Wine Industry Q&A: Christopher Donaldson MW

Interview with Christopher Donaldson MW of Royal Tokaj

Tokaj is the most well known out of the 22 wine regions of Hungary. Royal Tokaj has been very successful in the wine industry for decades. We have asked Christopher Donaldson MW’s opinon on Hungarian wines. For the most part and because of his specialism, Chris refers to Tokaji wines in particular.

What was your biggest surprise about Hungarian wines?  – In Tokaji, the unique grapes and vinification techniques. Also the variety – dry, late harvest, Aszú, flor, sparkling…

What Hungarian varietals do you think are currently the most popular in the UK and why?
– The likes of Pinot Grigio and Merlot are probably the biggest sellers, but for price (and, to be fair, value) reasons and not because they are Hungarian. Furmint sales are growing year on year and deservedly so – great style, very food friendly and just that little bit different.

What do you think the next big thing is for Hungarian wine after Furmint?– Let’s do Furmint first! It’s a brilliant grape but not well known, and serious dry varietal wine has only been produced for about 15 years, so winemakers are still experimenting  and improving. Picking dates, mlf, use of oak, etc are only just the beginning of the debate.

Sensitive question next. Do you think pricing is an issue?– No, not for Furmint or at least it shouldn’t be – it’s perfectly possible to make excellent value Furmint at mid price-points, high quality and affordable.

What do you think the Hungarian wine industry needs to do to make the UK impact they deserve? –Communication about Hungarian cuisine and wines, focus only on the better quality and approachable styles, emphasise the history and tradition alongside the dynamic, modern, vibrant wine scene today.

Let’s have some fun. What is your favourite Tokaj vintage?– 2016 because I lived in Mád for much of the year, nd have great memories of my time there. I was tasting the wines last week from tank and barrel and they are going to be excellent – but I can’t claim the credit!