07 Tuesday Mar 2017
An eight-day trip to Hungary last fall left me with a notebook full of great wines tasted. I’ve written about a smattering of the reds I tasted as well as unusual wine pairings for a Tokaji Aszú that I brought home, not just one but several bottles.
The calendar flips to 2017, and all of the sudden, the wine world is abuzz with talk of dry Furmint. I even read last week that 2017 has been dubbed the “Year of Furmint.” So, I’ve been inspired to go back through my notebook to catalog those dry Furmints I tasted in professional settings on that trip. Here they are.
Ersébet 2012 Furmint Király Dűlő Tokaj
This wine’s exotic, honeyed nose promises great things, and its palate delivers with a wildly compelling flavor blend of toasted hazelnuts, wildflower honey, tarte tatin, crispy chicken skin and roasted fall mushrooms. Intensely concentrated and rich in flavor, this is beautifully balanced by powerful acidity. It’s fantastic!
Zsirai 2015 Furmint Tokaji Kozéphegy
Four hectares of vines are dedicated to this vineyard, 60% of which is Furmint. The wine is bright and golden in its glint, and its aromas are packed with sweet baking spices. It’s round with whispers of viscosity and on the finish shows a lovely and dynamic juiciness of pit fruit flavors. This team of sisters has done everything to make this a wine for folks to crave.
Barta 2012 Furmint Tokaji Dry Öreg Király Dűlő
This wine has a surprisingly funky nose with more definitive aged notes that its 2013 sibling. Oily and truffly with tinges of tangerine, this is a seriously exotic and compelling white wine with racy acidity. Aged in Austrian, Stockinger barrels, this has a delightfully harmonious composition.
Ersébet 2015 Furmint Estate Tokaj
In 2015, this wine is a single vineyard, hailing from a small hill (Pécsi) on the northern side of the Tokaji hill. Pécsi might become a single vineyard in the future, as its southeast exposition and 90-year-old vines gives it a truly unique character. It’s dynamic in both perfume and palate feel. Its bouquet includes nectarines, papayas and pink rose petals. Its silky smooth, vaguely viscous texture is superbly juxtaposed by vivacious acidity. Beautifully balanced and incredibly delicious, this wine’s deeply flavored finish suggests this wine has a long way to go.
Ersébet 2012 Zafir Dűlő Tokaj
Composed of 65% Furmint and 35% Hárslevelü, this wine seems to be baring its soul in its scintillatingly diverse array of flavors. Layered and long, the palate shows honey, candle wax, jackfruit, yuzu and honeydew melon. It was still impressively pale straw in color at four years old (at the time it was tasted), and the zippy acidity should give this wine a very long life. Zafir means “saphire”, and this is, indeed, a gem.
Kvaszinger 2015 Furmint Tokaji Dry Meszes
This wine stands in stark contrast to its sibling Hatalos. Its exuberant nose smells of wildflower honey drizzled papaya sitting by toasted wheat baguette on the breakfast table. This wine is full-force with powerful acidity zipping through the meaty and savory mid-palate to create a delightfully craggy, textured palate. Though compelling today, this deserves to age.
Kvaszinger 2013 Furmint Tokaji Estate
Bright, clean and only moderately aromatic, this wine was fermented in stainless steel then aged in 5 hectoliter oak barrels for ten months. The 2013 vintage was terrific, and it shows here. Every element is pumping on all cylinders. The result is a sexy wine that tastes like a dry version of a Tokaji Aszú. Layered in aromas and flavors though only medium in finish, this wine has a juicy core of exotic fruits, like dried mango. Only 5,000 bottles were made.
Majoros 2015 Furmint Tokaji Agyag
This wine was to be bottled in two to three weeks when I tasted it. Fully dry and super young, this wine showed nothing but massively pure fruit notes. Pear and pit fruits are complimented by floral tones. Compact and concentrated, this needs time.
Majoros 2013 Furmint Tokaji Deák
Affectionately named the “Furminator”, you’d better believe owner Laszlo Majoros is full of energy and spirit for his local Furmint. This bottling is made from 40 year old vines that whip this wine into a terrifically balanced bottling. Impressively aromatic on the palate yet super dry on the attack, this wine sets up the taster for plenty of potential surprises that it happily delivers. Part of the secret to this wine is that it was harvested in three times. There’s a bit of every possible peak stage of vibrancy and ripeness present. Eighty percent of this wine – all of which is free-run juice – was fermented in old barrels with the remainder seeing nothing but stainless steel.
