Hungary’s key white variety is Furmint and its quickly becoming one of the grapes to watch. Its propensity to accumulate the noble rot so conducive to sweet wines, particularly in the famous and iconically historical Tokaj region, has earned it international fame that dates back centuries. Europe’s royal courts have long since served these hedonistically sticky wines to the acclaim of all those able to afford it. Over the last couple of decades though, producers have adapted to the global fall in demand for desert wines and started to pursue dry expressions of the grape - and the results are equally exciting.
Furmint boasts so many of the characteristics that can be found in the world’s great white grape varieties. Acidity, especially in times when freshness is so appreciated, is vital. Not only does this aid its drinkability, and its likelihood of pairing well with food, it is also one of the important components in ensuring a wine has the potential to age. It turns out however, that with a bit of TLC in the vineyards and the cellar, Furmint is also an impressively versatile grape variety.
The inherent acidity that balances out botrystised wines can be utilised in the production of sparkling wines. Worthy examples come from the Kreinbacher estate and Demeter Zolta. Not totally unlike Chardonnay, Furmint is showing an affinity with cellar techniques such as malolactic fermentation. It also seems to enjoy lengthy stays in various types of oak.
Around 80% of Furmint production is found in Hungary, while Slovenia (where it is known as Sipon) and Croatia make up much of the rest. Furmint also grows in the Srem region of Vojvodina in Serbia. Traditionally the variety grew on the slopes of the Fruška Gora Mountains but cultivation has declined rapidly. Today only a handful of wineries in Srem are interested in Furmint.