Furmint

Origin: Probably Hungarian. According to DNA profiling it shares the same parent variety as Riesling, Chardonnay and Gamay (a practically unknown historical variety known as Gouais Blanc), and is itself a likely parent to Hárslevelü (another big Hungarian white variety)
Furmint is mainly famous for its use in sweet Tokaj Aszú together with Hárslevelü and Sárga Muskotály (Muscat Blanc À Petits Grains) Tokaj was in its heydays described as:

The wine of kings, the king of wines

Grown: Hungary, Slovakia (grown in the region of Tokaj, not to be confused with the Hungarian Tokaj), Austria (knowns as Mosler), Slovenia (Šipon), Croatia (Moslavac) and South Africa

Climate: Long, warm summers, continental climate

Soil: Volcanic soils, good at reflecting the terroir

Viticulture: Buds early but ripens slowly (botrytize affected grapes sometimes picked as late as November). Have loose-bunches and thick-skinned berries which is perfect when encouraging botrytize. Remarkable tolerance for drought conditions making it a grape for the future. Has many easily distinguished clones

Vinification: Useable for a wide style of wines, from sweet to bone dry. High level of phenolic compounds, and sometimes skin contacted is permitted to enhance this further. Can be aged on both stainless steel and in oak barrels. When made into traditional Tokaj Aszú the sweetness level of the wine is described by puttonyos

  • 3 puttonyos represent a wine with residue sweetness up to 60 grams of sugar per litre
  • 4 puttonyos represent a wine with residue sweetness between 60 to 90 grams of sugar per litre
  • 5 puttonyos represent a wine with residue sweetness between 90 to 120 grams of sugar per litre
  • 6 puttonyos represent a wine with residue sweetness between 120 to 150 grams of sugar per litre
  • Aszú Eszencia equals at least 450 grams of sugar per litre

Regional names to look for on label:

  • Somló OEM* (Hungary)
  • Tokaj-Hegyalja OEM (Hungary)

*OEM stands for Oltalom alatt álló eredet megjal öléssel and is the Hungarian equivalent to a PDO wine

General Personality:

  • Colour: From greenish in stainless steel to golden honey in oak aged sweet wines
  • Aromas:
    Dry wines: Pear, quince, lime, ginger, honey and smoky notes
    Sweet wines: Marzipan, apricots, honey, spearmint and raw sugar. With age the smoky and spicy sides of the grapes are enhanced, towards cinnamon and tobacco
  • Taste and Texture: Can be everything from bone dry to lusciously sweet, remarkably high acidity all the same, often high alcohol when dry, but balanced. Barrel aging ads texture and creaminess while stainless steel preserves the delicacy of the fruit
  • Conclusion: Sweet wines made from grapes affected by botrytize will be extremely high in sugar and flavour concentration while dry wines tends to be high in alcohol and can offer a very unique flavour profile. Furmint is generally good at reflecting the local terroir, making the potential difference between neighbouring vineyards noticeable. Furmint has been a bit forgotten, but its potential has finally been realised and especially the dry, oak aged version is starting to find its way into wine lists all over the world
  • Future: Made for aging, be it dry or sweet. Has the basic structure for long ageing (high alcohol, acidity and flavour concentration). Some really sweet versions have been described as immortal since they can age over a century without being ruined

Food pairings:

  • General: With a focus on the dry, oak aged versions, where the unique flavour of Furmint really comes through, the wine is in itself very versatile. For those (the majority) of us that do not have the patience to give the wine time to age, it is overall an amazing food wine. Stay away from spicy dishes (since the alcohol tends to be high) and do not be afraid to pair it with something that you would otherwise grab a bottled of red for. When it comes to carnivore classics like roasted duck or pork, Furmint can holds its own!
  • Obvious pairing: Peking Donald Duck
    Named so, since Donald Duck would definitely endorse this Chines duck recipe. To be honest, growing up I never ever ate duck, so I do not have a reference frame for it. It was not a thing where I grew up. So now when I walked by a vegan roasted duck (now in supermarkets all over Australia, but seitan works as well), I had to try it. Loving chines I followed this simple Peking duck recipe and fell completely in love. First it seemed like a hard pair with many wines, but then I remembered Furmint and gave it a go, and then I fell in love all over again. Flavoursome and rich without being spicy, this is exactly where Furmint shines. A red wine would have been too much, and while a Riesling would have been boring, lost in the pairing, Furmints richness can handle it perfectly
  • On the wild side: Whole Roasted Cauliflower
    A new Christmas or Sunday dinner classic for vegans and meat-eaters alike, it is just that delicious! Here is were many would go for a red, since the association of the cauliflower is something towards a pot roast (where every sane person would grab a bottle of red wine), but oak aged Furmint is though enough to stand up to it, and at the same time will balance the inherent delicate flavour of the cauliflower. This is my favourite seasonal recipe, and do not skip out on the maple syrup, it makes all the difference
  • A Sweet Treat: Christmas Fruit Cake
    Pease do not hate me! But coming into Christmas (as I am writing this) fruit cake is for so many of us as loved that it is hated and a proper, homemade (very boozy) fruitcake is truly the perfect match to a sweet Furmint wine. Hungarians have their own history with this disputed desert, and it is not for nothing that is still is so popular there, since they have the right wine to wash it down with.
    Here we are talking a match for a proper Tokaj Aszú (not any new-world interpretations of dessert Furmint, you can keep them for when you find a good vegan blue cheese). No, we need the botrytize effect here, flavours of apricot, cinnamon, marzipan and so on, all the same flavour you will have reflected in the fruit cake. Try this one, and then do not blame me when you become a converted fruit cake lover!