Majoros 2015 Furmint Tokaji Deák (assembled but not bottled at time of tasting)
Fermented primarily in barrels with 40% stainless steel restraint, I would guess that the stainless won. There’s loads of minerality and very little sign of oak influence here. There’s some tangerine peel and almond skin that lead into a solid finish. There’s a bit of texture here, nodding to the wine’s skin contact, which I think works impressively well.
Serpens 2015 Furmint Tokaji Somos
This wine was fermented in 220 and 300 liter barrels, all with different wild and selected yeasts. So, it’s only fair to expect a mass of flavor, and that is precisely what you get. There’s a butterfly effect of quality that impresses extremely delicately. This bottling shows sweet spice à la clove-studded pears along with a savory, brothy character. The whisper of residual sugar finishes pleasantly dry on the lingering finish.
Somlói-Vándor 2015 Furmint
This wine is made by the young, highly capable and thorougly committed Tamás Kis in Hungary’s smallest wine region of Somló (composed of only 520 hectares on three totally exposed hills in northwestern Hungary, where the average parcel size is 0.25 hectare). Hailing from the loess-covered south side, this stainless steel-fermented white is 50% aged in oak barrels, a portion of which are heavily toasted. If you balked reading the last line, reconsider while reading this: heavily toasted wood is more complimentary to the hearty, savory flavors of Somló terroir wines rather than lighter, greener toasts. So there! This wine shows a touch of sinewy viscosity and flavors of straw and Spanish almonds. Lightly tugging in texture, the terrific palate draws out complex flavors from this intriguing, sultry wine.
St. Donat 2015 Furmint Márga Balatonfüred-Csopak
Appley on the nose, this wine turns into flavors of quince, passion fruit and white pepper on the palate. Gracefully textured, there’s an intriguing tension reining in the wine’s hint of suppleness. This wine could use a few years to shake off some of its youth, but it’s still lovely now.
Basilicus 2015 Furmint Tokaji Lapis
This single vineyard, pure Furmint is a super suave wine that I’d drink any day with a nice plate of sheeps’ milk cheeses. Its smells of salty almonds, hay, guava, mango and quince flow right into the long finish. One third of the wine is fermented in new Hungarian oak.
Ersébet 2011 Zafir Dűlő Tokaj
The percentages of Furmint and Hárslevelü vary depending on the vintage. This 2011 is dominated by 60% Hárslevelü. Beautifully dry with bright, almost boisterous, acidity, this wine smells of dried field flowers, honey, baked yellow apples and roasted peanuts. Two-thirds of the blend spends time in new Hungarian oak, yet I couldn’t find it in the wine. It reminded me a bit of a nicely aging Hunter Valley Sémillon. This would make a charming companion to any cheese board.
Gróf Degenfeld 2011 Pezsgő Extra Brut
This is the first sparkling wine of Grof Degenfeld. Only 800 bottles were made and it is essentially being sold only in Hungary. If you happen to be wine shopping locally, it is worth seeking out. The base wine is fermented entirely in new oak, and the wine was disgorged in October 2015. The result is a captivating wine smelling of chalk, golden raisins, lemon zest and water crackers with a hint of pale ale. The wine’s terrific freshness and tension emphasize the wine’s pithy, mid-palate texture.
Majoros 2013 Furmint Tokaji Agyag
This wine also hails from the Deák vineyard, but it is slightly lower on the slope. The succulent palate shows gingerbread and fruitcake on the palate, both of which are well-balanced by the vibrant energy of the wine’s acidity. Lingering on the finish and marked in concentration, this wine is aching to be aged.
Somlói-Vándor 2014 Nagy-Somlói Cuvée
Composed of 40% Furmint, 20% Juhfark, 20% Olazriszling and 20% Hárslevelü, this blended wine has a deep golden color and a decidedly evolved nose. From attack to medium finish, it feels firm and decidedly dry. The flavors of nectarine and orange peel are honeyed à la botrytis, and there’s a terrifically refreshing tang that makes this wine a good companion for a hearty meal.
St. Donat 2013 Furmint Balatonfüred-Csopak
This wine hails from the marl-driven Márga vineyard, but the vineyard’s name only goes on the label when winemaker Tamás Kovács feels the wine is tops. This 2013 shows oodles of white, yellow and pink grapefruit character dusted with smokiness. Fermented in both stainless steel and three-year-old barrels, this wine shows tremendous complexity.
