Skip to main content

Is Royal Tokaji’s Essencia the Most Luxurious Wine in the World?

While Hungary may not be the first place you think of when it comes to luxury wines, the country has vineyard records dating back to the 5th century CE and, for a very long time, was known as one of the premier wine-producing countries in Europe. It was not uncommon for royal courts to stock sweet, golden wines from the Tokaji (pronounced toe-kye) region, the oldest classified wine region in the world. The country’s wine prestige continued until a series of events — all kicked off by a disease that ravaged vineyards in the 1800s — that Hungary began to lose its prominence. It wouldn’t be until the late 1980s that Hungary started to rise in popularity once again.

Enough about the history, though, because Hungarian wines are back and one of them, made by the Royal Tokaji Wine Company, is currently one of the most luxurious wines in the world. Named Essencia, the wine costs hundreds of dollars per bottle and, if you ask us, is worth every damn penny.

First, let’s talk about how Essencia is made. Tokaji wines, in general, are known primarily for one thing: noble rot. This fungus, which is officially called Botrytis cinerea, happens when ripe grapes experience moisture conditions. If the moist conditions don’t change, the botrytis becomes grey rot and can destroy crops. If the conditions become drier, the botrytis becomes noble rot, which then raisins the grapes (composed of Furmint, Hárslevelű, and Yellow Muscat varietals). These raisined grapes, much like the raisins you’d find in your trail mix, are concentrated and therefore produce sweeter, more concentrated wines.

Photos courtesy of David Bird and Royal Tokaji Wine Company

Once the grapes, which are known as aszú in Hungarian, are at the exact right level of noble rot, they are hand-picked. Not hand-picked by the bunch — hand-picked by the berry.

“It is painstaking to harvest these berries because Botrytis doesn’t affect bunches evenly and at the same pace meaning that you have to harvest the same plots multiple times, sometimes in the double digits, to achieve the perfect amount of desiccation. This equates to heavy labor costs,” says Chris Tanghe, chief instructor for the Guild of Sommeliers.

In order to make six or seven half-sized bottles, Tanghe says, you need 700 kg (roughly 1500 lb) of botrytis-affected berries. To put it in perspective, that amount of berries would normally yield around 450 full-size 750ml bottles.

Essencia Royal Tokaji Wine Company Box
Royal Tokaji Wine Company

Once harvested, the grapes are put in a tank and pressed naturally (in other words, the weight of the grapes squeezes the juice out of the other grapes). The fermentation of Essencia takes between six and eight years to finish and, in the end, yields a wine with around 3-4 percent alcohol by volume. What it lacks in ABV, it makes up for in sugar content. Thanks to the super-concentrated grapes, Essencia usually comes in at over 400 grams of sugar per liter. A recent vintage, Tanghe says, registered 581 grams per liter.

Each bottle of Essencia yields 48.1 tablespoons of sugar. To put that in perspective, a one-liter bottle of Coca-Cola has 29.25 teaspoons of sugar.

Put your math helmets on, because we’re about to get real when it comes to just how much sugar is in this wine.

One gram per liter of sugar is equal to around .25 teaspoon per liter. Per liter, that makes four grams of sugar per liter. Then you have to take the original number, 581, and divide that by four, giving you 145.25 teaspoons of sugar. Dividing that by three (to find out how many tablespoons of sugar per bottle) yields 48.1 tablespoons per bottle. To put that in perspective, a one-liter bottle of Coca-Cola has 117 grams, or 29.25 teaspoons, of sugar.

You might be thinking that with a wine so rich and honey-like in its consistency (and don’t forget expensive), there has to be a special presentation for this, right?

Essencia Royal Tokaji Wine Company Plateau Restaurant London 2014 Colin Hampden-White
Colin Hampden-White

You are indeed correct. If you find Essencia in the wild (and by wild, we mean the classiest bars and restaurants in the world), you’ll be served Essencia on a spoon. Not just any spoon, though — a freaking crystal spoon (this presentation is on top of the custom-made container that the wine comes in).

“People should be looking at you, envious of your orgasmic organoleptic state, and ordering a spoonful themselves.”

“They serve it in a spoon due to the viscosity and because you really can’t sip more than a small amount due to all the sugar,” Tanghe says. “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.”

