Author: Kristian Kielmayer, Ágnes Herczeg
Its history is closely connected to Tokaj and is certainly mentioned as one of the first wine types or specialities. Written records first mention it in the 1570s connected to the name of Balázs Fabricius Szikszai. At that time, it was called főbor, or main wine, differentiating it from the so-called “közönséges”, or ordinari wine. The main difference in ingredients was that the főbor contained a significant amount of shrivelled, aszú grapes, which were processed together with the undamaged, healthy berries. The Poles, who were great admirers and traders of Tokaj wines, called it Szamorodni, or “as it comes”, and this is still the essence of the process.
Nowadays, there are two styles of Szamorodni, dry and sweet. Botrytised and healthy berries are harvested and processed together. Wines must be aged in oak for at least six months and may only be released from the beginning of the second year after harvest. Dry Szamorodni can have a maximum of 9g/l of residual sugar, while sweet Szamorodni must have at least 45g/l, although this is usually much higher in practice.
The word Szamorodni was widespread from the beginning of the 19th century and is exclusively associated with the Tokaj wine region. This style of wine has evolved due to its complex soils, varieties and climatic conditions as well as human and historical factors. The presence of botrytis (noble rot) plays an important role; this is closely related to the natural conditions in the Tokaj region. The wine region was declared a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 2002 thanks to its unique oenological characteristics and its special historical and human resources.
Dry Szamorodni is characterised by fruitiness, botrytis, honey, green walnut, apple peel and chamomile notes. It is full-bodied with high alcohol, fresh acidity and an oily texture, and may be spiced up with notes of salt and stone. Its ageing under a veil of flor may also endow it with delicate oxidative notes of walnut, hazelnut and seeds, giving it a “rancio” aged character. However, it is important to maintain the balance between botrytis, fruit and maturation.
Sweet Szamorodni is clearly characterised by rich, pronounced flavours and aromas, with fruitiness and ripe stone fruit combining with the honey and spice notes from the botrytis to give the wine complexity. The wines are characterised by firm acidity, sophistication and a full body. Sweet Szamorodni is always a fuller, richer wine than a late-harvested wine.
Tokaji Szamorodni is a wine traditional to Tokaj, which is made by processing healthy and botrytised berries together. Its sweetness depends on the proportion of aszú, i.e. botrytised berries, meaning that the more raisined and botrytised berries there are, the sweeter the wine will be. Styles range from dry Szamorodni through to wines with similar sweetness and concentration to 5 puttonyos Aszú. They are generally characterised by a full-bodied, oily texture and great flavour concentration. Dry Szamorodni not only boasts honey and green walnut notes, but often also has a characteristic flavour due to its maturation under a veil of flor, which gives it an oxidative walnut and saline character. Dry Szamorodni makes a perfect welcome drink and pairs well with mature ham, walnuts and full-fat cheeses, tarragon ragout soups, cream soups and mushroom soup. Sweet Szamorodni have richer flavours than late-harvested wines, are mouth-filling and boast flavours of honey, hazelnut, dried fruit and propolis. So, depending on residual sugar levels, they work well with light fruit salads, fruity desserts, cream pots, Gundel pancakes, Somló-style trifle, gateaux, for example hazelnut gateau, blue cheeses and liver dishes. Serve these wines chilled at 6-8°C in small tulip-shaped white wine glasses or dessert wine glasses. The best Szamorodnis also age very well in bottle, so you can happily lay them down for 5-10 years, or even longer. Always store in a cool place, at a constant temperature, away from direct sunlight and heat, to best preserve its aromas.