My most popular blog post to date has been on Furmint, the grape which is the foundation for the great sweet wines of Tokaj in Hungary. That post was based on a tasting of twelve dry white wines made from Furmint, which is the new focus to promote the Hungarian wine industry (in part because it’s an easy name to pronounce). I was then very impressed by the quality of the wines, which were marked by high acidity, a stony, steely mouthfeel, and a nutty marzipan texture, and by their value for money. Last night, I had the welcome opportunity to revisit Furmint, as FurmintUSA, an organisation established for the promotion of wines made from the grape, are once again travelling through California. The tasting took place at The Wine House, a warehouse-cum-shop in San Francisco’s industrial Dogpatch district. I was again highly impressed by the quality of the wines, and there was a welcome extra development: these wines, which represent extraordinary value for money, are now available in California. Here are my highlights.
Although these Furmint wines are being marketed as dry, many of them are in actual fact off-dry. The acidity is so high, however, that it’s difficult to notice the residual sugar. This wonderful balance between the sharp, crisp acidity and the body and richness of the sugar is exemplified in this excellent wine. Also aged on its lees, the wine has appealingly complex aromas of marzipan, tea, hibiscus, peach, white pepper, and a creamy yeastiness. ✪✪✪✪✪
Holdvölgy Vision 2013 ($24)
Ironically, given the focus on Furmint, my favourite wine of the tasting was a blend, in this case 65% Furmint, 25 Hárslevelű (the second most important variety for Tokaji), and 10% Kabar (a crossing I had previously never encountered). Again with a lovely balance between acidity and some residual sugar, this is almost Riesling-like with green apples and cinnamon on the long finish, with a nutty, creamy marzipan nose. ✪✪✪✪✪
Not all Furmint comes from the Tokaj region. St. Donat are based in Csopak above Lake Balotan, an area which is much drier and there’s no botrytis. The two wines I tasted from this producer were quite different, maybe a combination of the region’s diverse soils and winemaker’s Tamás Kovács’s unobtrusive winemaking style. The wines are marked by high acidity and very little residual sugar, and there is a steely, mineral, metallic, yet creamy quality to the Márga which reminded me of a dry Chenin Blanc from, for example, Savennières. ✪✪✪✪✪
From vines planted over thirty years ago, this wine is extremely concentrated, with lime, petrol, nuts, and a resinous quality. The nose is quite reminiscent of Riesling, but having been aged for six months in small new oak barrels the palate is creamy, oaky, spicy, and rich. Imagine if Burgundy were made from Riesling. ✪✪✪✪✪
Published on: 19/04/2016
By: Matthew Gaughan