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Hungary abolishes three and four Puttonyos Tokaji grades

Hungary's Tokaji trade council has abolished the two lower grades of the country's most famous wine, leaving some merchants concerned about the effect on consumers.

Image: Panos Kakaviatos

Hungarian winemakers confirmed that the 3 and 4 ‘Puttonyos’ categories are eliminated as of this year. The Puttonyos scale relates to sugar levels and is viewed as a guide to quality.

‘There will be some initial confusion for consumers,’ predicted winemaker Miklos Pracser, of Erzsébet Pince winery, during Hungary’s annual wine trade show VinCe. ‘But we seek to raise the quality of Tokaji wines by only producing 5 and 6 Puttonyos level Tokaji,’ he told decanter.com.

Made from extremely dry noble rotten (Aszu) grapes that are fermented in vats of young wine or fermenting must, Tokaji is measured by levels of residual sugar per litre. A 3-Puttonyos Tokaji indicates at least 60g of residual sugar, 4 indicates at least 90g, 5 at least 120g and 6 at least 150g.

‘This [decision] is part of a renaissance for the Tokaj region,’ said Mészáros László, of the celebrated Tokaj Disznókő domain. The new minimum will be 130g of residual sugar per litre, he added.

But, not everybody welcomes the change, which is currently under review by the European Commission.

‘I think some people who purchase 3- and 4-Puttonyos Tokaji will try the richer and more expensive 5, but not all,’ said William Bentley, of Bentley’s Wine Merchants in Ludlow, which sells Crown Estates’ Tokaji 3, 4 and 5-Puttonyos.

Some people prefer lighter styled Tokaji, Bentley said. ‘Price will be an issue,’ he added, because 3- and 4-Puttonyos cost less than £20.

‘If they had just decided to do away with 3-Puttonyos, that would have been fine, but I do not want to see the demise of both.’

Written by Panos Kakaviatos in Budapest

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