Zsirai 2015 Furmint Tokaji Estate
This family winery focuses on small production, here using nine different single vineyards. The effect is a multiplier for the senses with loads of succulent pear and golden apple folowed by cinnamon and banana spice. The acidity is a bit lackadaisical, though it does give a lovely quaffability to this bottling.
Barta 2015 Furmint Tokaji Dry Öreg Király Dűlő
Exuding with minerality and peaches, this wine’s firm palate almost denies its oak aging in Kadar light and medium toast vessels. There’s loads of vibrant acidity with touches of herbal lift and tons of acidic vibrancy. Best with food, especially sweet shellfish or white meat dishes with fruits.
Barta 2013 Furmint Tokaji Dry Öreg Király Dűlő
This wine is showing wet wool character with a hint of baby powder brushed on a baby’s bottom. The palate is more diverse and open with flavors of Chartreuse and toasted walnut. Singing acidity brilliantly balances the medium body and lays way for a solid foundation for aging over the next five years.
Basilicus 2015 Furmint Tokaji Mestervölgy Dűlő Szelektalt
Mestervölgy means “master valley”. Basilicus owns 1.5 of this vineyard’s 16 hectares and was the first to place the vineyard name on the label. Searingly dry, savory and salty, this wine has a diverse range of flavors: tangerine peel, yellow plum liqueur, saké, fennel and chicken broth. They all meld seamlessly into a medium-plus finish.
Ersébet 2011 Furmint Estate Tokaj
This bottling is a blend from Zafir (the grapes that don’t go into the single vineyard wine) and Kiraly, meaning “King”. It smells of baking bread, lemon peel, fresh flowers and an unusual but lovely, dairy-esque influence akin to sour cream. Only four barrels were made, and three of them were new. Poised, highly defined and harmonious, this wine has a long life ahead.
Holdvölgy 2012 Furmint Tokaji Dry Meditation
This wine isn’t made every year, so if you can get your hands on a bottle, don’t hesitate! This particular one smells of wet wool, honeydew melon and rose petals. Zinging with acidity to the extent its finish is almost searingly dry, this wine demands food. Moreover, thanks to that vibrant acidity, this wine should age very well.
Kolonics 2015 Furmint Somlói
This wine has a heady nose full of clean fruit. Rich in viscosity in an Alsace-esque way, this is one of those copious wines of which you just need just a few drops with a silky slice of Camembert to make the world right. Apricot skin and sweet peach abound.
Kvaszinger 2015 Furmint Tokaji Dry Hatalos
Oak-fermented in 2 hectoliter, neutral barrels, this wine saw one month of light battonage post fermentation. So, it’s no surprise that now its nose is rather reserved and its super pale, yellow color sparkles with green reflections (as lees protect the wine from the darkening effects of oxygen.) Though discreet, the wine’s delicate fruit flavors of musk melon and pluot are super-clean. Zesty acidity gives this wine a lively character.
Laposa 2015 Furmint Kőkövön Badacsony
Lightly scented with red apple skin and sweet spices, this savory, broth-flavored palate is accented by white pepper spice. The lightly creamy, modestly succulent palate shows impressive balance thanks to its lilting acidity. Though delightful now, this wine will surely show more expansive flavors in the coming six months.
Barta 2015 Furmint Tokaji Dry Selection
Unusually planted to 50% bush vine and 50% cordon-trained vine, this wine is a barrel selection of the best of those two different efforts. On the nose, the wine smells of yellow plums and minerals while the palate tastes of donut peaches and yellow raisins. From start to finish, there is a lovely viscosity, density of texture and layering of flavors.
Béres 2013 Furmint Tokaji
Smelling of peach pit and pink grapefruit pith accompanied by whole-wheat toast, this wine has tremendous acidic precision balancing its medium weight. The four months of oak barrel aging shows up front but then drift off as the medium finish turns delightfully minerally.
Béres 2011 Furmint Tokaji Lőcse
This wine will be a hit with those looking for an oaky white wine. While its nose starts off with lovely mineral tones, its palate is dominated by barrel influences of grilled, buttered baguette, roasted walnuts and spicy rye. That’s not to say this wine is without refreshment. In fact, it crackles with acidity and shows an underlying taughtness that makes it excellent for pairing with braised veal and pork.
