The Buyer
Caroline Gilby MW on how sweet Tokaji is thinking outside the box

Caroline Gilby MW on how sweet Tokaji is thinking outside the box

Gastronomic versatility is the name of the game when it comes to sweet Tokaji. As part of Wines of Hungary UK’s campaign to drive trade and consumer awareness about this fact, Caroline Gilby MW looks at the many diverse ways that restaurants in the UK are finding new and innovative ways to show off this sweet Hungarian wine to its best effect.

Caroline Gilby MW
8th December 2023by Caroline Gilby MW
posted in People: On-Trade,

“10th December is International Aszú day, please join us to celebrate its 450 years of history with a glass of liquid gold,” writes Gilby.

Wines of Hungary UK has just launched its latest project to get the sweet wines of Tokaj into more glasses on more occasions. This campaign aims to bring sweet Tokaji out from its hiding place alongside the dessert menu and encourage trade and consumers to be inspired by imaginative food pairings throughout the whole meal. The project has worked with ten top UK restaurants, and their chefs and sommeliers, to come up with new ideas to match these sweet wines throughout the menu.

Tokaji Aszú is arguably the greatest sweet wine of all, with its amazing balance of luscious sweetness and fine vibrant acidity. It also has incredible depth and complexity from the unique winemaking methods, which involve handpicking individual shrivelled and noble rotted berries (called Aszú in Hungarian) and then extended skin contact before ageing in barrel.

The resulting combination of fruit, sweetness, acidity, and complexity gives chefs an amazing artist’s palette to play with. And it’s not so surprising to match sweet wines with savoury dishes when you consider both the European tradition of cooking richer meats (like game, pork and duck) with sweet, fruit-based sauces, or Asian dishes that have a touch of sweetness and sourness, alongside intense spices. It’s also no surprise that wines with as much dry extract and concentration as Tokaji Aszú can stand up well to bold savoury foods.

Some of the combinations designed through creative teamwork in the campaign included:

Heath Ball has chosen sweet Tokaji to enhance the inherent sweetness of Singapore chilli lobster

Rory Eaton’s pairing of duck liver mousse, Bramley apple and smoked eel with Balassa’s silky, elegant, sweet Szamorodni (imported by Best of Hungary) at Ynyshir in mid-Wales.

Urcino Garcia Hernandez of Chef’s table partnered Five Gourds with the vibrant acids and maturity of Berés 5 Puttonyos 2011 (imported by Mephisto Wines).

At Piazza Italiana, Fabrizio Pasquale picked the youthful vibrancy of Chateau Dereszla 5 Puttonyos 2019 (imported by Armit) with its subtle truffle hints to balance the savoury richness of slow-cooked pork belly with Piedmont chestnuts.

At the Olive Tree in Bath, Aisling Bury suggested pairing the impressive Füleky 6 Puttonyos 2013 (imported by Amathus) with pineapple roasted over coal and Tonka bean parfait.

Sofia Crepaz at Trivet has opted for matching grilled sweetbreads with smoked maitake mushrooms to the glorious Patricius 6 Puttonyos Aszú 2017 (imported by Enotria&Coe).

Klearhos Kanellakis working on the food-matching with Tokaji Aszu.

A pairing of juniper-smoked wild duck with Royal Tokaji’s Blue label 5 Puttonyos from the great 2017 vintage (imported by Bibendum) is the suggestion of Klearhos Kanellakis, sommelier at Ekstedt at the Yard

Heath Ball at Red Lion & Sun has chosen Sauska’s lovely 2019 5 Puttonyos (imported by Enotria&Coe) to enhance the inherent sweetness of Singapore chilli lobster.

For Francesco Gabriele at Chewton Glen, it’s all about cheese, selecting a twice-baked souffle and a dish of oily gilt-head bream to go with the stunning 2017 Szepsy Aszú (imported by Top Selection).

Douglas Wegg at L’Oscar, London has partnered the salty umami depth of torched wagyu picanha and yakiniku sauce with Hétszőlő’s beautifully mature but fresh 2010 Aszú 5 Puttonyos (imported by Les Caves).

Kemal Demirasal at The Counter sees lamb tartar with bulghur as a great combination with the spicy nature of Zsirai’s luscious 2019 6 Puttonyos Aszú (imported by Jascots).

All these restaurants have by-the-glass and special offers on their menus until the end of December to encourage customers to be inspired, and so far they are reporting good results. Any restaurant switching to join this campaign and offer sweet Tokaji by the glass to complement their seasonal menu can still sign up via one of the distributors involved in this programme.

For consumers, there’s a chance to win a trip to the stunning Tokaj region – all they have to do is be inspired to create a great but unusual dish to go with sweet Tokaji, photograph it and share on social media with the hashtag #dinewithaszu

10th December is International Aszú day, please join us to celebrate its 450 years of history with a glass of liquid gold.

Contact Wines of Hungary UK for more details