The USA-based Fortune Magazine has labelled Hungary’s Tokaji Essencia the world’s most expensive wine. The newly-released 2008-vintage wine costs $40,000 per bottle, almost as much as a kilogram of gold.
The high price of this limited-edition bottle stems from both its production cost and its scarcity. Essencia differs from other Tokaji Aszú wines in that it is made entirely from the juice of grapes affected by noble rot and contains no base wine to dilute its sweetness. Due to the high sugar levels of the grape juice, the fermentation process is eight-years-long (versus just days or weeks for most wines) and results in an alcohol content of only two to four percent.
The production of a single bottle of Tokaji Essencia — which is now being sold for 35,000 euros (HUF 11 million) — requires more than 180 kilograms of grapes harvested by hand. This makes Essencia one of the most labor-intensive wines in the world. As a result, only 18 bottles are on the market.
Royal Tokaji owns a unique combination of first and second growth vineyards, including Mézes Mály, one of the two great first growths. Along with Szt Tamás, Betsek, Nyulászó and Birsalmás, the Royal Tokaji winery is comprised of 107 hectares of vineyards. Their portfolio includes dry white Furmint, Late Harvest. 5 and 6 puttonyos aszú blends and single vineyard wines and very limited quantities of Essencia. The wine is made in the traditional manner; however, it is prepared using greater extraction and barrel-aged extensively in a 600-year-old cellar.