Furmint makes wines that are lusciously sweet and opulent, bone dry and crisp, and just about any style in between. There is a style of Furmint for everyone. Check out these recommendations and get started on your tasting journey and fall in love with Furmint.
Furmint: How Sweet It Is (Or Isn't)
by Matthew Lorman
I was at the Culinary Institute of America when Furmint changed my impression of sweet wines forever. A small glass of honey-colored wine sat in front of me as my professor lectured about the long history of Hungarian wine. Yes, you read that correctly. There are wine classes in college! Distracted by the aromas of apricot and honey that were jumping out of the glass, I completely tuned out the rest of the lecture, and the only thing I could focus on was this wine. Just like a dog awaiting a treat, my excitement built until it was time to taste. I gave it a swirl and watched as clearly defined legs slowly formed, falling ever so sensually down the side of my glass. I took a sip, and it was instant fireworks, confirming my belief in love at first sight. Fast forward ten years and my love affair with Furmint continues. Now more than ever, this grape is generating buzz, and it’s not just for the famed sweet wines of Tokaj. Furmint makes wines that are lusciously sweet and opulent, bone dry and crisp, and just about any style in between. There is a style of Furmint for everyone. Check out these recommendations and get started on your tasting journey, and pretty soon, you too will fall in love with Furmint.
If you think you don’t like sweet wines, Tokaji will make you reconsider. Just one sip will have you mesmerized and officially converted into a dessert wine fan. In the Hungarian wine region of Tokaj, Furmint is blended with equally as fun to pronounce grape varieties, such as Harslevelu and Sarga Muskotaly, to produce opulently rich dessert wines that display concentrated aromas and flavors of dried apricots, honey, ginger, and marzipan. The grapes used are affected by Botytris, a type of beneficial mold affectionately referred to as “Noble Rot.” It will make your tastebuds sing, adding flavors of honeycomb, citrus marmalade, and jasmine to the wine. Vineyard workers comb through the vines, picking only those individual grapes affected by Botrytis. In Tokaj, you may see these wines labeled as Tokaji Aszú or Tokaji Essencia, which have varying levels of sweetness. Puttonyos, a basket full of nobly rotten grapes, are added to the base wine to boost its sweetness. The more puttonyos added, the sweeter the wine will be. Try pairing Tokaji Aszú with a simple fruit dessert, such as roasted pineapple, for a sweet treat. If you’re in the mood for something savory, look no further than a mild blue cheese along with the rest of your charcuterie board favorites. Wines labeled Tokaji Essencia are amongst the rarest and most valuable styles made from only the free-pressed juice of the nobly-rotten grapes. This “nectar of the wine gods” is so precious and lusciously sweet that it’s often served on a spoon rather than in a wine glass.
Picking individual grapes one by one is a very time-consuming and tumultuous process. Some winemakers decide to avoid the extra step and harvest all the grape bunches at once, resulting in a wine called Szamorodni. For all the language buffs out there, szamorodni means “as it was grown.” Harvesters pick whole clusters of grapes that include both regular and Botrytis-affected berries. The winemaker can make a sweet (édes) or dry (száraz) version of Szamorodni. Dry versions are similar to fino and manzanilla styles of sherry and have flavors and aromas of almond, hazelnut, dried figs, and caramel. Szamorodni Edes makes a knock-out pairing with warmed marinated olives, salted almonds, or salt cod fritters. Sweet styles of Szamorodni are notably less sweet than Tokaji Aszú but still pack a flavorful punch. Szamorodni Édes shows complex and enticing flavors of candied orange peel, honey, and tropical fruit pulled together by refreshing and zippy acidity. This wine is equally as delicious served next to dessert as it is the main dish. An almond tart or ginger cake is the perfect dessert pairing. If you’re a fan of takeout, this wine will shine when served alongside sweet and sour chicken. Whoever said food and wine pairings have to be fancy and overcomplicated?
Furmint is generating buzz, and not just for its legendary “noble” sweet wines. Botrytis is a lot like love. Sometimes it’s in the air, and sometimes it’s not. When it’s not, winemakers have the option of making dry wines. If you haven’t yet tried a dry Furmint, stop what you are doing and get yourself a bottle. Winemakers are increasingly making single varietal wines using Furmint. These variations are dry and crisp and show off intense notes of pear, lemon, lime, green apple, and quince. Dry renditions are very food-friendly and are a gastronome’s delight. Treat yourself and try pairing a glass with a fig, mozzarella, and prosciutto salad, roasted poultry, or garlic basil seared scallops.