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Furmint revival

The Hungarian wine industry has been showcasing the very best of its white wines at the London Wine Fair at a specially themed Furmint Bar.

Following success in Europe, the UK on-trade is now in the Hungarian’s sights and the Furmint Bar was a way of introducing it to the trade.

Dry Furmint is a relatively new addition to the Hungarian wine line-up and is all the more rare as only two regions, Tokaj and Somlo, grow it in any great quantity.

However, it is a grape that is growing in popularity as Richard Nemes, consultant at the Hungarian Investment and Trade Development Agency (ITD), told the drinks business: “People are replanting Furmint in other regions,” he said. “This is important as it is our traditional native grape.”

The main problem in spreading the word about Furmint remains the small production. Somlo itself comprises only 800 hectares of vines but while small quantities of wine could be a disadvantage Nemes stated it was not a hindrance to success.

“The Wachau is a small region,” he said. “But it is famous all over the world.”

He admitted that Hungary was poorly represented in the on-trade at present but that was something they were aiming to change.

“Hungary has much more to present to the world,” he said, but added: “We’ve been making good steps forward.”

Several high-end restaurants in Holland and Sweden now stock a number of dry Furmints and are doing so well with them that producers are being forced to make allocations so there is enough to go around.

Pricing is also an issue, 80% of the country’s wine is drunk on the domestic market and attracts high prices. These often translate into similarly high prices in export markets as well.

The problem remains that Hungary is not well enough known in the wider world for people to risk spending the money on its wines, not helped by a lack of marketing which is slowly being resolved.

Nemes insisted that Hungary could provide value for money but conceded: “Hungary as a wine country is not in the right position yet and that is something we will have to change in the long run.

“We need to convince people that we are worth the money.”

Overall though, in a market always looking for new things Furmint stands out as being different.

Nemes concluded: “The wines are unique and don’t have to compete with other countries with similar wines.”
Rupert Millar, 20.05.2010

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