The Explorer’s Club: February
Furmint is the most important white grape variety in Hungary. Known for its refreshing acidity and affinity to deliver on volcanic soils, its home is in the Tokaj region of north-east Hungary. For years Furmint was the unknown grape behind the success of the world renowned Tokaj sweet wines. Traditionally the fresh acidity meant that these famous sweet wines were never cloying but moreish and complex. However, today Furmint has been producing some truly exceptional dry wines and in your Explorer’s Club case this month we’ve include three of our favourite examples.
Sanzon Tokaj Furmint Classic 2016
We begin with our newest winemaker Erika Racz. Her Sanzon winery is in the lovely village of Erdőbénye, located in the north-easterly area of Tokaj and surrounded by forest, itself an important asset for making the Hungarian barrels used in a wide range of Tokaj wines. You may remember having tasted Erika’s Blanc from the previous month’s delivery, which is a blend of Furmint and Harslevelu.
While the Blanc was familiar to a zippy Riesling or complex Sauvignon, the single variety Furmint you’ll try in this case is in a class of its own. Notes of ginger cake, honey and nectarines are layered over a backbone of zippy limes. It manages to be both rich and satisfying while also fresh, not too unlike the famed sweet wines. This Furmint works well with chicken wrapped in streaky bacon, grilled halloumi, bell peppers stuffed with beans, feta and tomatoes, white pizza, smoky mackerel fillet, or salmon and buttery new potatoes.
Erika will be joining us for the Furmint February festival in London on 29 January, so be sure to check out our website for an update on the event!
Peter Pince Tokaji Thurzo Furmint 2018
Peter, whose winery and five hectares of vines are nestled on the border of the villages Tarcal and Tokaji to the south-west of the wider Tokaj wine region, has been a friend of Gyorgy’s for some years. Ben first met Peter in September 2018 and following the visit we imported his ultra-rare Kabar wine, a grape that’s rich and nutty like White Burgundy. In 2019 we decided to add to the collection with Peter’s newest vintages of dry Furmint. They are single vineyard impressions, featuring fruit from two historic sites: Thurzó and Mézesmály, both of which have an exceptional microclimate that leads to the quality harvests year on year. Known locally as “honey pot”, these vineyards create a warmer, fuller style of Furmint that is delicious with food or sipped lightly chilled in the sun.
The Thurzo, included in your case this month, manages to combine being both racy with notes of orange peel and fresh lemon, while also round and complex with notes of peaches, baked apple pie, vanilla and spice. A hint of oak influence gives the wine softness and a long finish. Drink with pulled pork in a BBQ bun, oysters, chicken stew, vegetable biryani, soy-based stir fries, or oily fish like salmon. Also delicious with Taleggio cheese or a mature goat’s cheese.
Gizella Furmint 2016
Finally, here’s something extra special. There's only a few thousand bottles of this limited edition estate Furmint made each year. It showcases the delicious acidity and ripe orchard fruits that are so classic of the variety Furmint. As a twist, there's also a dollop of the grape variety Harslevelu, another local Tokaj grape, that adds more structure, an oily texture, floral aromas and a hint of honey. Both these grapes have fabulous affinity to oak, so when Gizella vinifies 80% of the blend in barrel, you end up with a toasty, silky-smooth white wine that's glorious to drink.
Gizella Pince is an estate built on volcanic soils in Tokaj, one of the most remarkable wine regions of eastern Europe. Winemaker Laszlo Szilagyi and his family are emboldened by the excitement around Hungarian wines and they're producing incredible small parcel wines at the highest quality. They have a selection of Grand Cru vineyards in the region and still use horses to farm the land, so harvests can be very labour intensive.
Hopefully you’ll agree the effort pays off. This full and memorable white wine is a super pairing with lightly spiced dishes, pasta bake, risotto and grilled white meats. If you’re a cheese fan, try the wine with Applewood cheddar or Balaton cheese for an authentic touch!
Enjoy your selection!
Ben Franks & Gyorgy Zsiga