In Praise of Furmint, the Hungarian ‘Jewell in the Crown’

I was recently invited courtesy of Brian Elliot’s Midweek Wines to the ‘Wines of Hungary’ Furmint tasting in London where I was treated to an array of sublime white wines, from bone dry with citrus and zingy minerality, to wines which were a little more intensely oaky including tropical flavours and of course their flagship sweet but still incredibly fresh tasting Tokaji.

It’s true to say that I was suitably impressed by the standard of wines on show and felt I had to share my experience and hopefully encourage people to seek out these wines to experience the taste sensation that is Furmint.

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Furmint is a late ripening grape resulting in high acidity and strong tannins and sometimes high alcohol levels.
The name comes from the word ‘Froment’ the French word for wheat and relates to its golden colour and it is Hungary’s most planted variety.

In single-varietal form it produces a dry wine with high acidity, fresh crispness along with stone minerality and in some case a green herbaceous quality that can lend itself to pair along side all kinds of fish and seafood dishes.

It can also be aged in oak barrels giving it a more intense oily richness with some rich ripe tropical flavours but still retaining that trademark fresh acidity which may well appeal to lovers of Chardonnay.

Either style has its merits and is best consumed relatively young (within 4 years or so) although higher quality ones can age for longer – and gain complexity in the process. 

Tokaji Sweet Wine

Royal Tokaji 5 Puttonyos 2013 Hungary

As I mentioned earlier, Furmint is probably best known and renowned for being the principal grape in the world famous sweet Tokaji wine. The production of these sweet wines is dependent of a fungus called Botrytis which develops over time in moist conditions then dries out when the sun comes out causing the grapes to shrivel (called Azu) and become intensely sweet. The level of sweetness is measured by the unit Puttonyos ranging from 3 to 6, the Puttony refers to a basket or hod of the dried Azu grapes which are added to the barrel, the more added the sweeter the wine becomes.

If you’ve not tried Furmint in any of the versions above I urge you seek out a bottle of each and try them, you may well be surprised, as I was, at how good these wines really are.

A few that are available in the UK stores are listed below, many more can be found in independent retailers……………..

Sainsbury’s Taste the Difference, Dry Furmint £10

Royal Tokaji Dry – Majestic £9.99 on Multi Buy

Royal Tokaji Blue label 5 Puttonyus – Waitrose £13.29

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