If you are a lover of white wine and want to discover a new and exciting varietal, Hungary’s Furmint is something to investigate. It is a grape that is high in acidity and minerality. If you like Burgundian styled Chardonnays or ones from places like the Sta. Rita Hills, you will enjoy Furmint.
History shows that documentation about the Furmint grape was noted in the early 1600s and that the majority of Furmint wines come from the Tokaj Region of Hungary. In 1720 this region received the world’s first vineyard classification. Like France and other European wine regions phylloxera took its toll in the Tokaj wine region. Later World War I and II affected production of wine in this region by almost bringing it to a halt. It was not until the 1990s when an upward swing in production and number of wineries occurred and it was not until 2000 that reemergence of Tokaj as a prominent wine region occurred with new styles and innovation of winemaking. In 2014 Tokaj became a Government Designated Growth Area.
The soil composition is dependent on the location. In the Tokaj Hills one finds loess, which is sedimentary particles composed of mostly quartz. The soil is crumbly allowing for good drainage and is known as “Yellow earth”. These types of soils produce a lighter wine with nice acidity. Wines created in the Mád Basin have more minerality and complexity due to the rich volcanic soils. Rock Flour is a third type of soil found in these regions. It is composed of white rhyolite, detritus, pumice and perlite. This soil does not hold water well.
In addition to Tokaj, Furmint wines come from the Csopak, an area on the northern shores of Lake Balaton. The wines from this area can be softer, lighter and very elegant. In a nutshell this area has red and white soils that can be characterized by a combination of schist, volcanic rock and sandstone.
The following wines stood out during FurmintUSA’s visit at the Hungarian Consulate in Los Angeles.
Beginning with St. Donat Estate, which lies in the hills above Lake Balaton, Winemaker Tamás Kovács is passionate about what the variation of soils impart into his wines. The 2013 Márga Furmint is named for the soil. Márga mean Marl in Hungarian. Tamás utilizes organic practices in the vineyards. Aging the wine in neutral French oak and an Italian granite shell called a pyrogranite clayver, the wine is very elegant with high acidity. The light textures give way to flavors of white flower, grapefruit and lemon.
Béres Winery 2011 Löcse Furmint is an example of a single vineyard Furmint. Löcse is the name of the royal city of Hungary that is located in Tokaj region. This wine is bigger and more complex. The wine is fermented in oak and aged 6 months in new and neutral barrels followed by one year of aging in the bottle. The flavors of lemon are very dominant.
Gróf Degenfeld Winery’s 2013 Estate Furmint delivers a balanced wine with the sweetness of stone fruit especially peaches. There are also hints of citrus, giving the wine a sweet and savory taste. The sweetness comes from the residual sugar, which is 15.4. The winery is located in the Tokaj and the grapes are organically farmed.
Holdvögy 2013 Vision Furmint is a light, crisp and bright Furmint from Tokaj that has lemon aromas and flavors. The Kvaxzinger Winery 2013 Estate Furmint is a very subtle wine with honey flavors. Majoros Estate 2013 Deák Furmint is sweeter with flavors of nectarine, tangerine and honey.
Furmint can be created as both a dry and sweet wine. Barta Winery’s 2013 Szamorodni Sweet Furmint exemplifies the consistency of the sweeter version of Furmint. The wine exhibits subtle sweetness that is not overly sweet or syrupy. The flavors of apricots are abundant. This wine is an excellent example of how a dessert wine should be created without overpowering the last course of any meal.
Furmint can best be described as having the virtues of structure similar to Chardonnay, the fruitiness of Chenin Blanc and the acidity and minerality of both Pinot Grigio and Riesling. Combining all three aspects makes Furmint a special and uniquely distinct varietal.