If you’ve heard of Furmint, a Hungarian white grape, you probably know that it’s one of the primary varieties used in sweet Tokaji Aszú wine. What you might not know is that it’s also being used by young winemakers in Hungary to make dry, crisp white wines that are attracting global notice.
Furmint’s origin is firmly planted in Hungary’s Tokaj region. There are about 10,000 acres devoted to Furmint there, and until recently, all of it was used to make sweet botrytized wines similar to Sauternes from France. That, however, is changing.
The Great Tokaj Wine Auction, sponsored by the Confrérie de Tokaj, featured a number of dry wines last year. Although winemakers continue to produce the sweet wines of their forebears, much of the Furmint grown is made into fragrant and refreshing dry wines, ideal as an apéritif or paired with salty and spicy foods.
Author and wine critic Hugh Johnson co-founded the Royal Tokaji Wine Company, which produces The Oddity, a dry Furmint available in the U.S. The producer describes it as “Chenin Blanc with attitude.”
Furmint ranges in color from pale straw to light amber, with aromas of pineapple, lemon blossom, orange rind, ripe pear, white peach, yellow peach and apricot.
Ripe, unbotrytized grapes are used to produce the dry version, though if botrytized grapes find their way into the fermentation tanks, that adds another level of interest and complexity, with scents of honeycomb and jasmine.
No matter: The wines are still “balanced and unique…with refreshing acidity, zesty mandarin orange fruit and a light body,” says Scott Harper, MS, a champion of the grape, who offers Furmint on his list at Bristol Bar & Grille in Louisville, Kentucky.
Dry Furmint plays nice with seafood, shellfish, raw oysters, sushi, spicy foods, chicken and most vegetables. Keith Goldston, MS, wine director at Washington DC’s Rosewood Hotel, recommends it with lemon-roasted chicken and broccolini. His list includes a Furmint from István Szepsy, and he said he plans to add three more.
Barta 2013 Öreg Király Dűlő Mád Furmint (Tokaj); $30, 91 points. Aromas of Turkish delight, marzipan and lemon blossom lead the way to rich, ripe flavors of green apple, dried pineapple and lemon zest. This well-made wine has a strong mineral backbone with a brisk, clean finish. Editors’ Choice.
Béres 2015 Lősce Vineyard Estate Bottled Dry Selection Furmint (Tokaj); $20, 90 points. This zesty dry Furmint leads the way with aromas of lemon juice and freshly cut pineapple. It has delightful flavors of apple, peach and Bartlett pear with a nice amount of heft on the palate. There’s a great deal of minerality and the finish is creamy and brisk at the same time.
Gróf Degenfeld 2015 Zomborka Furmint (Tokaj); $20, 90 points. This well-made dry Furmint has a complex bouquet of citrus flowers, apple blossom and freshly cut white peach. In the mouth, there are flavors of peach, pineapple and passion fruit that dance on your tongue before the crisp acidic finish.
Samuel Tinon 2015 Szent Tamás Dry Furmint (Tokaj); $36, 90 points. This dry Furmint hails from one of Tokaj’s most famous vineyards—the Saint Thomas vineyard in the town of Mad. It has a complex bouquet of honeysuckle, mango blossoms and lemon flowers that lead to flavors of lemon rind and white peach. It is well balanced and has a crisp, clean finish.
Kikelet 2015 Furmint (Tokaj); $25, 89 points. This wine is made from 100% Furmint and has an intriguing bouquet of jasmine and lemon blossom. It is crisp and acidic on the palate with pleasant flavors of lemon zest and lime juice.