Fascinating Furmint

by Elizabeth Gabay MW

The Hungarian variety Furmint is probably best known as being the one of the major varieties in the lusciously sweet wines of Tokaj, along with the more floral Harslevelu and the aromatic Golden Muscat. The variety provides the hallmark acidity and lean minerality which gives balance to the great botritised wines.
More recently, dry Furmint has been produced, to balance sales and vagaries of climate. At first these wines were viewed with horror, the variety being regarded as too neutral and acid for anything other than sweet wines. Early Tokaj champions Istvan Szepsy and Zoltan Demeter showed that the variety had potential; not just that it could make a dry wine, but that the variety could be regarded as an international classic alongside Riesling and Chenin Blanc. The wide range of dry Furmint styles is showing just what this variety is capable of achieving.

Leaner, dry styles show green apple fruit, lemon and lime acidity and lean mineral structure. Rounder riper styles can have toffee apple, pear, peach and tropical fruit character with broad creamy texture but still backed by powerful long acidity. These clean fruit characters make them perfect from aperitifs to accompanying foods such as grilled fish to roast chicken.

Tokaj producer Balassa has bottled his wines by terroir showing just how beautifully Furmint reflects the rhyolite and quartz in the soil. Somló Furmints, such as Kreibacher’s, show the volcanic character with the ripe fruit backed by steel and stone acidity. Their old vine Furmint has additional floral complexity. Maybe not the most obvious choice, but I particularly like this style with strong cheese.

Creamy Oak
Furmint grown on the high limestone soils of Nagy-Eged in Eger in both Nimrod Kovac’s Grand Bleu and St Andrea Nagy-Eged white show ripe creamy fruit and chalky acidity. Kovac’s wine has weighty structure from oak ageing, while St Andrea’s wine, Furmint was co-fermented with Chardonnay in barrel, has a broad, creamy mouthfeel. This style can cope well with richer, creamier foods, the acidity helping to keep balance.

This style ranges from late harvest to the sweetest of sweet wines. The fresh citrus acidity continues to keep a balance, with dried apricot and peach fruit, quince and marmalade, honey and spice. The acidity always keeps these wines fresh and lively. I love a good tarte tatin or apple tart, and for me these wines are a perfect match, and with the sweetest styles – maybe a good old-fashioned treacle or Suffolk Pond Pudding with a whole lemon inside…..

The quality and range of styles of Hungarian Furmint wines make this a really exciting variety.