Demetervin 2015 Furmint Tokaji Dry Király
These vines are all hand-cultivated because the slopes – at 45 degrees – are so steep. The result is an impressively fragranced wine smelling of apples, cactus fruit and pears. There’s a lightning-like acidity to cut through all the baby fat of this medium-bodied wine, too. The strong finish sings of minerality.
Ersébet 2015 Furmint Király Dűlő Tokaj
This wine’s aromas just won’t stop popping out of the glass. Unripe yellow plum, anise, fennel bulb, yellow tomato and dried lilies are just a few of the aromas that evolve with time and aeration. The medium-bodied palate (stemming in part from this high vineyard’s compact clay soils with rhyolite) is kept in line by a crosshatch of pithiness that coats the palate. While the aromas are ethereal, the texture dominates the experience. Perhaps this feistiness with ease with time in bottle?
Ersébet 2015 Zafir Dűlő Tokaj
This wine’s 90% Furmint was fermented and aged in third-fill barrels while its 10% Hárslevelu saw exclusively stainless steel. Its nose is youthful and pristine, and its color is pale straw. Zinging with oodles of perky acidity brilliantly balancing a tiny touch of residual sugar (about five or six grams) and gobs of mid-palate juiciness, this wine seems much lighter than its medium alcohol on the label might suggest. With only 10% Hárslevelu, it doesn’t have the flashy exoticness of its younger siblings, but it’s very compelling in its own way.
Majoros 2011 Furmint Tokaji Basic Instincts
Made from Furmint from the Deák vineyard, this is a Furmint gone wild. Fermented on its skins without SO2 then aged in Hungarian and French oak barrels, this wine shows lovely concentration of apples and Comice pears with sweet spice and almond skin. The tart acidity keeps things lively and pulls all the flavors into a very long finish.
St. Donat 2014 Furmint Estate Balatonfüred-Csopak
Smooth and silky on the attack (despite zero malo-lactic fermentation), this wine turns zesty and pithily dry on the lingering finish. Seriously thought-provoking in its swirl of grapey, toasty and buttery goodness, this is a wine that needs time to unfold in the glass.
Toth 2015 Furmint Nagy-Somlói
Slightly cloudy, this wine is robustly fresh and mineral with flavors of toasted almond butter and delicately sweet Carr’s wheat crackers. There’s plenty of oak-driven sweet spice leading into the medium and very dry finish.
Pannon Tokaji 2014 Furmint Tokaji Dry Dominium
Sealed tight with a snazzy-looking VinoLok closure, this spicy and yeasty wine has a pleasant mid-palate roundness with a riper, yellow fruit tone and hints of golden raisins on the palate. Composed of grapes only from the best or highest slopes, this isn’t a wine to overlook for many reasons.
Barnabás 2013 Furmint Nagy-Somlói
Showing lovely development with notes of earth and mushroom coming through, this wine is nonetheless still dominated by its bouquet of acacia honey and spring flowers. The palate brings on more savory tones with waxy and nutty tones. The tugging tannins invigorate the palate and pull the diverse flavors into a medium finish.
Ersébet 2013 Furmint Tokaji Estate
This wine is a bit awkward on the palate with grainy phenolics and spritely acidity raking across the palate. Its grapey nose transitions into lovely flavors of fleshy yellow plums, Poire Williams, oatmeal and cheese rind. Its super dry finish is medium and rather austere. Perhaps this is going through an odd stage? It certainly seems out of step with the character of its siblings.
Slopes 2015 Furmint Tokaji Dry
This is an exotic and oak-forward Furmint. One third was fermented in new, 500 L Kadar (the high-end Hungarian barrel maker) oak barrels with toasted heads. Barrel heads make up 25% of the barrel, so this is a significant increase of oak influence vis-à-vis a regular barrel. The nose is bright with lemon curd, a flavor that melds nicely with the caramel oak tones. The rapier-like acidity gives the palate firmness to compete with its medium body and smooth palate feel. It could use six months to settle down and further integrate its fruit and oak components in bottle.
Holdvölgy 2013 Furmint Tokaji Dry Vision
This moderately aromatic wine smells of peaches and cheese rinds. It’s a wild combination of fresh and stinky! Its acidity is bright, its body (mostly provided by a bit of Harslevelu) is moderately effusive and its spicy tones (thanks to Kabar) provide loads of lift. Fermented half in stainless steel and half in barrels, his wine has texture, nuance and solid length.
