Over the course of a week, I taste a bunch of wine, usually with friends, and almost always with my wife. This past week, my wife and I have been in first, Prague in the Czech Republic, and then Budapest, Hungary. Here are the wines that we purchased at dinner (and one lunch) while on the trip (prices are what we paid in the restaurant):
2015 Bardon Meszes Tokaj Dry Furmint: 6450 HuF ($21). 100% Furmint. I arrived in Budapest on an overnight train from Prague, “sleeping” in a “bed” that was about six inches too short. But I knew that going in, and I had scheduled in a two-hour power nap at the hotel, which was still woefully inadequate. Thus I woke in a grumpy state, not sure if I was hungry but certain that I needed some Furmint, “the” Hungarian variety. Our server who was short on charm, but had an endearing “cuteness” (a word I normally despise but apropos here) suggested this wine from a small producer. The nose is reminiscent of a Chenin from the Loire with lanolin, white flowers just before bloom, and a decided peach fruitiness. On the palate viscous and tart with a coarseness that comes in on the midpalate. The finish is dominated by the peach and a slight spiciness. All that equated into a much better mood and a fine welcome to the Hungarian capital. Outstanding. 90-92 Points.
2015 Árvay Tokaji Bortolot Furmint: 5450 HuF ($16). After doing some research, I found this restaurant that I had to try, Hungarikum Bisztró. It’s a tiny place with a scant 20 tables but produces homemade traditional Hungarian dishes for extremely reasonable prices. I had to go. But couldn’t. Solidly booked for every night I would be in Budapest. On essentially my last day in the city, I was striking out right and left: could not get into St. Peter’s Basilica, all the tours of Parliament were sold out. On the way back, I decided to swing by the restaurant at lunch time just in case. The sign outside said “Fully Booked” but I charged in nonetheless. Success! We were able to grab the last open table. I ordered spicy sausage with essentially spaëtzle. Delicious. This was the only Furmint on the list, but the server (who was adorable) assured me it was fantastic. And it was. Classic Furmint nose of lanolin, lemon, and white flower. On the palate, more angular, not as rich as the wine from the night before, but still plenty of body, coating the mouth with some added tartness. Fabulous. Very Good to Outstanding. 89-91 Points.
2015 Mád Furmint Tokaji: 3450 HuF ($11). It had been a long day. We had walked over 8 miles and my wife had vetoed any suggestion of a nap. It was her last day in Budapest, and she was going full-throttle. We had an incredible lunch, almost by accident, and we needed to walk it off. Or so she said. When we (eventually) got back to the hotel, I collapsed. In my defense, I had been up since 4:00 a.m. and let her sleep until 9:30 (I was working, but that’s irrelevant). We decided on a late-ish dinner at the restaurant attached to the hotel. It was both surprisingly good (although my salad was over dressed) and inexpensive. I had the goulash soup (delicious) and a Caesar salad (see above parenthetical). And I ordered this Furmint. Delicious and perhaps the best of the three we had over the stay. I am developing a love affair with this nose of lanolin, citrus, and white flower. Our first Furmint was supple and round but could have used more freshness. The second was tart and direct, but was a tad nervous. This wine? On the palate, this is the Goldilocks wine: right down the middle. Great acidity, a soothing roundness and a lengthy finish. Csodálatos! Outstanding. 91-93 Points.
2016 Oremus Mandolás Furmint Tokaji: 8900 HuF ($30). My lovely wife left early in the morning and after a day of work (and a little wine shopping), I decided a small extravagance was in order. When asking about nearby wine shops, I mentioned to the concierge that I write about wine from time to time (he initially had suggested I visit the local mini-supermarket to purchase wine before I mentioned that I was interested in something a bit more “serious”). Once he learned of my predilection for oenological prose, he suggested, on the verge of insisting, that I eat at this restaurant a scant three-minute walk from the hotel. The restaurant, Aszú, specializes in wines from the Tokaji, specifically Aszú wines–the sweet, amber-colored wines that made the region famous. Without a reservation I waited for a bit, eventually opting for a table outside where I could enjoy the nearly summer-like weather. This was my fourth Furmint in three days and this has clearly been the best. A deeper, richer nose, with some evidence that there has been some oak in the process. Our lanolin and citrus friends are present, but the nose is more complex with a slight touch of petrol and delicate white flowers. The palate is exquisite with plenty of weight counterbalanced by more than ample acidity. The unctuousness is there as well, giving this completely dry wine a dessert-wine-like feel. Bravo. And whoa. Outstanding. 92-94 Points.