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Borytris cinerea is a microscopic fungus that in the autumn causes noble rot on grapes, naturally increasing their sugar content. These overripe grapes lose the water they contain and become dry, or aszu in Hungarian. Becoming increasingly rare due to global warming, Botrytis cinerea’s dependable and changeless presence in this area more than in others has contributed to the reputation of the Tokaj-Hétszolo Estate for 500 years. If only one terroir graced by Borytris cinerea were to remain, it would have to be here.


Fickle weather


Botrytris cinerea depends on the terroir to flourish, of course, but also on the weather conditions. Years with no Aszú grapes are not infrequent in the region. In order for the fungus to appear on the grapes, a good year will begin with a very hot summer, followed by a rainy period to make the grapes swell and burst, enabling the Botrytis cinerea to penetrate the entire bunch of grapes. Finally, another hot period is required to dry out the grapes and achieve the maximum sugar concentration.


Achieving puttonyos


Grapes infected with Botrytis cinerea and intended for use as Aszu used to be harvested in wooden baskets called puttony, each of which held 25 kg of grapes. This measure is still used today to indicate the quantity of aszu grapes added per barrel during winemaking. The higher the number of puttonyos, the sweeter and closer to a dessert wine the final product. Aszus are classified as 3, 4, 5 or 6 puttonyos.
Adding more than 6 puttonyos produces Eszencia, a very sweet elixir with a scarcely noticeable alcohol taste, made exclusively from botrytised grapes.