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Puklavec: Furmint is our character in Slovenia

Furmint, the white grape that is usually associated with sweet Tokaji wines from Hungary, is having a second life as a dry still wine in Slovenia, with the country’s leading dry Furmint specialist Puklavec Family Wines bullish on its ageing potential, versatility and ability to express terroir.

Vineyards at Puklavec Family Wines

Located in the heart of Ljutomer-Ormož in Podravje, the main wine producing region in northeastern Slovenia, Puklavec Family Wines makes a varied range of dry wines from sparkling to barrel aged whites, using Furmint, the traditional white grape in Slovenia, also known as Šipon.

“We are very proud of our Furmint, and from the area where we are coming, we are very proud of the region. Everyone has Pinot Gris, Chardonnay, but Furmint can express our character,” stated the winery’s chief winemaker Mitja Herga when speaking to dbHK recently.

Being one of the most planted white grape varieties after the more dominant Laski Rizling, Furmint, according to the winemaker, takes on layers of complex aromas from green apple notes to honey, and more importantly has impressive acidity that lends it long-term cellaring.

“It has this lovely acidity. With time it helps the wine to stay alive, and with time, it helps it to get a bit rounder,” commented Herga.

However, vintage variation depending on growing and harvest conditions also play a key role in a Furmint-based wine’s ageing potential, he added.

The grape buds early and ripens late, with harvest stretching to late October. This means “if you get a bit of rain, it can cause issue,” according to Herga. At the same time, early ripening renders the thin-skinned grape vulnerable to frost as well, thus attention in the vineyard and vigorous sorting in the winery are key in challenging vintages.

Seven Numbers Furmint

The winery has planted between 60 and 70 hectares of Furmint on its estate and also purchases a portion of grapes from local growers, equating to roughly 25% of the grapes used, according to the winery’s Tatjana Puklavec.

In addition to Furmint, the winery has Sauvignon Blanc, Pinot Gris, Riesling, Chardonnay, Pinot Blanc, Pinot Noir, and some local varieties coming from Austria and Germany to produce three different ranges of wines, namely the ‘Puklavec & Friends Selection’, ‘Estate Selection’, and more vineyard specific ‘Seven Numbers’.

Its Sauvginon Blanc and Furmint blend became an instant success in the UK market, sold through off-trade retail spaces in Tesco for instance. Explaining the blend, Puklavec commented: “We want something coming from our region and something international”. Beyond the UK, its wines are also sold in the Netherlands, Croatia, Poland, Germany, Brazil, and most recently China.

Going forward, the winery stated that Furmint, Sauvignon Blanc, Riesling and Pinot Noir are the key focuses. Being the most recently planted variety at the winery, Pinot Noir is tapped by the winemaker as one of the most promising red varieties in the region. Though the grape has so far only been used in the winery’s sparkling wine production, in 2019, the winery is planning to release a single varietal Pinot Noir, the winemaker revealed.

“This is something that’s quite new for us. We planted Pinot Noir in 2016 because we believe it can be good in our area,” Herga affirmed.

Another new project for the winery is its expansion into Macedonia, where red wine is the main focus thanks to the hotter climate that allows for a drier summer and higher temperature for red grapes such as Cabernet Sauvignon to ripen fully, says the winemaker.

“We started in Macedonia in 2011. Where we are growing wine in Slovenia is not so ideal for red wine production. The climate [in Macedonia] is completely different – dry summer, higher temperature, somehow I am comparing Macedonia’s climate to South Africa”, he explains.

At the moment, 70% of the grapes planted in its Macedonia site is Cabernet Sauvignon, with the rest being Merlot and some local varieties such as Vranec.

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