We don’t know about you, but he had us at orgasmic (well, he had us before that, but he really had us at orgasmic).

If this sounds like something you want to try, you can find who stocks Essencia here. If you’re not ready to plunk down a couple Benjamins on wine, though, Royal Tokaji also produces a variety of other wines, both sweet and dry. You can find out more about them here.

Editors' Recommendations

Sam Slaughter
Sam Slaughter was the Food and Drink Editor for The Manual. Born and raised in New Jersey, he’s called the South home for…
Reynolds Wrap and ButcherBox collab to create ultimate grilling tool this summer
Your new barbecue survival kit
Reynolds Wrap Butcher Box

With barbecue season now officially in full swing, you may have found yourself in need of more grilling supplies than you originally thought. Or perhaps you've stumbled confusedly around the butcher counter, searching aimlessly for recipes on your phone as you try and figure out which ingredients to buy. Beef? Chicken? Pork? Kebabs? Brats? Burgers? And once you've got it in the grocery cart, then you have to search for a recipe. After all, it's not always as simple as just throwing a piece of meat over the coals and calling it a day. Between all of the supplies like charcoal, flame starters, grilling accessories, and all of the possible ingredients you might want to grill, things can get a bit overwhelming. Thankfully, Reynolds Wrap and ButcherBox — two iconic summertime grilling must-have brands — have teamed up to create the ultimate summer grilling tool, the "BBQterie Kit." This new product will help home cooks plan, prepare, grill, and arrange delicious food boards for all of their summertime gatherings.
It's no secret that charcuterie and grazing boards have become something of an entertaining phenomenon. Many home cooks and hosts will pull out all the stops to create masterful pieces of artwork with nothing but a few simple ingredients, and the results are often both stunning and delicious. Be it butter board, cheese spread, dessert flight or barbecue bash, we love it all. And so do Reynolds Wrap and ButcherBox.

Inspired by their shared passion for charcuterie and grazing boards, Reynolds Wrap and ButcherBox, the leading direct-to-consumer meat brand, have created their limited-edition “BBQterie Kits” that are sure to be the hit of the summer.
What's in the kit?

Read more
The best selling spirits of 2023 aren’t what you’d expect
The worldwide spirits industry embraces soju and whiskey
Strong Spirits Set. Hard alcoholic drinks in glasses in assortment: vodka, cognac, tequila, brandy and whiskey, grappa, liqueur, vermouth, tincture, rum. Vintage bar counter background, selective focus

If you were asked to name the best-selling spirits in the world, what might you choose? Patron, the face of tequila in every club? Absolut, the practically inescapable Swedish vodka? Maybe Jack Daniels, a brand so iconic its name is practically interchangeable with Tennessee whiskey? Well, a new report from The Spirits Business has highlighted the best selling worldwide spirits brands of 2023, and they may not be what you expect.

The clue is in the word "worldwide," as markets like China and India are increasingly becoming the places where spirits are sold most often. With a tough year for spirits sales in locations like the U.S. and Europe, these markets are becoming more and more important. "2023 was tumultuous, to say the least," editor Melita Kiely wrote in the report, pointing out challenges from rising energy costs, inflation, and supply chain issues.

Read more
Spicy ‘Hot Ones’ vodka is a thing that exists now
Spicy 'Hot Ones' vodka is a thing that exists now thanks to New Amsterdam
spicy hot ones vodka heat check bottle imagery 2

Spice lovers take note: A new collaboration between the popular YouTube show Hot Ones and New Amsterdam Vodka is creating a chili-infused spirit to show off the rich, fruity, funky flavors of hot chilies. The creation, called Heat Check, includes hot peppers like Serranos for earthy, rich notes and Fresnsos for fruity flavors, plus the use of Haberneros for heat.

The obvious choice of drink for this flavored vodka would be a Bloody Mary, a favorite spicy cocktail for casual Sunday brunches -- the combination of chili vodka and tomato juice is a no-brainer. But the brand also recommends trying it in a spicy dirty martini, with slices of jalapeno along with the traditional olive garnish, or mixed with lemonade made with grilled lemons for a tart, smoky creation that sounds rather tempting for a barbecue tipple.

Read more