Furmint, Beyond Sweet Wines – Exploring the Magic of Furmint in the Hungarian Sparkling Wine World
29th August 2023
When one thinks of Furmint, the mind often conjures images of luscious Tokaji dessert wines from Hungary. However, this versatile grape variety has been quietly making waves beyond its sweet, and still dry incarnations.
Time to celebrate
The export quantity of Hungarian fizz has been fairly steady over the last five years, but it was in 2022 that the average price -some might say- significantly increased, it cracked the mark of 2 EUR / litre according to the Hungarian Central Statistical Office, which may not seem a lot at the beginning but it used to be much lower and the trend points upwards, as the numbers and the sentiment confirms.
Terroir Driven White Grape – Furmint
It’s a very popular white grape variety in Hungary, Furmint has been planted over 3,500 ha and is now the third most planted white grape in the country. You can find it almost in all the wine regions from the Balaton to Tokaj, where it’s the most popular. It has some refined attributes which make it welcome for sparkling wine production as well. It’s neutral in aromatics, shares high acidity and diversity of flavours from ripe stone fruit, and quince to a zesty lemon; not to mention it belongs to the same group of noble white grapes like Riesling, Chardonnay or Chenin Blanc. Yet one must tame the grippy phenolic personality as this might cause some eyebrows to be raised if not managed well.
The Sparkling Renaissance
This has led to the fact that people started to experiment with the variety (plus some government tax reliefs on small-scale sparkling production) and today it’s easier to mention in Tokaj people who do not have sparkling wines than those who have. I remember the first fine example was from Királyudvar, the 2009 Henye, stunning sparkling wine, they used a splash of top aszú for the dosage. The sublime autolytic notes gave it a complex, rich style with finesse. Another outstanding example is the Kreinbacher Estate from Somló. They started to produce magnum bottles as well and Furmint is accompanied by Chardonnay (roughly 50-50 depending on the ‘cuvée’) extra-long time on the lees, with no compromise on quality, and expertise straight from the Champagne region. Equals truly remarkable sparkling wines which have been recognized internationally too. Furmint appreciates being blended whether it’s with Chardonnay or even Hárslevelű.
Embracing the Bubbles of Furmint with Food
Furmint sparkling wines are more than just celebratory sips. Their vibrant acidity and layered flavours make them versatile companions for a variety of dishes. The crisp acidity and mineral undertones complement the briny flavours of oysters and other seafood. The bubbles cleanse the palate between bites, allowing you to fully appreciate the delicate nuances of both the wine and the food. Or why not try with some spicy dish, especially if it has a touch higher dosage or shares a riper quality?
Or go further with dishes featuring citrusy and herbal components, such as ceviche, salads with vinaigrette, or dishes with fresh herbs, can find a wonderful companion in Furmint sparkling wine. The wine’s floral and fruity notes can mirror and amplify these flavours.
The most important is to have fun and look out for the next Furmint, or Furmint-based sparkling wine from Hungary! There is a lot to be discovered…
Kristian Kielmayer BA, DipWSET
Economist with a degree in oenology, diploma holder of the WSET and certified sommelier by the CMS. He is a colourful, passionate communicator and a great storyteller and an educator.