnson said, iconic wines, such as Tokaji, Port and Champagne, need time to be explained and understood.

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