Candle light, warm blanket and celebratory cakes to bring back memories of our childhood – those special unforgettable moments of the year. If one were to add to this a glass of wine why not make the choice just as remarkable?
It is widely known that Tokaj Aszú is a wine for special occasions. And there is no occasion more befitting than Christmas. What makes it the right choice, besides its unique character and outstanding quality, is the fact that Christmas cakes and biscuits are full of dried fruits, jam and honey which pair so well with this type of wine.
Quince originates from South-West Asia and sometimes it’s also called quince pear or apple (depending on its shape). Since its preparation doesn’t require special ingredients and tools and it can be stored for months without refrigeration it’s easy to see why it has been considered as one of the most ancient traditional sweets. The intense, fruit flavours and high sugar content of slow cooked quince purée matches well with brighter, younger aszús (not older than 10 years).
There are several different stories about the origins of zserbó but according to the one that seems to be most prevalent it was Emil Gerbeaud, a Swiss pâtissier and chocolatier who created it. Emil Gerbeaud arrived in Hungary in 1884 and he became the joint owner of café at what is today Vörösmarty Square. Zserbó is a layered apricot and walnut cake with chocolate glazing on top. With so much character and strong flavours this cake needs to be paired with a mature, older than 10 years aszú. As aszú is a type of wine that is destined for long aging it’s actually not hard to find older vintages in wine stores.
Originally from Poland bejgli arrived in Hungary via Austria and it has been the classic cake at Christmas in Hungary for almost two centuries. For a long time only the walnut and poppy seed filled versions were common but today chestnuts, dried fruits and their various combinations are also popular. Bejgli typically lasts for several days and can be served at several meals which can also be said about Tokaj Aszú. If you consume just a glass of this rich and concentrated wine, reseal the bottle with the cork, put it back in the fridge and you can rest assured that it will show no signs of decline for another week or two.
Like so many other cakes puszedli came to Hungary via Austria. In the 20th century it became the definitive cake of the Advent period not just in Hungary but in the whole Central-European region. It can be stored for several weeks and it is made in many different ways. The use of various spices, walnuts and almonds makes for a wide range of variations. Because of the presence of honey in puszedli which strongly influences both its flavours and texture aszú is a logical choice to partner it as both are characterized by concentration and sweetness.
Finally a really ancient recipe: mézeskalács or gingerbread. The ancient Greeks believed that honey had mystical powers which were then transferred to all cakes made with honey: legend has it that Pythagoras made sacrificial offerings with animal shaped gingerbread instead of actual animals.
Cutting out the different shapes and then decorating them is an excellent activity to bring the whole family together. In homes where gingerbread is made for Christmas the boxes used for storing them often return to the family tables for several days so the festive atmosphere is prolonged and it can be made even more memorable by pairing it with a glass of aszú.
If you’re having Tokaj Aszú during the Christmas period use the hashtag #KoccintsAszuval (Hungarian for „clink with a glass of aszú”) and share the experience with the rest of the world. Visit their Facebook or Instagram page.
On the 10th of December we are celebrating Tokaj Aszú one of the most exclusive and greatest sweet wines of the world for the second time. The International Aszú Day is an excellent opportunity to savour the wines with their classic match: foie gras. Read more HERE.
Featured image: Furmint Photo