The 2018 samples that the dozens of local producers brought along to the two-round annual vintage assessment tasting of the Tokaj Wine Artisans' Society showed good overall quality and acidity levels on the lower side. This forbodes moderate ageing potential for dry wines and also means that the non-botrytis-driven late harvest styles with residual sugar levels below 100 grams per litre will be the kind of sweet wines to look for from this vintage. 2018 gave very little Aszú wine, but the mere two samples tasted were very complex and well-balanced, thanks to a botrytis-induced concentration of acidity.
The 2018 growing season started off with a virtually explosive increase in temperatures in April and May which made vines grow with unprecedented vigour. Flowering was over by the end of May and a hot, dry summer ensured that things never slowed down until early August. What also made this vintage special was that most of the varieties were ripening at the same time, which posed a logistics challenge to most producers during what was an otherwise easy harvest of mostly very healthy grapes for dry wines. The lack of rain throughout the autumn months meant grapes were mostly shrivelling and only sporadically affected by botrytis, which will certainly have an impact on the character of 2018 sweet wines.
In terms of actual figures, the average regional production was 7.8 metric tonnes of grapes per hectare, which is some 30 per cent higher than that of 2017, while the reported total amount of 266 metric tonnes of botrytised berries, hand-picked for Aszú wines, was less than 50 per cent of 2017's 700 tonnes. Even the similarly dry 2015 vintage gave more botrytised berries.
[The Tokaj Wine Artisans' Society (Tokaji Bormívelők Társasága in HU) was founded back in 2006 by leading local winemakers determined to preserve and maintain the heritage of the Tokaj vineyard classification, the world's first from the 1720s. In 2016, the Society reinstated the annual vintage assessment tastings, the only regular professional get-together for Tokaj winemakers.]