DANCH & GRANGER SELECTIONS
Importer of Memorable Wines from the New Old World of Eastern and Central Europe
Importer of Memorable Wines from the New Old World of Eastern and Central Europe

Tinon, Tokaj, Hungary

Website: http://samueltinon.com

“I’m not a revolutionary. I came with an idea, to build something” — Samuel Tinon



Samuel Tinon
Samuel Tinon

The people

Although born in the sweet wine appellation of Sainte-Croix-du-Mont in France, Samuel Tinon has chosen Tokaj as the best place to grow wine and raise his three children. He’s also quick to remind us all that Tokaj was the favored drink and muse for Leo Tolstoï, Pablo Néruda, Honoré de Balzac, Gustave Flaubert, Diderot, and Voltaire, so he’s already in good company. As the first Frenchman to settle in Tokaj in the modern privatization era, he’s also convinced that Tokaj possesses all the same greatness as Bordeaux, Champagne and Burgundy. For the past 500 years Tokaj has demonstrated distinctive terroirs, ideally suited grapes, and unique winemaking styles that according to Samuel, feels “privileged to be part of the active reconstruction of such a Great Wine area…the backbone of a very rich life.”

After consulting in Australia, Texas, Chile, Italy, traveling to the Jura and Jerez, and an additional 15 years just in Tokaj did he finally start his own production in 2000. What’s so compelling about his approach to farming, winemaking and representing Tokaj as a whole is that according to Samuel, “it's hard to find a good balance between paradoxal parameters, like conservatism and modernity, action and inaction, convictions and doubts, choices with short/medium/long term, national and international. It is a permanent challenge with Nature and human relations. And it's full of discoveries.” Keeping these sentiments in mind, his wines are among the most transportative, delicious and intellectual we’ve encountered.

He also covers the entire range of traditional Tokaj from Dry Szamorodni, Sweet Szamorodni, Tokaji Aszú, and finally Eszencia. That said, what he makes in a given vintage is determined more by the conditions in the vineyard and the cellar than what the market wants. As Samuel says, “It is not I who is driving the wines, the wines are driving me!"

Vineyard
The Határi vineyard

Vineyards

Setting up shop in the village of Olaszliska just north of the village of Tokaj near the banks of the famous Bodrog River, Samuel farms roughly 5 hectares in this area (Határi vineyard) and an additional couple of hectares on the slopes of Mt. Tokaj. The soils on Határi have a 15 million year old volcanic base (tuffa, obsidian), broken up limestone and clay. With 10,000 plants per hectare (90% Furmint, 10 % Hárslevelű), and some as old as 90 years, no herbicides or pesticides are used and no tractor usage. Everything is done by hand.

The vineyards on Mt. Tokaj are predominately Loess (the only loess in the appellation is found here) and the same approach to viticulture is employed. On Mt. Tokaj the elevation and wind are key and at Határi the bordering Zemplén forest protects the vines from the frigid wines from the North. As arguably the first classified vineyard appellation system in the world, there is over 500 years of trial and error at work in the region.


In the cellar

Winemaking

Samuel makes traditional Szamorodni — dry and sweet, Tokaji Aszú, and Eszencia. Originally called Ordinárium (ordinary wine) in the 1600’s, Főbor (prime wine) after that, and later, due to the immense popularity in the Polish market, Szamorodni (as comes off the vine) became the official name (itself a Polish word) in the early 1800’s. In short, this refers to healthy, shriveled and botrytized grapes all being harvested and fermented together. After some short skin contact the grapes are pressed into barrel for a minimum of two years for the sweet Szamorodni. The resulting wine is less oxidative than a traditional Aszú and much less than a dry Szamorodni, and yet extremely concentrated given its naturally high dry extract.

Flor protecting the wine
Flor on the Szamorodni

Dry Szamorodni goes a few steps further by adding Claspodorium cellare (a special mold that covers the entire cellar) and a native yeast veil (flor) that protects the wine in barrel. Not only are these yeasts specific to Tokaj's volcanic cellars, but the evaporation rate is also the reverse of Jerez in that alcohol evaporates without water loss so the wines actually lose .5% alcohol each year. For Samuel, it was actually by mistake and luck that he realized he could make one. He had two barrels of 2001 Aszú that seemed destined to spoil and actually marked them as “throw away” in the cellar log. He happened to hold onto them over the summer only to discover that the yeasts had changed the wine into Szamorodni. Nature gave the gift and Tinon perceived it as such and is now determined to explore and preserve its production. In any case, after one night of maceration on the skins, primary fermentation took about three weeks. After 6 months on the lees, the first blending took place and the resulting wine spent 5 years in 220L barrels with both previously mentioned cellar micro-organisms at work. The final blend was made after these 5 years. This is the only dry wine made from Botrytized grapes (and certainly under flor) and perhaps the reason why the Comte de Chalon came from the Jura to live out his life in Tokaj.

Tokaji Aszu

For the 5 Puttonyos, the residual sugar must have a minimum of 120 g/l. Aszú berries are mashed into a super sweet thick black paste and macerated in a finished dry wine for a month. After a long and slow 2 years of barrel fermentation, Samuel is careful to never hermetically seal off the wine — there is always contact with oxygen. This balance between building good oxidation into the wine brings out an incredible aromatic profile. The wine also finishes so stable that no sulphur is added at any time.
 
