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Saturday, September 01, 2007

Tokay -- the Hungarian elixir

Tokay or Tokaj was the premier wine of the Hapsburg Empire. There was nothing in the world to match it for its sweetness. And it was a wine used to woo monarchs -- from Vienna, Prague and Warsaw to St Petersburg, Paris and London. A legendary luxury.
It is the after dinner drink that Prince Esterhazy would have offered during the Regency. His wife, Princess Esterhazy was one of the Patroness of Almack's and the couple were very involved in the ton.
A variation of the name (but the same wine) is also mentioned at the start of Phillip Pullman's Northern Lights (The Golden Compass). It is the wine that has been poisoned. Thankfully with Hungarian wines once again available in the West, it is possible to find Tokay wine again. However, it is not as cheap as it was in the early 1990s when I first discovered, but it remains a fantastic after dinner wine. It is still possible (just) to get the Tokaj Essence -- it is sold as Aszu Essenczia.
The Essence is made basically in the same fashion that Pliny describes making Falerian wine. So it is quite possible/probable that the fable wine of the Roman Republic tasted like Tokay. There are reasons why the Romans cut their wine with water.
Honey rich with a hint of almonds as far as I can recall. Definitely moreish.
There are many myths surrounding Tokay Essence. The most potent is that the elixir could restore almost any failing power. There are stories of aged men springing from their bed after having a drop or two. And of course, the inevitable stories about men falling into their beds and siring hordes of children.
Anyway, it belongs to great pudding wines of the world.

1 comment:

liz fenwick said...

Sounds delicious :-)