Furmint is a white varietal grown in Hungary and is the main ingredient of Tokaji Aszú.
This yellowish-green grape displays a bouquet reminiscent of ripe apples in youth. After aging in
wood, Furmint develops aromas of honey and walnuts.
Rich in extract, it makes a heady, robust
wine with pronounced acid. It is an early-budding, late-ripening variety and is particularly
susceptible to botrytis. Often characterized by its high alcohol levels, Furmint's high acidity
gives the wine longevity.
The 2006 Furmint is a pale green/straw color with a lovely clean, fresh, green apple, citrusy aroma with slight notes
of bonfi re oak. On the palate, the wine is dry, yet smooth with medium acidity, good fruit flavors and long length with
a tropical finish.
Royal Tokaji Wine Company Winery
The first Tokaji Aszú (toh-KAY ah-SOO) wine was created in the 1600s, perhaps by accident - a harvest delayed by threat of enemy invasion. In 1700, Tokaj became the first European region to have its vineyards classified, its uniquely varied terroirs and climates rated Primae Classis, Secundae Classis, Tertius Classis ("1st Growth, 2nd Growth, 3rd Growth") by Prince Rakoczi of Transylvania. This classification system is still used in Hungary today. Louis XIV of France (1638 - 1715) declared Tokaji "the wine of Kings and the King of wines", while in the 18th century, Catherine the Great stationed soldiers in Tokaj to protect her vineyards.
Quality production ended with World Wars I and II and the Communist takeover of Hungarian winemaking. Aszú grapes were used for mass production in factories, with vineyard distinctions lost in giant tanks. Tokaji's renaissance began after the collapse of communism with the Royal Tokaji Wine Company (RTWC) in 1989, inspired by well-known wine author, Hugh Johnson, and others. RTWC's founders started the winery in an effort to preserve what they considered a dying art. "I couldn't resist bringing back to life a wine that had been so renowned centuries ago," says Johnson.
The most well-known and important wine in Hungary is Tokay-Aszú, truly one of the world's greatest sweet wines. Louis XIV – France's Sun King – once called the wine, "vinum regum, rex vinorum," translated as, "the wine of kings and the king of wine." Unfortunately, the king of wine suffered during Hungary's 50-year communist regime - exports of Tokay-Aszú decreased and the vineyards were nationalized with a focus on lower quality and higher quantity. When the communist government fell in 1989, the vines for making Tokay-Aszú were in a state of disrepair. With the help of investors and the creation of the Royal Tokaji Wine Company, the Hungarian vineyards and wine industry were rebuilt.
While Tokay-Aszú is the most important and most imported of Hungarian wines, it only represents about 10% of the total wine produced. The rest of Hungary is spotted with over 20 different wine regions, most cultivating both the indigenous varieties of the country and several international varieties that arrived with the post-communism investors. In the whites, the indigenous variety of Furmint plays double duty, making still white wines and remaining the most crucial grape in the Tokay blend. Other indigenous varieties include Hárslevelú, Olaszrizling (Welschriesling) and Irsai Oliver, a newcomer that produces delicious dry whites. The international varieties of Chardonnay, Sauvignon Blanc, Riesling, and Muscat also play a role. For reds, Merlot is the most popular of the international crowd, while on the indigenous side you have Kadarka and Kékfrankos (the Hungarian name for Austria's Blaufränkisch).
Tokay is the English word for Tokaji, which is the name for the wine produced in the Hungarian region of Tokaj. The region produces both dry and sweet wines, but is most famed for the rich sweet wine called Tokay Aszú. Like Sauternes and sweet German wines, Tokay Aszú is made from grapes (mainly Furmint, with some Harslevelu and
occasionally a bit of Muscat) affected by the famed mold, botrytis cinerea. It is of interest to note, however, that Tokay Aszú was made centuries before the Germans or the French discovered the rich, honeyed effect of the noble rot.
To make Tokay-Aszú is a process:
Two sets of grapes are picked – first, the workers scan the fields, picking the Aszu grapes - those affected by botrytis. These grapes are then gently pressed to make an Aszú paste. Grapes not affected by botrytis are then picked and fermented into a high-acid base wine.
Once both the paste and the still wines are complete, the two are combined. The Aszú paste is added to the base wine in amounts referred to as puttonyos (puh-TOON-yohsz). The higher the puttonyos, the sweeter the wine. Most Tokay-Aszú on the market is between 3 puttonyos and 6 puttonyos.
Beyond 6 puttonyos is Tokay Aszú Essencia. Tokay Aszú Essencia is equal in sweetness to about 7 puttonyos, and is made in only the best years from the best vineyards.
Most wine ranges from 10-16% alcohol by volume. Some varietals tend to have higher (for example Zinfandel and Cabernet Sauvignon) or lower alcohol levels (Pinot Noir and many white varietals), but there is always some variation from producer to producer. Some wine falls outside of this range, for instance Port weighs in closer to 20%, while Muscat and Riesling are usually a bit below 10%.
Wine Style Guide
Light & Crisp
Light to medium bodied wines that are high in acid and light to medium fruit. Typically no oak.
Fruity & Smooth
Light to medium bodied wines with lots of juicy fruit, typically medium acid and medium oak.
Rich & Creamy
Full bodied wines that have typically undergone malo-lactic fermentation and/or spent time in oak.