TinonBirtok Furmint 2017
White Wine
Furmint;
13.2%
5.4 g/l
7.2 g/l
“Birtok” roughly translates to “domain” and allows various vineyards to be blended together. For Samuel Tinon, this means pulling from the famed Határi vineyard near the village of Olaszliszka and off of the dense loess slopes of Mt. Tokaj above the village of Tokaj. Blending these two sites yields an intensely unique Furmint. The fruit is ripe, the acids are high and there’s plenty of structure to create a pungent balance. It’s like taking the weight and creamy texture of Chenin Blanc and the acidic edge and stony fruit of Riesling and mashing them together with smoke and salt. White wine like this can only come from Tokaj.

TinonDry Szamorodni 2009
White Wine
Furmint; Hárslevelű;
13.8%
2.4 g/l
5.5 g/l
Originally called Ordinárium (ordinary wine) in the 1600’s, Főbor (prime wine) after that, and later, due to the immense popularity in the Polish market, Szamorodni (as comes off the vine) became the official name (itself a Polish word) in the early 1800’s. The name refers to healthy, shriveled and botrytized grapes all being harvested and fermented together. Dry Szamorodni goes a few steps further by adding Claspodorium cellare (a special mold covering the entire cellar) and a native yeast veil (flor) that protects the wine in barrel. Not only are these yeasts specific to Tokaj’s volcanic cellars, but the evaporation rate is also the reverse of Jerez in that alcohol evaporates without water loss so the wines actually lose .5% alcohol each year. Samuel Tinon made his first Szamorodni by mistake and luck: two barrels of 2001 Aszú that seemed destined to spoil and were marked “throw away” developed a veil of yeast over the summer and were changed into Szamorodni. After one night of maceration on the skins, primary fermentation of the wine took about three weeks. After 6 months on the lees, the first blending took place and the resulting wine spent 5 years in 220L barrels with both previously mentioned cellar micro-organisms at work. The final blend was made after these 5 years.

TinonHatari Furmint 2016
White Wine
Furmint;
12.4%
1.3 g/l
8.41 g/l
Határi, literally “at-the-border” is right on the cusp between the villages of Erdőbénye and Olaszliszka in the geographic center of the Tokaj appellation. The soils on Határi have a 15 million year old volcanic base (tuffa, obsidian) plus broken up limestone and clay. With 10,000 plants per hectare (90% Furmint, 10 % Hárslevelű) and most with 90 years of age or more, no herbicides, pesticides, or tractors are used. Everything is done by hand or horse. Among all of Tinon’s dry wines, this one is the driest, freshest, and yet some how it achieves a silkiness that falsely implies residual sugar. Perhaps it’s the old vines achieving balance, perhaps it’s the intensely volcanic soils, or the right grape in the right place, but this is one of Tinon's most elegant and piercing Furmints.

TinonOlaszliszka Hárslevelű 2017
White Wine
Hárslevelű;
12.9%
12.5 g/l
6.1 g/l
Olaszlizska is the largest village along the Bodrog River between Tokaj and Sárospatak and dates back to the 12th Century. Despite suffering through Ottoman times and a plague in the 1730’s, this village has been noted for top crus and famous wines for hundreds of years. The soil is riddled with volcanic stones and Nyirok (red clay) and planted mostly to the Hárslevelű grape. The Amici Vinorum Olaszliszka (Latin for Olaszliszka Friends of Wine) is the combined efforts of 10 local winemakers to reaffirm the historical identity and importance of the village. Sourcing from vineyards like Csontos, Határi, Meszes, and Palandor that date as far back as 1641, members of the association, much like Burgundy, are combining their fruit to produce one single “village” wine. The goal is to better understand the terroir, make a delicious wine, and perhaps more importantly, build and strengthen the wine community. Slightly off dry with incredibly high acidity, this Hárslevelű is both exotic, intensely textured, and has that undeniable volcanic vein of Tokaj running all the way through it.

TinonSzent Tamás Furmint 2016
White Wine
Furmint;
12%
1.8 g/l
7.4 g/l
Szent Tamàs is one of the first Crus of Tokaj identified in 1991. The wine is 100% dry Furmint from 45-year old vines grown on red clay, rhyolite and zéolithe. Harvested by hand, it was directly pressed and put in Hungarian oak barrels for nine months. The great Szent Tamás terroir dominates,in this vintate, producing a wine with a strong personality. The nose is expressive with citrus notes and the palate is fresh, crisp and full of vivacity. Enjoy it with curries or creamy muchroom chicken or cheese, specially goat cheese.

TinonTokaji Aszú 5 Puttonyos 2007
Dessert Wine
Furmint; Hárslevelű;
11.8%
152.4 g/l
7.6 g/l
After a long and slow 2 years of barrel fermentation, Samuel is careful to never hermetically seal off the wine — there is always contact with oxygen. This balance between building good oxidation into the wine brings out an incredible aromatic profile. The wine also finishes so stable that no sulphur is added at any time. While many modern renditions of Tokaji Aszú attempt to limit or completely starve the wine of oxidation, Samuel embraces the traditional practices of Tokaj and exposes the wine to oxygen from start to finish. This intentionally good oxidation has coaxed out spicy eastern aromatics in tandem with a high level of sweetness and acidity. This is not simply a dessert wine, but rather something to throw at anything pungent and or spicy. Money allowing, it’s amazing to deglaze meats and fish with it as well. According to Samuel, it’s also “ideal with pancakes, by the fireside after a long walk.”