Furmint – The National Grape of Hungary

Peter Morrell continues his love affair with the white wines made from this versatile varietal

Hungarian Wines

Before Christmas I recommended a wine made with the Furmint grape and in the article started with an anecdote which I will repeat. In my teenage years, when wine was something of a mystery, I remember taking a bottle of Hungarian Egri Bikavér, known as ‘Buils Blood’ to a party. I, and my fellow party goers, struggled to drink it. Now, decades later, Hungarian producers have refined their harvesting methods, vinification, and aging to the point where the country is producing elegant, well made, and very enjoyable wines. Now quality takes precedence over quantity.

Recently an organisation called Wines of Hungary invited me to a tasting of wines made with the Furmint grape. Several wine growers were in London to present their vineyards and examples of the Furmint wines they produced. After my Christmas recommendation I was keen to explore these wines in more depth, so want along.

Early in the tasting I spoke with one producer who gave me a brief history of wine growing in Hungary. Central planning under communist rule had created a situation where the wrong grape types were planted in the wrong soil, and in the wrong location, hence my teenage wine experience. Since the fall of communism, a new breed of winemaker has emerged – young, enthusiastic, and highly knowledgeable.

My overall impression of wine made with Furmint is that it has a wide palette of aromas and flavours. There are definite notes of tropical fruits like pineapple, apricot, and peach. Added to this are citrus, pears, and floral tones. The acidity is bright and lively giving it a very fresh character. The two main soil types in the growing regions are volcanic rocks, and limestone, these give a good dose of minerality. The wine is aged in older oak barrels, which means that the oaky flavours are muted, there to frame but not dominate the wine.

As well as drinking it on its own, Furmint is an excellent wine to pair with food, think Thai food, summer salads, and fresh seafood.

Here is a selection of vineyards I spoke with

Demetervin – The Tokaj region

This organically certified winemaker produces the Király Furmint 2017. It has meadow hay, pithy citrus, and kiwi on the nose. The palate is pure and refreshing, packed with bittersweet quince, grapefruit, honeydew melon and red apple. It’s peppery and fresh on the finish with nutty, savoury hues.

As well as producing good wines, the vineyard has a guest house set in beautiful countryside.

https://demetervin.hu/?lang=en

Available from https://www.novelwines.co.uk/

Mád Wine – Village of Mád, Tokaj region

Their very classy dry Furmint 2017 is elegant, delicately aromatic with a touch of spice. Apricot, lychee, honeysuckle and ginger. Well-balanced with minerality and structure. Bright, mouth-watering acidity, great Furmint typicity. Just off dry in style with delightfully light alcohol.

https://mad-wine.com/en/

Available from https://www.alliancewine.com/

Tokaj Nobilis – The Tokaj region

This vineyard is run by Sarolta Bárdos, born in Tokaj, she studied at the University of Horticulture in Budapest, then travelled to other wine producing European countries, before returning home to work in the wine industry. The standout wine from this vineyard is their Tokaj Nobilis Tojaki Pezsgő. This is a superior sparkling wine made using the methode traditionnelle. It’s had a lot of time on the lees to develop an intense flavour profile. Pear and yeast aromas on the nose are joined by lots of fruit flavours on the palate. There is good minerality and well-balanced acidity.

https://tokajnobilis.hu/

Available from https://www.novelwines.co.uk/

Kovacs Nimrod Winery – Eger, Upper Hungary

The Furmint grapes from this vineyard are grown in limestone soil which gives them a good flinty minerality. I tasted the 2018 and 2019. These wines have a higher ABV than Tokaj Furmints, this gives them a good mouthfeel. There are strong flavours of pear and apricot on the palate, and the wines have a long and fruity finish.

When speaking with the owner Kovacs Nimrod, he introduced me to his NJK wine. This is a red, made with a blend of Kékfrankos and Syrah. There is a pot pourri of aromas and flavours offered by this complex wine. Exotic spices and tobacco mingle with plum, raspberry and bramble. The well-rounded tannins create a very smooth texture, and the finish is strong and persistent.

https://kovacsnimrodwinery.com/

Available from https://boutinot.com/

Keep a look out for Hungarian Furmints, in the supermarket or on restaurant wine lists, they will give you a very pleasant surprise, and a great deal of pleasure.

You can find out more about Hungarian wines by visiting
https://winehungary.co.uk/

While at the tasting I had another surprise when speaking to the people from Best of Hungary Foods. There is a wide range of good food for you to sample from the country. Look out for the air cured ham, made from the rare breed Mangalitza pig, an ideal match with a chilled glass of Furmint. I will be covering the food of Hungary in a separate article.

For more information got to http://www.bestofhungary.co.uk

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