Tokaj Wines – Sweetness Measured in Puttonyos
Regarding exquisite wines, Tokaj wines from Hungary have made a name among wine connoisseurs worldwide. What sets them apart is how their sweetness is measured – through a unit called “buttons.”
This article will delve into the fascinating world of Tokaj wines and explore the significance of puttonyos in determining their sweetness.
The Tokaj Wine Region
The Tokaj wine region in northeastern Hungary is renowned for its exceptional wines. Here, the grapes used to produce Tokaj wines thrive, thanks to the region’s favorable climate and volcanic soil. With its rolling hills and vineyards, this picturesque region has been recognized as a UNESCO World Heritage site.
What are Puttonyos?
Puttonyos is a unit used to measure the sweetness of Tokaj wines. It refers to the amount of botrytized (or noble rot) grapes added to the base wine during production. The higher the puttonyos, the sweeter the wine.
The Range of Puttonyos
Tokaj wines can have anywhere between 3 and 6 buttons, indicating their level of sweetness. A 3-puttonyos wine is considered semi-sweet, while a 6-puttonyos wine is vibrant and sweet.
Harvesting the Grapes
Harvesting the grapes for Tokaj wines is a meticulous process. The grapes are left on the vine until late in the season, allowing the noble rot to develop. This fungus, Botrytis cinerea, causes the grapes to shrivel, concentrating their flavors and sugars. The botrytized grapes are then carefully handpicked and sorted.
The Winemaking Process
After harvesting, the botrytized grapes are pressed, and the resulting juice is fermented into a base wine. This wine is then aged in oak barrels, allowing it to develop its unique character. Before bottling, additional grape juice or aszú paste (a mixture of botrytized grapes and must) is added to the base wine based on the desired button level.
What are the various levels of sweetness represented by different buttons in Tokaj wines?
The various levels of sweetness represented by different buttons in Tokaj wines are as follows:
1. 3 Puttonyos: This is the minimum sweetness level required for Tokaj wines. It represents a medium-sweet style with residual sugar levels between 60-90 grams per liter.
2. 4 Puttonyos: This represents a higher sweetness level than 3 Puttonyos. The residual sugar levels range between 90-120 grams per liter, resulting in a sweeter taste.
3. 5 Puttonyos: This is a lovely style of Tokaj wine. The residual sugar levels are between 120-150 grams per liter, offering intense sweetness and richness.
4. 6 Puttonyos: This is the highest sweetness level for Tokaj wines, representing exceptional sweetness and complexity. The residual sugar levels exceed 150 grams per liter, producing a luscious and honeyed taste.
It’s important to note that the sweetness levels in Tokaj wines are achieved through botrytized grapes, known as “aszu.” These grapes are affected by noble rot, which concentrates their sugars and flavors, contributing to the unique sweetness and complexity of Tokaj wines.
How does the measurement of sweetness in puttonyos contribute to the overall quality and character of Tokaj wines?
Measuring sweetness in puttonyos is crucial in determining the overall quality and character of Tokaj wines. Puttonyos refers to the unit of measurement used to indicate the sweetness level in the wine, with a higher number of buttons indicating a sweeter wine.
The sweetness in Tokaj wines is derived from the noble rot, a beneficial mold that dehydrates the grapes and concentrates their sugars. The measurement of puttonyos helps to categorize and standardize the sweetness levels in these wines, providing a valuable reference for consumers and winemakers.
Furthermore, the button measurement system helps in the production process. Winemakers can adjust the sweetness level by adding or subtracting grape paste during fermentation, ensuring consistency and quality in each batch. This measurement also plays a role in the aging potential of Tokaj wines, as higher puttonyos wines tend to age gracefully and develop complex flavor profiles over time.
In conclusion, the measurement of sweetness in puttonyos is essential in determining the quality, character, and aging potential of Tokaj wines. It provides a standardized reference for consumers and winemakers, allowing them to make informed choices and create wines with distinct personalities.
How does the puttonyos system accurately determine the sweetness levels of Tokaj wines?
The buttons system determines the sweetness levels of Tokaj wines, specifically the famous Tokaji Aszú wines from the Tokaj wine region in Hungary. This system is based on the amount of botrytized grapes (grapes affected by noble rot) added to the wine during the winemaking process.
In the buttons system, the botrytized grapes are harvested individually by hand, selecting only the ones sufficiently affected by noble rot. These grapes are added to a base wine, typically made from late-harvested, partially botrytized grapes.
The sweetness levels of Tokaj wines are determined by the number of buttons, which refers to the traditional wooden baskets used to carry the grapes during harvest. Each button represents a specific amount of botrytized grapes added to the base wine. The more buttons added, the sweeter the wine becomes.
The buttons scale ranges from 3 to 6, with 3 being the least sweet and six being the sweetest. The sweetness levels are regulated by law in Hungary, ensuring consistency and quality.
To determine the sweetness levels accurately, winemakers follow strict guidelines and ratios for adding botrytized grapes. The ratio is based on the weight of the botrytized grapes to the base wine, with a minimum requirement for each puttonyos level. For example, a five-puttonyos wine must have at least 120 grams of botrytized grapes per liter.
By using the buttons system, winemakers can precisely control the sweetness levels of the Tokaj wines, allowing consumers to choose wines according to their preferred sweetness levels.
Tokaj Wines – Conclusion
Tokaj wines are a true delight for wine enthusiasts, and the measurement of sweetness using buttons adds to their allure. Tokaj offers many options to satisfy every palate, whether you prefer a semi-sweet 3-puttonyos wine or a lusciously sweet 6-puttonyos wine. So, go ahead, indulge in Tokaj wines, and experience the unique flavors and aromas they offer!