Furmint is one of those grapes that is typically hidden behind a geographical name. Its best known incarnation is in the sweet, botrytized wines of Tokaji, Hungary, where it is blended with a few other native grapes and known as Tokaji Aszú. This sweet wine has been known and widely consumed for several centuries, as there are references to Aszú wines as far back as 1576. It was frequently served at royal tables throughout Europe and the list of notable people who have written about Aszú wines reads like a who's who of world culture. The region where Aszú is made was the site of the first appellation control in the history of wine, predating the Port system by several decades. Aszú is so important, it is even mentioned in the Hungarian national anthem!
Tokaji Aszú isn't particularly easy to find in the United States, but it's not terribly difficult either. Most wine stores with a fairly large inventory generally will stock at least one sweet Tokaji wine. The dry version, however, is a different story. Very little of it is exported to the US and the only place I've been able to find any is an Eastern European specialty store in Brookline, MA. The bottle I picked up was from the Royal Tokaji company, a top-flight producer of Aszú wines best known to me because of British wine writer Hugh Johnson's part ownership of the company. The vintage was 2007 and the price tag was a hefty $25.
In the glass, the wine had a straw color tending to yellow gold. The color was darker than I expected in a wine this young, and I soon found out why. Strong vanilla in the nose makes me think this wine saw a lot of new oak. It reminded me very strongly of California Chardonnay, which is either very nice or very unwelcome, depending on your tolerance for that winemaking style. In this case, I really wanted to get a sense of the varietal itself, and it felt like the grape was hiding behind a massive wall of oak. Furmint is apparently not particularly aromatic, much like Chardonnay, so I may not be missing much, but it was still a bit of a disappointment. I was looking for something new and interesting and instead found something that I can buy pretty much anywhere in the US, though it was much cheaper than many high-end Chardonnay bottlings.
Anyhow, the wine itself was full-bodied, rich and creamy in the mouth. There was a lot of ripe apple and pear flavors along with the creamy vanilla. I picked up a little bit of light citrus flavors reminiscent of lemon peel, but not a lot. Considering the fact that Furmint is traditionally known for it's high acidity, this wine was surprisingly flat. It is generally that strong acidic core that allows Aszú wines to age for so long, and it just wasn't really in this wine. Don't get me wrong, the wine wasn't flabby; there was just enough acidity there to keep the body of the wine from going totally over the top, but it wasn't as pronounced as I had expected. Overall, the wine was fairly balanced and tasted pretty good, but there wasn't anything new or exciting about it. You can get something that tastes almost exactly like this from practically every winery in California who is producing a Chardonnay.