The Tasting Panel magazine

August 2017

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38  /  the tasting panel  /  august 2017 THE YEAR OF FURMINT A s much as I love Pinot Noir and Syrah, I find white varietals far more fascinating in their diversity. I was an early adopter of tangy New Zealand Sauvignon Blanc. I've waxed rhapsodic over Alsatian Riesling. I've been amazed by unpretentious Torrontés from Argentina and Albariño from Rías Baixas. Now it's the turn in the limelight for Hungary's most prominent white grape: Furmint. Hungary's long, proud (and ongoing) tradition of sweet, botrytized wines from Tokaj—which historically have been considered the greatest wines in the world—has unfortu- nately tended to keep young consumers from considering the country's wines as an option. Tokaj had a reputation for heavy, sweet (and expensive) wines. No longer! There's a fresh new wave moving through the Hungarian wine industry—based on dry Furmint. The Tasting Panel has declared 2017 the Year of Furmint, and we've been introduc- ing our readers and their on-premise guests and off-premise consumers to this fresh, utterly charming, dry white wine from Tokaj. Furmint's aromatic style is immediately appeal- ing, and its racy acidity and balance make it ideally food- friendly. The whole perception of Tokaj is changing. The Hungarians—in the persons of Attila Balla, President of Vinum Tokaj International, and Eniko" Magyar, Project Director of Wines of Excellence—have created a savvy cam- paign to promote dry Furmint in the U.S. market. It doesn't hurt that the center of dry Furmint is a village called Mád— spawning the memorably named producer MAD WINE. The new "Dry by Tokaj" label also serves to bring attention to the fact that Tokaj is no longer just a sweet-wine region. "As we see and experience, everybody is excited to taste a new varietal, a type of white wine that is not known on the mar- ket yet," says Balla. "There are only a few professionals who are acquainted with Furmint or have had the chance to taste it; that is why tasting events, educational and promotional activities are of high importance. The main task is to educate the market and to get the message out on all possible channels." American wine drinkers are discovering the delights of dry Furmint, with amazing reactions from wine directors and sommeliers. I finally had my turn to sit down with Balla for a side-by-side tasting of four dry Furmints. As you can see from my scores, I was highly impressed—all the more so when the prices of these wines are taken into consideration. NEW DRY WINES FROM TOKAJ ARE BRINGING HUNGARY INTO THE FUTURE by Anthony Dias Blue 91 Grand Tokaj 2015 Dry by Tokaj Furmint, Tokaj, Hungary ($10) From one of the best vintages in recent memory. Pale and clear with a smooth, dry, pear nose; clean, juicy and fresh with mellow, aromatic style; silky and balanced, long and lush, mellow and charming. 100% Furmint. 92 MAD WINE 2015 Dry by Tokaj Dry White Wine, Tokaj, Hungary ($10) Golden color, lush and smooth with dry, juicy style; Furmint with small amounts of two local variet- ies; rich, mellow and rounded with juicy style and racy apple fruit; tangy and long. 90% Furmint, 5% Hárslevelu", 5% Yellow Muscat. 92 MAD WINE MÁD 2015 Furmint, Mád Village integration, Tokaj, Hungary ($20) Lush and silky with rich, juicy and fresh fruit; clean, racy and mouth-filling; generous, bright and long. 100% Furmint. 93 Szent Tamás 2013 Estate Furmint, Tokaj, Hungary ($90) A high-end expression of dry Furmint from the historic Szent Tamás estate. Lush, rich and deep with smooth texture, ripe fruit and lovely balance; generous, complex and long. Mad About Furmint Anthony Dias Blue (center) with Attila Balla and Eniko˝ Magyar. PHOTO COURTESY OF VINUM TOKAJ INTERNATIONAL

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