Furmint is the king grape of Hungary, famously known for being the main grape in the sweet wines of the region of Tokaj. Its origins have several theories, with some experts believing it is native to the area, while others consider that it was brought by King Bela IV in the 13th century or by Italian missionaries and soldiers during the 1750’s. Either way, we know that it is derived from the French grape Gouais Blanc and related to international grapes like Chardonnay and Riesling. It is also grown in Slovakia, Slovenia, Austria and Croatia, and the name is believed to be drawn from the word “froment”, a common wheat variety, for the wheat-gold color of the wines it produces.
Usually, Furmint has been vinified as a sweet wine with grapes that have been affected by noble rot, also known as botrytis cinerea. This mold, which needs specific climatic conditions to develop, dehydrates the grapes concentrating the sugar levels. To make the world-famous wine Tokaji, a base wine is made, and the botrytis affected grapes, known as aszú, are added and macerated for up to two days. Traditionally, these berries were made into a paste then added to the wine, but now extended maceration is common to avoid bitter flavors extracted from the seeds. The wine must be aged in Hungarian oak barrels for at least 18 months.
The celebrated winery Royal Tokaji produces dry and sweet versions of Furmint. "The Oddity", their dry version, exhibits aromas of mandarin, green apple, and ginger, while the sweet "Red Label" bursts with flavors of honey and dried peaches.
Dry Furmint is perfect with pork dumplings or herb roasted chicken. Or indulge in a bottle of sweet Tokaji with hard aged cheeses or on its own after dinner for a fantastic treat.
Author: Maytte Rivera