Szamorodni (pronounced Sam-oh-rod-nee) is a style of Hungarian white wine made from grapes with higher sugar content. It is one of the Tokaj wine region's most exciting wines.
Tokaj is well-known for its dessert wines. The famous Tokaji Aszú, renowned as the 'wine of kings and the king of wines', has cemented this Hungarian region as one of the most iconic places to discover sweet wines. Its volcanic soils that sit on the valleys of the Rivers Bodrog and Tisza, and its dry, humid autumn season make it prime territory for Noble Rot.
Szamorodni, which takes its name from the Polish word 'samorodno' meaning 'as it comes', is made from whole bunches that combine the treasured noble rot grapes and the healthy ones.
Whereas Tokaji Aszú is made by selecting individual grapes affected by Noble Rot and thus an intensely sweet, full and powerful wine, Tokaji Szamorodni combines those rich characteristics with the freshness and vitality of dry wines. The results are some of the freshest dessert wines we've tasted, without compromising on intensity.
The style is generally made from the Tokaj region's two most important grape varieties: Furmint and Harslevelu. Furmint is known for lending the wines good acidity, depth and rich notes of orchard apples and stone fruits. Harslevelu can add honey, floral notes and a round, oily texture to the wine.
Sweet Szamorodni has at least 50g/litre of sugar and is aged for two years before being released to market, with at least one of those years in barrel. It's made for pairing with blue cheese or duck liver pate.
You can also find a dry version of Szamorodni, which is still a mix of botrytis and healthy grapes, but is fermented to dryness under a layer of yeast (called flor) in much the same way as sherry. The style is similar to the Fino wines you might find in Jerez, Spain. These dry wines are best suited with food and pair with a wide range of dishes from an eclectic array of Mediterranean tapas to bar snacks like cured meats, nuts and olives.
Botrytis Cinera, Noble Rot, is a fungus that can yield some of the world's most savoured sweet wines. While this fungus can be devastating to vines when it manifests itself as grey or bunch rot in consistently wet and humid climates, in the right conditions instead be beneficial for sweet wine-making. In autumn, if your grapes are already overripe, dawn mists and dry weather around river valleys can cause the grapes to intensify and shrivel on the vine.
Botrytis wines are expensive to make and require great care and attention. If the weather's too dry, botrytis won't settle in or spread; and if the conditions are too wet, you'll get the dreaded grey rot instead.
Its benefits arise as the fungus feeds on sugars and tartaric acid in the grapes, leaving them with holes that allow the water to escape, the pulp to concentrate its flavour and the skins to shrivel. The remaining tartaric acid transforms into gluconic acid and glycerol, causing a juice with high concentration and a richer texture.
An excellent Szamorodni to start with is winemaker Erika Racz's SanzonTokaj Sweet Szamorodni 2017 from the vines around the village of Erdőbénye. This is full of golden raisin aromas that lead into a soft, full palate of dried fruits, baked apple, orange blossom and honey. Sip to your own delight alongside creamy Dolcette blue cheese, or alongside a fruity dessert like fresh berries, meringue and local honey.
Another Szamorodni to taste has to be Dr Endre Demeter's 2013 Szamorodni. From one of Tokaj's best vintages, this smooth nectar is a richly-bodied, naturally sweet wine with great balance. Think apricots, acacia honey, dried fruits and gingerbread spice with a fresh acidity that makes it both moreish and mouth-watering. Pairs beautifully with foie gras, duck liver pate, dried fruits, ginger cake or lemon tart.
Tasted great Szamorodni? Let us know what you tried! We'd love to hear from you. Get in touch with our team here.
Lead image from SanzonTokaj.