Fall in love with Furmint - a wine tasting from Wines of Hungary.
Funny what goes into a bottle of wine. Geography, politics and geology have all influenced the furmint grape says, Dr Caroline Gilby. Edinburgh’s wine trade has gathered at the Royal College of Physicians in Queen Street for a masterclass on Hungary’s flagship grape delivered by Caroline and Rose Murray Brown, both Masters of Wine. The event was organized by Wine Events Scotland. War and decades of a planned economy mean there are numerous personal stories associated with Hungary’s wine producers. Exiles have returned to plots of land owned by family members and, Caroline points out, have achieved much since democratization in 1989. In addition, Caroline mentions the interest of the country’s young people in wine tasting and from Hungary’s young women producers in particular.
I appreciate the geography as well as the history lesson. Slovakia, Ukraine, Romania, Austria, Croatia and Serbia all circle landlocked Hungary which is a mountainous place rich in minerals. There are lakes, rivers and extinct volcanoes, and 22 wine regions are affected by this terroir and climate.
The core of this tasting is the furmint grape from the Tokaj region in the northeast of the country for what has been dubbed #Furmint February by the consortium Wines of Hungary. We taste five dry wines and then some sweet wines, all white. They are distinguished by flavours of pear, quince, apple and by juiciness tempered with acidity and steel. This focus on Hungary’s viniculture has me aching to visit the country beyond Budapest.
Furmint is the sibling of Chardonnay and Riesling, says Caroline, and the fourth most planted grape in Hungary after Bianca, Cserszegi Fűzseres and Olaszrizling.
The fifth wine we taste is a hefty chardonnay-like liquid but with a flinty backbone, Kovács Nimród Winery Sky Furmint 2019. I would love to try it with the foods that Rose Murray-Brown suggests – pork, creamy polenta, or mushroom dishes.
Thereafter it is the sweet wines of Tokaji Aszú that have me swooning. These wines are made by adding Aszú berries to a base wine and it is the double fermentation that is responsible for the richness. Aszú berries are grapes subject to the rot Botrytis Cinerea which shrivels the fruit and concentrates flavour. This process needs the heavy, moist, foggy conditions created in Tokaj by the confluence of the Bodrog and Tisza. The result is globally unique wines with rich flavours like butter, marmalade and orange peel, but they are not overly toothsome or syrupy. Caroline notes for example, that Disznókö Tokaji Aszú 5 Puttonyos 2011 has 'sapidity'. Kvaszinger Sweet Szamorodni 2019 is extraordinarily smooth and recommended by Rose as a complement to blue cheese, katsu curry and fruit desserts.
This peek into the world of Hungarian wine certainly piqued my interest and I would encourage all wine and food lovers to seek them out and conduct their own tasting (S. Wilson).