The main tasting of “Furmint February”, to be held on February 10 from 4pm-9pm at the Magyar Mezőgazdasági Múzeum (Hungarian Agriculture Museum) in the City Park, promises to be a blockbusting event. Just about all of the best practitioners of Hungary’s great white grape hope, some 50 of them including world-renowned István Szepsy, will be participating and personally pouring their dry Furmint wines into your glasses.
At the Furmint February tasting last year, it was evident that dry Furmints from many producers haven broken through the quality boundaries and are now hitting a serious standard. Even better, wineries have also found their own signature styles. Furmint had long been the white grape on which Hungary’s dry white hopes were pinned, though consistency had often been lacking across the board. This is no more.
In Tokaj, Hungary’s truly legendary wine region which boasts the world’s oldest classification system, much effort has been put into transforming the elegant Furmint grape, which forms the backbone of the sumptuously sweet and legendary Tokaji Aszű, into one that also makes world-class dry white wine. While Tokaji Aszú has more than recovered from the decimation caused by some 40 years of communist collectivisation, winemakers have found the market for sweet wines very limited as wine drinkers demand predominantly dry wine these days.
Furmint yields dry wines of great structure with a full-body and generous fruit built around a backbone of excellent acidity – key ingredients for age-worthy whites of great complexity. Furthermore, when it’s dry, Furmint perhaps even better captures the mineral aspect of Tokaj’s volcanic tufa-based and Somló’s basalt soils. Taste and you will see that this true terroir grape even manages to capture the intricacies of individual vineyards.
In Somló, Hungary’s smallest wine region but producer of some of the country’s biggest whites, Furmint can be said to have more of a savoury character compared to the exquisite elegance of Tokaj, due to the aforementioned volcanic basalt soil and possibly the windy conditions. However, the difference between individual wineries and wines can still be immense within both regions, and that can only be a good thing as people increasingly seek unique rather than uniformly-made wines. For example, at the Furmint February tasting, contrast the sheer elegance of Furmint from Királyudvar with Zoltán Demeter’s intensely powerful expressions of Tokaj’s terroir: both will make you very glad you came. Now there is also quality dry Furmint coming from a handful of wineries in Eger, and Vörcsök in Zala. A couple of Austrian wineries will also be present at the tasting.
As a taste of what you can expect, from a pre-tasting held before Christmas, Karádi-Berger, an up-and-coming Tokaj winery, impressed with its 2007 Furmint, thanks to its floral and honey aromas then exotic fruit on the rich but fresh palate. From Somló, Imre Györgykovács’ 2008 effort has lime, dill, herbs and a certain salty aspect on the nose with a round and beautifully balanced palate of lemon curd and spice.
Tickets to the grand tasting cost HUF 6,900, which also includes some serious local goat cheese. For a list of all the participating producers, click on: http://www.vinoport.hu/index.php?node=3035. Book in advance to be sure of a place by sending an email (in English is fine) to firstname.lastname@example.org.
The tasting is part of a wider movement to showcase Furmint. Many stores have put major discounts on Furmint during February. Hungary’s leading wine company, Bortársaság, will have a bottle open at each of its stores to sample with discounts on Furmints and many other wines. For a list of its stores go to: http://www.bortarsasag.hu/en/wine_stores/. Meanwhile Radovin (http://www.radovin.hu) has slashed 27% off all its wines for February.