Types of Tokaji wine (also spell Tokaj, Tokay)
- Dry Wines: These wines, once referred to as ordinárium, are now named after their respective grape varieties: Tokaji Furmint, Tokaji Hárslevelű, Tokaji Sárgamuskotály and Tokaji Kövérszőlő.
- Szamorodni: This type of wine was initially known as főbor ("prime wine"), but from the 1820s onwards Polish merchants popularised the name samorodny ("the way it was grown"). What sets Szamorodni apart from ordinary wine is that it is made from bunches which contain a considerable proportion of botrytised grapes. Because of this, szamorodni is typically higher in alcohol and extract than ordinary wine. Szamorodni often contains up to 100-120 g of residual sugar and thus is termed édes ("sweet"). However, when the bunches contain fewer botrytised grapes, the residual sugar content is much lower, resulting in a száraz ("dry") wine. Its alcohol content is typically 14%.
- Aszú: This is the wine which made Tokaj world famous and is proudly cited in the Hungarian national anthem. The original meaning of the Hungarian word aszú was "dried", but it came to be associated with a type of wine made with botrytised (i.e. "nobly" rotten) grapes. The process of making Aszú wine is as follows:
Aszú berries are individually picked out of the bunches, collected in huge vats and trampled into the consistency of paste (known as aszú dough).
Must is poured on the aszú dough and left for 24-48 hours, stirred occasionally.
After the aszú dough has soaked, the wine is racked off into wooden casks or vats where fermentation is completed and the aszú wine will be kept to mature. These containers are stored in a cool environment, and are not tightly closed, so a slow fermentation process continues in the wine, usually for several years.
The concentration of aszú was traditionally defined by the number of puttony ("hods") of dough added to a Gönc cask (136 liter barrel) of must. Nowadays the puttony number is based on the content of sugar and sugar-free extract in the mature wine. Aszú ranges from 3 puttonyos to 6 puttonyos, with a further category called Aszú-Eszencia representing wines above 6 puttonyos. Unlike most other wines, alcohol content of aszú typically runs higher than 14%. Annual production of aszú is less than one percent of the region's total output.
- Eszencia: Also called nectar, this is often described as the most precious wine in the world, although technically it cannot even be called a wine because its enormous concentration of sugar means that its alcohol level never rises above 5-6 degrees. Eszencia is the juice of aszú berries which runs off naturally from the vats in which they are collected during harvesting. The sugar concentration of eszencia is typically between 500 g and 700 g per litre, although the year 2000 vintage produced eszencia exceeding 900 g per litre. Eszencia is traditionally added to aszú wines, but may be allowed to ferment (a process that takes at least 4 years to complete) and then bottled pure. The resulting wine has a concentration and intensity of flavour that is unequalled, but is so sweet that it can only be drunk in tiny quantities. Storage of Eszencia is facilitated by the fact that, unlike virtually all other wines, it maintains its quality and drinkability for 200 years or more.
- Fordítás: Meaning "turning over" in Hungarian, this wine is made by pouring must on aszú dough which has already been used to make aszú wine.
- Máslás: Derived from the word "copy" in Hungarian, this wine is made by pouring must on the lees of aszú.
- Other sweet wines: In the past few years reductive sweet wines have begun to appear in Tokaj. These are ready for release in a year to 18 months are harvest. They typically contain 50-180 g/l of residual sugar and a ratio of botrytised berries comparable to Aszú wines. They are usually labelled as késői szüretelésű ("late harvest") wines. Innovative producers have also marketed tokaji wine that does not fit the appellation laws of the above categories but is often of high quality and price, and in many ways comparable to aszú. These wines are often labelled as tokaji cuvée. In 1999, Chateau Pajzos became the first winery to produce a Tokaji ice wine.