Furmint – a thousand-faced variety


If you had to draw a picture of the average Hungarian wine (which, as it is known, doesn`t exist), you would undoubtedly depict a barrel-aged, aromatic, but not aggressive white wine with a good structure made from ripe grapes. This is the kind of wine allowed for by the qualities of the Carpathian Basin and the centuries-old tradition of winemaking.

But actually, that's what we prefer when we want a really nice white wine. It should have excellent acids, a smooth feel to the touch, preferably with a hint of tannins, and a long, persistent finish. As for great white wines, some residual sugar doesn't hurt either. And if this somewhat idealistic image should be associated with a grape variety, it would put many people in mind of Furmint.

For us Hungarians, Furmint is synonymous with serious, dry white wine. However, this variety has an entire range of different wine potentials imaginable, except red wine, of course. Similarly to its large international peers and partly relatives, Riesling and Chenin Blanc, it can be made into an excellent raw material for sparkling wine, a light, almost insubstantial, attractive, quiet dry wine with outstanding acids. But a serious, terroir-focused, great, full-bodied, and complex dry wine, barrel-aged for a longer or shorter period, also belongs here. And, of course, we have sweet wines, too. In our opinion, these are globally best-of-class.

As to the role of wines in gastronomy, from the point of view of acids, we could put it very simply, heeding the slogan: Long live the acids! Well, this might seem like an overstatement, but it's a hard fact that you can serve almost anything with wines of good acid structure, regardless of colour and variety. Moreover, it's much less of a hassle to find an appropriate accompaniment to wines with good acids than flat ones. Simply because the acids of the wine can make your mucous membrane susceptible in a positive sense, it will be more open to spices, fat, complex tastes and textures. Even if there is a little (or more than a little) residual sugar, or carbon dioxide, for that matter, thus we can say that Furmint is indeed a versatile wine.

There are already many serious domestic Furmint sparkling wines commercially available, and their increase is significant. The bulk of these is bottled by Tokaj winemakers, but Somló has its own part to play, too. The acids of Furmint are dynamic, but a stronger body complements them; that's why it makes no sense to compare our sparkling wines to Champagne. Here, slenderness is relative, but a good structure is guaranteed. As apéritifs, these bottle-matured sparkling wines are perfect at the start of any meal, accompanying lighter fish meals, seafood, or even some ingenious chocolate. It must be tried in order to avoid surprises, though. It might be a bad idea to expect chocolate to be sweet and nothing else, though. But if you are open to new and somewhat unusual combinations, you'll want to try a bar of more acidic and complex chocolate, rich in cocoa, with a good Furmint sparkling wine.

Many people say they don't like acidic wines. However, true quality is only imaginable with a serious amount of acids. Most aromas can only reveal their top form when accompanied by a certain quantity and composition of acids. And from the viewpoint of food and wine combination, the formula is simple: if a variety can produce wines of nice structure, almost any meal can suit it very well.

The way of the future seems to be large, dry Furmints, the parcel selection versions of which can fulfil the demands of any wine enthusiast. These dry wines have a good structure and rich aromas besides the high acid content. Ideally, they are exquisite. Dry wines made from grapes harvested in a not overripe but fully ripe state, without berries infected by botrytis, are of great value and have a potential for a decade.

Gabriella Mészáros