Grape Expectations: Furmint

This month I would like to take you on a trip to Hungary, whose signature grape is the subject of this article. Furmint is best known for its contribution to the world of sweet  wines – it is the key grape variety used to make Tokaji Aszu.

Tokaji Aszu is a one of the world’s oldest – and greatest – sweet wines. It is made using grapes grown in misty vineyards close to rivers, thereby favouring the development of Noble Rot. This rather unappetising sounding fungus shrivels the grapes, concentrating flavour and sugar, and somehow contributing complex marmalade flavours of its own. Thanks to its enormous levels of sugar and very high acidity, Tokaji can age for decades. I’m not sure I’ve said very much about my thoughts on food and wine pairings in this column before (it is by and large a load of rubbish) but a glass of Tokaji alongside a slice of stilton cheese is utterly wonderful.

Furmint is also used to make dry wines. Hopeful wine producers and merchants have been expecting this grape variety to finally become fashionable for decades now, and it never quite seems to make it. No matter – it keeps the prices down! Go to an independent retailer and you’re likely to find a dry Tokaji, which often reminds me of Chenin Blanc. Dry, racy, aromatic, and really quite delicious.

Chateau Dereszla Dry Tokaji, Hungary – Limes, lemons, pineapple and beeswax on the nose lead to a palate with refreshing acidity and wonderful texture.