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Tokaji Aszú: Decanter vintage guide

Growing conditions need to combine in very specific ways to enable the liquid gold that is Hungary’s most famous wine to hit peak deliciousness. So take our expert advice to choose your year carefully and get the most out of this lauded sweet wine.

Tokaji Aszú is one of the most complex wines in the world and vintage really matters in this cool, volcanic, continental region on Hungary’s far northeastern edge. For most wines, one season is enough, if it goes well.

For Tokaji Aszú, three different seasons must come together. First, a good summer for ripe, healthy grapes, then a humid early autumn is vital for ‘noble rot’ to set in. After that, a sunny, breezy Indian summer is essential to desiccate the berries into aszú (Hungarian for shrivelled and noble-rotted berries).

Scroll down to see tasting notes and scores for 10 Tokaji Aszú wines worth seeking out

The ‘Jekyll & Hyde’ fungus botrytis cinerea has two extreme faces. It mostly causes devastating grey rot but very rarely, in certain locations, when conditions are just right, it becomes noble rot. Tokaj (the spelling for the region; Tokaji is the wine) is one of the few places where this happens reliably, and aszú berries have been documented since 1527. Climate, terroir, grape variety and vintage conditions all play a role in allowing botrytis to turn noble – grapes must be ripe, or the result will be destructive grey rot.

Sweet success: Caroline Gilby MW’s pick of wines from top Tokaji vintages

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