Wine Industry Q&A: Steven Spurrier

What was your biggest surprise about Hungarian wines?

Having been brought up with Bulls Blood, my biggest surprise after that was that Hungarian wines were good to drink!  Then a visit to the Royal Tokaji Wine Company in its very early days introduced me to this historic wine and many visits and many more tasting since have shown me the whole spectrum of its qualities, from Essencia to the now justifiably popular Dry Furmint.

Hungary is a true wine producing country in the European sense that the wines, almost from birth, have a “sense of place” whereas in the New World they have to grow into it after a generation or more, so I think my second biggest surprise is the wide range of tastes, styles and flavours.  This has as much to do with the individuality of the producers as with the place where the wines are produced.

What Hungarian varietals do you think are currently the most popular in the UK and why?

Personally I love Cabernet Franc from anywhere and Villany is one of the best places for it in the world.  But Cabernet Franc is not yet a popular grape, so I think that Merlot will be the grape to introduce Hungarian red wines to most people.

What do you think the next big thing is for Hungarian wine after Furmint?

I really don’t know and this tells me I should return to Hungary to find out.  There is such an interest in Pinot Noir, and the vineyards in Tokaji have often been likened to those of the Cote d’Or, so perhaps Pinot Noir?

What do you think the Hungarian wine industry needs to do to make the UK impact they deserve?

Countries have phases of popularity and of unpopularity and this can be as simple as the success of their football team or a famous person, but Zsa Zsa Gabor is long gone.  Many countries play on their past, of which Italy and France have the longest histories.  Hungary has a past as part of the Austro-Hungarian Empire, but that really doesn’t mean anything today, so the country need to concentrate on its future and this is in the diversity of its wines and producers.

Let’s have some fun. What is your favourite Tokaj vintage?

I have a few bottles of different vintages in my cellar and the one I am most looking forward to opening is the Disznoko 6 putts 2000.

When was the last time you have been to Hungary?

About 5 years ago for a wine conference in the centre of Budapest.  It is time to go back.