Culture connections

Samuel Tinon Dry Szamorodni
With Sherry fest in full swing in NYC , here is an unexpected connection worth sharing.

A few months ago at a Wine and Spirits magazine event, I had the pleasure of pouring the 2007 Samuel Tinon Dry Szamorodni for Sherry aficionado and Spanish chef Alex Raij of Basque restaurants Txikito and La Vara. Like dry Sherry, the distinctive character of the Szamorodni is partly derived from a veil of natural yeast—called flor in Spanish—that develops on the surface of the wine as it ages.

As a special example of the maligned style of dry Szamorodni, the Tinon spoke to her. In the spring of 2014, it will be paired with a dish Chef Raij will prepare as part of a James Beard House dinner. She also recently added the Tinon to the wine list at La Vara. I find it inspiring that one of New York City’s most discerning Spanish chefs sees connections and harmony between Spanish cuisine and a little known style of Hungarian white wine. Connecting seemingly disparate cultures in this way is good. It enhances their appreciation and hopefully inspires others to see associations that are less than apparent.

Tokaji and Sherry are more alike than meets the eye. Despite many fundamental differences such as climate, geology, alcoholic fortification, botrytis, culture, and latitude, the two wines and regions mirror each other in beautiful ways. Jerez has Palomino, whereas Tokaj has Furmint. Muscat surprisingly, vitis vinifera’s forgotten king, is shared by both. Their vineyards grow only white grapes and are affected by bodies of water. The unmistakeable character of a great Sherry or Tokaji derives from the anomalously biologically active cellars these wines are raised in.

Uncompromising in style, singular in experience, both can be found arrestingly dry, sweeter than honey, and all permutations in-between. Like Sherry, durability allowed Tokaji to rise to legend status. Impervious to oxidation, infinite in complexity, capable of lasting into eternity, if you drink Sherry, drink Tokaji and visa versa.