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Published:  23 July, 2008

By Tim Atkin

The Tokaj region has only fulfilled 60% of its quality potential, according to Istvn Szepsy of Kirlyudvar, considered by many to be the area's outstanding producer. We have to make better wines and we have to use and understand our terroirs better,' he told Harpers. To do so, this historic Hungarian region needs more outside investment and should concentrate exclusively on sweet wines, according to Szepsy. We need a minimum of 30 more investors in the region, with 70 hectares of vineyards each. If this area wants to have a future, it has to make sweet wine, otherwise many growers will disappear.' Szepsy added that there are 2,000 ha in Tokaj that are not cultivated at present, but that would yield very good grapes. Szepsy's unoxidised, late-harvest Cuve wines have provoked controversy in Tokaj and have been dismissed in some quarters as atypical'. But Szepsy says the fresh, unoxidised wine style dates back to the 15th century. Even then Tokaji was consumed in two styles - young and aged. Before the First World War, the best vintages were drunk immediately.' Despite opposition from some traditionalists, the late-harvest style is gaining in popularity. All of what I call the first-growth producers are making a late-harvest wine now,' says Szepsy. The question people are asking is: is this a good wine? For me, the style of the wines is less important than its quality.' Szepsy's wines are imported by Top Selection Ltd (020 8265 4995).