Quench your thirst with one of these fine Hungarian wines

This week Times Drinks Editor James Viner pays tribute to Hungary’s Furmint grape, which he declares is most probably the tastiest variety you’ve never heard of – until now…


Are you aware that this is Furmint February? No? Well now’s your chance to try out the Furmint grape, which is indigenous to Hungary, courtesy of the four cracking wines I have picked out this week.

Originating in a highly effective and long-established promotional programme in Hungary (now on its fifteenth iteration), Wines of Hungary UK is now co-ordinating ‘Furmint February’ for the fifth consecutive year.

High-acid, early budding, late ripening, thick-skinned Furmint – a half-sibling of both Chardonnay and Riesling – originates from the Tokaj region in northeast Hungary. This historic wine region, which was one of the first delimited wine appellations (in 1737), has a long-standing reputation for producing some of the world’s most celebrated, premium sweet wines made from grapes affected by the benevolent form of the fungus Botrytis cinerea – the ‘noble rot’ – whose existence was first documented in May 1571 in the Hétszölö vineyard in the village of Tokaj.

Furmint is a versatile white grape variety (there’s even a small production of fine traditional method sparkling Furmint) that, like Riesling, can transmit the local ‘terroir’ and can age well. It’s also easily the most planted grape in Tokaj with around 70 per cent of all plantings. In the past fifteen or so years high-quality, characterful dry Furmints, both oaked and unoaked, have been made in vintages where there is not much noble rot to make sweet wines. Here are four seriously good, full-flavoured, uber-crisp, dry, fabulous new-wave Hungarian Furmints to set pulses racing. Egészségedre!


  1. Found Furmint 2021, Château Dereszla (£8-£8.50, Marks & Spencer & Ocado, 12%)

A tangy, pert and honey-tinged just-dry Furmint from a superb vintage, fragrant with red apple, pear, spicy apricot fruit, peach blossom and orange peel – and it’s great value for money. The racy, palate-cleansing acidity, is a highlight. Pretty smart entry point. Quite the revitalising, Hungarian salve, good juicy drinking and great value to boot. I’d fancy this one with seafood.


  1. 2021 Patricius Tokaji Dry Furmint (£8.99, was £9.99, Waitrose, until 7 March, 12%)

This bone-dry, unoaked Furmint gives you a lot of bang for your buck on the discount. Think steely citrus and melon, with a smattering of ginger spice, green apple and walnuts. Lovely drinking with a crisp twang of acidity. I’d be drinking this on the earlier side. Try it with sushi or pan-fried white fish. Unmissable at the price. 100% stainless steel fermentation with neutral yeasts. Super-smart for the money and a lovely alternative to Chablis. Shines in the glass and does the grape proud. Get in on the offer at Waitrose (through to March 7). Stock up.


  1. 2018 single-vineyard Nyulászó Furmint, Royal Tokaji Wine Co (£20, The Wine Society, 13.5%)

This dry Hungarian Furmint is exceptional and a joy to behold. Co-founded by eminent wine writer Hugh Johnson in 1990 and located in Mád, the Royal Tokaji Wine Co made its first dry Furmint in 2009. Nyulászó (meaning ‘a good place to catch hares,’ hence the label) is one of the most well-known first-growth vineyards in Tokaj. This is a striking, high-quality Furmint that is as intense as it is long, with a layered palate of pumice stone, quince, lime, orchard fruits, smoke, and a soupçon of oak spice, with spun-out stiletto acidity on both the back palate and aftertaste. The balance is pitch-perfect, with mineral-like acid support. Lingering. After fermentation, the wine was matured for six months in Hungarian oak barrels (the oak is but an echo though). One for roast pork and tandoori seabass/monkfish/sea bream. I sense that this wine is growing all the while and would love a sojourn in the dark of the cellar. Has the X-factor.


  1. 2019 Dobogó, ‘Úrágya’ Tokaji Furmint (£25.83-£31.99, Fine Wine Company & Liberty Wines, 13.5%)

“Wow!” was my one-word tasting comment when I first sipped this astonishing dry Furmint last month at The Kia Oval. Owned by Izabella Zwack (from the family that produces Hungary’s most renowned herbal liqueur, Unicum) and winemaker Attila Domokos, Dobogó is a small, pretty, boutique winery with five hectares of first-growth vineyards in the volcanic centre of Tokaj, near the wonderfully named village of Mád. The fruit for this savoury and eminently ageworthy dry Furmint was sourced from an especially characterful southwest-facing vineyard, Úrágya, with 2.5 hectares of Furmint and, unusually for the area, a half hectare of Pinot Noir. The refined bouquet encompasses hay, lemon curd, orchard fruits, ginger, nectarines and a little spice. Full-bodied with a Burgundian finesse and lingering nuances of flint, peach, pear and cedar, it seems set for outstanding cellaring potential. Fermented and aged in 300-litre Hungarian oak casks (50% new and 50% used) for around 12 months before bottling. Dazzling, vivid, fiery Furmint. Scintillating length. Patience is a virtue and will be rewarded.

Forever Furmint February! For more information, follow #furmintfebruary23 on social media

Follow James on Twitter @QuixoticWine

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