FurmintUSA on the Gazette – September 1, 2015

Dry furmints creating quite a buzz in the wine world


I am willing to bet a survey of American wine drinkers would reveal that the vast majority have no idea Hungary is home to a world-class wine region. That wine region is Tokaj (pronounced toe-keye).

I bet fewer still have heard of the furmint grape. Indigenous to this region in northern Hungary, it is best known in the wine world as the foundation of the famous (and historically revered) Tokaji Aszú dessert wine.

According to the promotional group FurmintUSA, which provided the samples reviewed here, consumers should expect to hear more about furmint in the near future. Ironically, Tokaji Aszú enjoyed a high-class reputation from at least the 17th century to the early 20th century, being favored by Europe’s royalty. Until recently, though, it was virtually unknown as a dry wine, especially in the U.S. Since the breakup of the Soviet Union, many mostly small, family-owned wineries have been established with a renewed focus on quality.

Now, dry furmints are creating quite a buzz in the wine world, with sommeliers, critics and others raving about an array of pungent aromatics, fruitfulness, structure, minerality and weight, as all of these characteristics usually don’t all come together in the same wine.

As with many grape varieties, furmint can be vinified into various styles – from crisp, fruity everyday wines to amazingly intense and complex single vineyard wines. Most of these wines see at least some time in oak, though some use less to emphasize fruit and acidity, while others use more oak to develop added richness and complexity. My notes on the wines tasted:

– 2011 Gróf Degenfeld Tokaji Furmint ($20). The Count Degenfeld family, which has been influential in the Tokaj area since the early 19th century, re-established the family’s winemaking tradition in 1996. This wine is made from organically grown grapes, undergoes barrel fermentation and aging, and sports snappy lemon, apple and stone fruit with cream and spice and unctuous texture.

– 2011 Erzsébet Estate Furmint ($24). This wine is a blend of two top vineyards from an extremely small estate. Nutty, caramel notes mix with steely pear and juicy tangerine, with a gripping finish.

– 2012 Kvaszinger Hatalos ($30). The grapes from the steep Hatalos slope are mostly fermented and aged in barrel. Lively orange and steely minerality join with fresh apple and citrus.

– 2011 Majoros Deák ($40). This producer is known for experimenting with methods not common to white wine making. For instance, this single vineyard wine is fermented four months with skin contact and has just been bottled. It shows admirable intensity and complexity with aromas of toasted cashew, pear and peppery spice combined with rich but refreshingly brisk green apple.

Published on: 09/01/2015
By: Rich Mauro