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Understanding Furmint

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Furmint is a white Hungarian grape variety that plays a significant role in the production of Tokaji Aszú, one of the world’s oldest sweet wines. However, Furmint is also used to make a variety of other wine styles, each showcasing the grape’s versatility and unique characteristics. Furmint is also grown in Slovenia, Slovakia, Croatia, Austria and Serbia.

In 2022, the area dedicated to wine production covered 56,252 hectares, with about 70% of this area planted with white grape varieties.

The wine region encompasses 22 distinct areas and has 33 Protected Designation of Origin (PDO) certifications, highlighting the diversity and quality of wines produced. A total of 183 grape varieties are grown. The United Kingdom is the top export market for Furmint wine.

The concept of terroir plays a crucial role in defining the unique characteristics of wine from this region. In Hungary, the geology featuring clay, loess soil and volcanic subsoil significantly contributes to the land’s suitability for viticulture. The higher altitude regions favour drier wines that haven’t been affected by noble rot that affects the more foggy, damp lower areas and are better for sweet wines. This factors help to produce wines with various and distinct flavours.

Among the white grape varieties, Bianca leads with 5,255 hectares, followed by Cserszegi Fűszeres with 3,703 hectares and Furmint with 3,377 hectares. Furmint can be used as the dominant grape, especially in Tokaji, but there are other grape varieties that are blended with Furmint to create different styles:

Hárslevelű: The blending of Hárslevelű with Furmint adds floral and honeyed notes, enhancing the wine’s complexity and aroma profile without overpowering the Furmint’s characteristic acidity and minerality.

Sárga Muskotály (Yellow Muscat): This grape is used in some blends to add a distinct Muscat aroma, introducing notes of spices and orange blossom. The effect of blending Sárga Muskotály with Furmint adds a layer of aromatic complexity and a slight increase in sweetness.

These the main types of Furmint wine:

Dry Furmint: In recent years, dry Furmint has gained popularity, offering a crisp, refreshing wine with a high acidity and complex flavours. These wines often feature notes of green apple, pear, lime, and honeysuckle along with a distinct minerality. Dry Furmint can be aged in oak, which adds complexity and a richer texture.

Sweet Tokaji Aszú: Furmint is the primary grape used in the production of Tokaji Aszú, the most famous sweet wine of Hungary. Tokaji Aszú is made from grapes affected by noble rot (Botrytis Cinerea, a fungus that attacks healthy ripe grapes), which concentrates their sugars and flavours, resulting in a wine with rich notes of honey, apricot, orange peel and spices.

Tokaji Szamorodni: This style is less sweet than Aszú and can be either dry or sweet. Szamorodni is made from bunches of grapes that include both healthy and noble rot grapes. The sweet version is similar to Aszú but less concentrated, while the dry version has a unique oxidative character.

Late Harvest Furmint: These are sweet wines made from grapes harvested late in the season, allowing for natural sugar concentration. Late Harvest Furmint is typically lighter and less complex than Tokaji Aszú but still offers delightful sweetness and fruitiness.

Furmint Sparkling Wine: Although less common, Furmint is used in the production of sparkling wines, utilising the traditional method. These sparkling wines highlight Furmint’s natural acidity and fresh fruit flavours, making for an elegant and refreshing beverage.

Each type of Furmint wine offers a distinct experience, ranging from bone-dry and mineral-driven to lusciously sweet and complex. This diversity makes Furmint a fascinating grape variety for wine enthusiasts. There’s much more information on Wines of Hungary. Also read the Furmint and Friends tasting.