Back To The Future, And The Furmint Paradox (Thoughts On The Potential Of Dry Furmint)

Vinted on December 3, 2015 binned in elegant wines, going pro, on the road, wine review
Furmint 5

“The Furmint Five” (image: FurmintUSA)

As you’ll see from the vid published earlier this week’s, I recently had the pleasure of going back to Hungary, primarily to engage in Phase 2 of the FurmintUSA promotional program, filming a new set of videos for the Furmint Adventures series.

That’s always fun, because the wines are largely excellent, the scenery settings beautiful, the producers amicable, and the crew totally professional. And it gave me a chance to eat at pretty much every restaurant in Tokaj (again).

This time, however, I was also able to take part in a media tour, tagging along with Master Somm’s Peter Granoff and Scott Harper, Balzac Communications’ Paul Wagner, and Ferry Plaza Wine Merchant’s Debbie Zachareas. Great travel companions all, and (an added bonus) people who aren’t afraid to share their deeply-educated wine opinions (I fit right in, unsurprisingly). Photog evidence provided below after the jump.

In going back to Hungary, it was in the latter capacity that I got to get all deep-thoughts-by-Jack-Handy on the future of dry Furmint wines. Which began one evening when I was thinking about the Fermi Paradox (don’t worry, it’ll all make some sort of sense in a few minutes)…

Tokaj vineyard 2015

Tokaj cellars 2015

I thought about the Fermi Paradox because, well, thought experiments are to nerds what older Chablis is to wine geeks. Anyway, the briefest summary I can give of the paradox is that it’s the contradiction between conservative estimates for extraterrestrial life existing in the universe (and even in our own galaxy) being ridiculously high, and the fact that we don’t have one iota of credible evidence of any other civilizations besides ours.

I often think in those terms (again… nerd!) when I am writing about emerging wine regions, or wine regions that have been around for some time but find themselves in a new situation (as is the case with Hungarian dry Furmint, Crete, Livermore, Pennsylvania, Virginia, Sicily… I do this a lot). One could argue, for example, that if a great wine was going to be made from one of those areas, it would’ve been done (and acknowledged) already.

Furmint vines 2015

botrytized grapes tokaj 2015

In the case of dry Furmint, we have a scenario in which sweet, botrytized versions of the grape have gone into some of the greatest sweet wines ever produced anywhere in the world. So, after hundreds of years, where are the great dry Furmint wines?

Fortunately, we don’t really have a “Furmint Paradox” in this case. What we do have is a late start (with serious attempts at vinifing the grape dry only really in the last two decades), and so, likely, simply delayed acknowledgment; because there are, actually, splendid examples of the stuff.

On one of our stops, we got to sample a blast-from-the-past dry Furmint that suggests that the style has a bright future ahead of it. At family-owned Dobogó (whose proprietors are famous for their distilled spirits), the pleasant and freakishly tall winemaker (and Tokaj area native) Attila Domoko treated some of us to one of their first attempts at dry Furmint.

Dobogo Dry Furmint 2003

We ignored the warning


elegant2003 Dobogó Dry Furmint (Tokaj, $NA – recent vintages will run you about $20)

The thing that blew me away about this wine is that it was still incredibly fresh, and the color still had a youthful, bright hue about it. There is no way I’d have pegged it for a white with over a decade of bottle aging under its belt. Still alive. Still kicking. Still sporting more than its fair share of fresh citrus fruitiness. There were hints of its age, for sure: a little nuttiness here, a bit of toast there. But this lady was aging so gracefully, she was giving Helen Mirren a run for her money. A few more examples like this, and Hungarians can stop worrying about how well dry Furmint wines will hold up, and get back to worrying about what crazy crap Vladimir Putin will pull next in the region.




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