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The most expensive wine in the world comes from Hungary

Recently updated on April 30th, 2024 at 05:51 pm

It is a known fact that among Hungary’s many blessings is its flavoursome cuisine. Think Gulyás, a hearty beef goulash, and the country’s national dish. Or Lángos, bread that has been deep-fried decadently and finished off with a dollop of sour cream and shreds of melted cheese. However, what many travellers do not know is that a particular Hungarian wine is also the most expensive wine in the world.

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Tokaj vineyard

There are several thriving wine regions in Hungary – Tokaj being the best known. Located on the outskirts of Budapest, this wine region holds the enviable distinction of being the home of Royal Tokaji Essencia, the world’s most expensive wine.

Royal Tokaji Essencia

A bottle of Royal Tokaji Essencia Hungarian wine retails at a jaw-dropping $40,000. It is ultra-exclusive, sweetly indulgent and, so rich in composition, most who sample it can only manage a spoonful at a time.

Why is it so special?

For starters, you need a rare mould called ‘botrytis cinerea’ (in layman’s terms ‘noble rot’) to make the Royal Tokaji Essencia. This mould requires extremely specific conditions to thrive – conditions that can only be found in a handful of regions around the world.

This ‘noble rot’ is responsible for drying out the plump aszú grapes and exaggerating their distinct honeyed flavour. Growers observe these very special grapes very closely and, when the time is right, pluck these off the vine gently, berry by berry.

Obviously, as the mould causes the grapes to shrivel and dry out slowly, only a small amount of richly flavoured juice remains. It takes a kilogram of grapes to produce a mere five millilitres of the precious liquid.

Furthermore, it takes an estimated six to eight years for the wine to ferment properly and transform into the mouth-watering Essencia that has wine connoisseurs’ chins wagging.  

Sampling the Essencia

Those who have been lucky enough to try this Hungarian wine say that it trickles into the mouth like silky velvet, igniting every taste bud as it glides elegantly across the tongue.

“A small portion out of a beautiful crystal spoon is just the right amount. It goes straight to your brain and is a sensory overload of delicious concentrated phenolics and sugar high. People should be looking at you, envious of your orgasmic organoleptic state, and ordering a spoonful themselves,” says Chris Tanghe, Chief Instructor for the Guild of Sommeliers.

Desperate to sample it for yourself? You will be thrilled to discover that a few of the world’s most upmarket restaurants offer it. This prized wine is served carefully in a beautiful crystal spoon and will set you back about $140. Yes – that’s $140 per spoonful.

Hungarian-based artist, James Carcass, also designed 20 Essencia 2008 decanters. Since the release of 18 of these in 2019, 11 have been sold. So, if you happen to have $40,000 lying around, one of those indulgent bottles of perfection could still be yours.

Needless to say, the Royal Tokaji wine company is quite confident that they will have sold every single one of the sought-after decanters well ahead of their distant 2300 expiry date.

The intricacies of Hungarian wine

Discovering that Hungarian wine is the most expensive wine in the world may have come as a bit of a surprise. Well-heeled travellers often don’t associate Central and Eastern Europe with the beloved aromatic beverage.

While you might have heard of – or perhaps even sampled – the shimmering golden white wine called ‘Tokaji Aszú’, you probably won’t have come across many other Hungarian wines during your travels.

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Grapes in the sun

Of course, most people recognise other parts of Europe more like France, Italy and Spain for their viticulture. However, Hungary enjoys a centuries-old winemaking culture. In fact, Hungary was once one of the most important contributors to the European wine industry. Hungarian wine once graced the tables of European royalty and even the Romans! So whilst the country’s reputation as a wine-growing centre has languished in the past century, it is making a comeback.

What’s the most expensive wine that you’ve ever sampled? Was it worth the accompanying price tag? Share your experiences with us in the comments below…

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