A brief followup Toronto booze report: I’ve always “liked” Tokaji, but never been crazy-go-nuts over it. In Toronto I picked up the 1999 Hetszolo Tokaji Aszu (“3”), and I love it. Although it has the sweetness you expect from a pourriture noble wine, like Sauternes, it is balanced not just by a peppery bite, but by actual saltiness. It’s refreshingly tart, with an unripe apricot ester-like aroma. I’ve never tasted a wine quite like it. It’s better by itself than with food. I’m going to buy a bunch more the next time I head up north (road trip, anyone?)

Needless to say, the infinitely stupid Pennsylvania State Liquor stores don’t stock this wine, although they have the “5” and “6” versions (much sweeter) of the same house. I still think that I prefer port, in the abstract, to Tokaji. Although I’d probably turn to Tokaji ahead of Sauternes, when in the mood for a noble rot wine, I’d still rather have the Pourriture produced by the practically unheard of Fattoria di Petreto in Tuscany. My supply of the ‘94, though, has run out. Calamity!

Why do I like good dessert wines so much? I think wine critic Jancis Robinson nails it when she says:

_ Poor-quality sweet wines are indeed pretty disgusting, their sweetness running to flab and stickiness. But good sweet wines refresh the palate, leaving it stimulated by their whistle-clean combination of natural grape sugar, lively fruity acidity and, often, the densely vegetal flavours of botrytis, the so-called noble rot, a mould that expensively concentrates the sugar and acid in grapes affected by it, dramatically reducing the quantity of wine produced but equally dramatically increasing its quality and potential longevity. _

There are those who say that Monbazillac is an undervalued alternative to Sauternes. Don’t believe them. Monbazillac is undrinkable swill, not even fit for the pigs of Bergerac. I’ve apologized to sinks when pouring bottles of Monbazillac down them. (Perhaps I am being unfair to an entire appellation based on three or four bad experiences. I’m OK with that.)

Additional Resources

In case you haven’t noticed, I like dessert wines.