"Furmint-ed" Thought: Tokaji

Fur-what? Look people, wine can be confusing. Deal with it, I know I am. One bottle at a time. So many complexities: different countries, classifications, grape types, growths, regions, laws, wine making styles, minimum blending and aging requirements, terminology, terrior, sulfites, what to pair it with, how much you can drink before getting "rotten", etc... Part of our quest here at Fermented Thoughts is to educate and perhaps, at times - to turn you onto something new.

First off, Furmint [FOOR - mint] is the principal grape used in producing Tokaji [TOKE-eye], Hungry's renowned sweet, late-harvest, white wine made from Furmint, Harslevelu and Muscat grapes. Being thin-skinned and late-ripening, Furmint is often affected by noble-rot. This is a good thing. As this "rot" takes place, the grapes shrivel like raisins and lose most of their weight, leaving only the rich, sugar-concentrated essence of the grape that is kneaded into a paste and added to the base wine produced one-year prior, allowing it to ferment a second time. The result is a very rich, sweet white wine that is both lush and balanced. Some argue Tokaji rivals and even surpasses French Sauternes.

Now, here's where it get's confusing. Furmint, by itself is also vinified into a dry white wine exhibiting both high acid and alcohol from the cool, long growing seasons of northeast Hungry.

While there is always contention as to "who was first" regarding wine, the Hungarians are quick to point out that they were the birthplace of quality classification between 1700-1720, followed by Portugal with the 1756 classification of Port and then France's Great Classification of Bordeaux in 1855. Prince Rakoczi II of Transylvania first classified the vineyards primae classis, secundae classis and tertius classis or 1st - 3rd growths. This system outlined quality and is still in place today.

Quality production however dwindled during the Communist takeover of the Hungarian wine trade and it wasn't until the fall of the iron curtain, that Tokaji truly began its renaissance. The Royal Tokaji Wine Company was founded in 1989 by a group lead by Hugh Johnson, the prominent wine authority, to secure a future for Tokaji and to preserve a dying art. Located 125 miles northeast of Budapest, Royal Tokaji produces many wines but, only five single vineyard wines including Furmint.

The video above goes further to showcase not just the rich wines themselves but also the rich and storied history of the region.

pc120182

Royal Tokaji Furmint 2006 - Retail $14

Light golden hay in color, Royal Tokaji Furmint 2006 opens with a hot and intense nose hinting at its 14% alcohol by volume. Nonchalant tropical notes of kiwi and banana skin float on with time and mix in among layers of citrus and thick toasted nuts. At first the palate is restrained but really picks up momentum and jumps out at you in full-force on the finish. Full-bodied and tangy, subtle flavors of honey, ripe lemon and tropical mangosteen are flanked by a light cosmetic nuance.

pc120201

Rewarding, biscuity marzipan leads to a mouth searing acidity that says "I am Hungarian and proud of my tradition!" Really, this wine is so very similar to the Aligote I enjoyed recently with such a high acidity but, rewarding fruit and layered, complex flavors. I'll be keeping my eye on this producer and you should too.