Where Does High Acidity Come From in Hungarian Grapes?

by Elizabeth Gabay

Doing a tasting of wines from all around Hungary at 67 Pall Mall, acidity is a term which will repeatedly occur. Not sour or unripe acidity, but a clean freshness and long elegance which beautifully balances the fruit of Hungarian wines.

There are different reasons for this acidity.  The local Hungarian grapes have naturally higher acidity to most vitis vinifera grapes. Furmint, Harslevelu, Juhfark all have high, sometimes piercing acidity which means that growers can play around with late harvesting, oak, battonage and, especially for the first two varieties, there is such amazing acidity, that the grapes can still balance with high residual sugar.

Most famous of these sweet wines are of course Tokaj. Even with more than 200g/l residual sugar, the sweetest 6 puttonyos wines will still have long fresh acidity. Sweet Tokaj often have notes of honey, rich dried fruit, baked apple and – most important of all fresh citrus acidity.

Of course, terroir plays an important part in the character of the acidity. Limestone acidity is fresh and creamy, but Hungary also has more than its fair share of volcanic soils. The firm mineral acidic structure from these volcanic soils compliments the varietal characters. Juhfark from Somlo, a range of white varieties from the north shore of Lake Balaton, and Furmint and Harslevelu from Tokaj and other regions.

This fine acidic character makes these wines supremely balanced for matching with food. Dry Furmint can have clean apple and mineral fruit, Harslevelu has fragrant white floral character with lime notes and Juhfark can range from steely neutral character to zesty creamy notes.