Holdvölgy 2014 Furmint Tokaji Dry Vision
This wine is more reserved on the nose than its 2013 counterpart. It is firmer in brisk flavors of pomelo and cantaloupe as well. Still, it resembles its younger sibling in class and in its longer finish. Moreover with 40% Harslevelu and 20% Kabar, it strikes more exotic notes, too.
Béres 2014 Furmint Tokaji Száraz
The first whiff of this wine bore a wet wool note that reminded me of Chenin Blanc. Highly reserved in fruit character, its low-intensity nose showed primarily water crackers and Marcona almonds with a touch of dustiness. Moderate in concentration, flavor and finish, this would probably be best paired with sushi or delicate river fish.
Béres 2015 Furmint Tokaji USA Selection
Matured in 200 and 500 L barrels (25% each) as well as 50% in stainless steel, this wine’s fresh fruit and toasty tones give it an extra touch of nuance. The fruits show a wide, even exotic, array of ripeness from apricot skin to ripe banana that give each glass immediate appeal. The rather quick finish is dry without feeling taut. This wine offers great value for easy-going sipping.
Gróf Degenfeld 2015 Furmint Tokaji
This medium-bodied, super clear white wine defies its hot and dry growing season, at least in flavor. It favors citrusy and minerally to tropical tones. There’s key lime and wet wool. The integrated acidity does not to the warmer vintage, but everything is nicely balanced, including a slight 3.0 g/L residual sugar with the 7.7 g/L total acidity. Though medium in flavor concentration, this is a bit feathery and wispy in complexity, so enjoy it early on.
Holdvölgy 2013 Furmint Tokaji Dry Green Hold and Hollo
This wine is unsurprisingly fresher on the nose than its 2012 counterpart, but it also more closely resembles Chenin Blanc. There’s an enticing wet wool note on the nose followed by apple sauce and cinnamon along with crushed flint on the palate. Medium in weight and finish, this has great appeal, even if it may overall be less complex than the 2012.
Pannon Tokaj 2015 Furmint Tokaji
This wine is an impressive display of drinkable accessibility via terroir expression. It combines massive minerality with flavors akin to banana cream pie. Its mid-palate is both creamy and juicy, if not very long in flavor. However, its accessible price point goes a long way.
Serpens 2015 Tokaji Dry
This is a blend of 65% Furmint, 25% Harslevelu and 10% Muskatoly from 80 year old vines, all fermented in stainless steel after whole bunch pressing. Super pale yellow in color, this wine has a massively minerally nose with intermittent notes of white flowers and grapefruit. There’s plenty of pithy, pleasantly drying fruit character that gives a lovely yin-yang balance of texture and drinkability and pulls the flavors into a medium finish. Only 4,000 bottles were made.
Demetervin 2014 Furmint Tokaji Dry
From the Király vineyard, this wine was fermented in barrel with wild yeasts. It’s exotic on the nose with appel juice and a shower of vanilla perfume. It’s powerful and medium-plus in body and could use a bit of time to unwind. It should have time on its side, thanks to its medium-plus finish.
Barnabás 2015 Furmint Nagy-Somlói
Smelling like banana bread, this wine shows very nice, crystalline acidity and racy dryness. However, there’s a toasty layering of oak on top of fruit that makes the wine incredibly awkward stylistically. When compared to its 2013 sibling, it’s fair to think it just needs another year or two to settle down.
Holdvölgy 2012 Furmint Tokaji Dry Green Hold and Hollo
Incredibly reserved and minerally nose (maybe a bit influenced by SO2?), this wine feels just a bit off-dry at 5.5 g/L residual sugar. There’s a dash of Harslevelu along with the majority of Furmint here, and the duo tastes of green apple, pomelo, baking spice and a shot of freshly cracker white peppercorns. It’s a bit soft on the acidity, but it’s a nice sip over the next year or so.
Gróf Degenfeld 2015 Furmint Tokaji Zomborka Dűlő
This Furmint struggles to find its voice as its 7.5 g/L residual sugar and 5.7 g/L total acidity make it feel a bit clumsy. Moreover, its combination of bruised apricot and damp hay make it overly old school in style and wanting for greater freshness. It finishes swiftly.