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What our expert thought of Majoros Deák Tokaji Furmint




about this wine About this wine
 
Furmint is Hungary’s greatest white grape.  Native to the Tokaj region in the far north-east of Hungary, it has for centuries been the main component in the blend for the luscious dessert wine Tokaji, better known to the English-speaking world as Tokay.
 
Amazingly, it wasn’t until 2000 that any major producer tried to make a dry modern white from it, when István Szepsy released Úrágya.  There had long been dry Tokaji Szamorodni, but that is an oxidised style akin to dry sherry.  Úrágya’s complexity, minerality and clear potential for aging invited comparisons with white burgundy or dry Rheingau Riesling, and soon other producers began bottling dry Furmints.
 
This one comes from László Majoros, whose family have been winemakers in the region for generations.  László’s passion for this grape, which he claims is “the best variety of the world”, has led to him being dubbed The Furminator  by American wine bloggers.  A ceaseless experimenter, he was the first to try bottling Furmint unfiltered sur lie  in 2006, and the first to try pre-fermentation skin contact (cold maceration) the following vintage.
 
In 2011 he went further still, and actually fermented a portion of the grapes from Deák vineyard on the skins for four months, to create an orange wine.  Orange wine is in a sense the opposite of rosé.  Rosé is made like white wine but from black grapes; the grapes are crushed and the juice run off the skins almost immediately and fermented separately.  Orange wine is made like red wine but with white grapes; the skins remain in the vat during fermentation, resulting in deeply-coloured, often tannic wines that taste a lot more like reds than any rosé. Their ability to match all sorts of foods, from fish to red meats, has made them beloved of hipster sommeliers.
 
Only a few of those skin-fermented barrels made it into the blend for this wine; most remained in the winery to age further, making this something of a gentle introduction to the orange style.  This wine was made entirely from Furmint grapes grown in the great Deák vineyard, classified as 1st Class in 1798, more than 50 years before Bordeaux.  After a night’s skin contact, the must was fermented in new oak barrels, using a mixture of French and Hungarian oak.  No cultured yeasts were used, just the wild yeasts occurring naturally on the grape skins.
 
The wine was then matured on its lees in new oak barrels “for a long time”, according to László.  I can't find out exactly how long, but, judging by when this 2011 was released, it looks to have been around two years.  Battonage (lees-stirring) was carried out eight times, before a barrel selection was made (including some of the ‘orange’, skin-fermented barrels) and the wine bottled unfiltered.
 
the tasting The Tasting
 
This is a notably deep, more-than-medium gold colour, but I wouldn’t call it orange.  Perhaps pale amber – there’s certainly no hint of youthful green.
 
A big and distinctive nose leads off with pronounced scents of smoke and leather.  Lots of quality oak has been used here, though some of that smokiness is a characteristic of Furmint itself.  But there’s no shortage of fruit: orange peel, apricots and baked apples, spiced with nutmeg and cinnamon.  There’s an exotic floral component too, of orange blossom.  This is quite an oxidative style, with notes of brazil nuts and butter.
 
On the palate it’s dry but sweet-fruited, with a real zing of acidity.  Mouthfilling flavours of baked apple and stone fruit are followed by tangy, pithy grapefruit, lifting the afterpalate.  It’s quite full-bodied despite the modest 12% ABV, with a broad, buttery texture from all that oak and lees contact.
 
The finish is long, mouthwatering and rather savoury, with salted bitter almonds joining the grapefruit.
 
Assessment
 
This is a wine that smells expensive, like a well-oaked Premier Cru white burgundy but with added exoticism.  It tastes very burgundian too, with fine acidity and a complex interplay of fruit, lees and oak flavours.  Even the empty glass smells great, which is always a good sign.  (Curiously, it smells of lovage, which I didn’t detect on the nose proper.)
 
What really stands out is the quality of the Furmint variety.  At five years old, with lots of lees contact, long barrel aging, and more new oak than any other white on our winelist, you might expect the fruit to have got a bit lost.  Far from it.  It’s still really intense, and I think this wine could continue to improve.  Suddenly, László’s bold claim that Furmint is the best variety in the world doesn’t seem quite so far-fetched.


Tasting notes

Appearance
clear medium+ gold
Nose

Intensity medium++

Aromas oak (smoke, leather), citrus (orange peel), floral (orange blossom), stone fruit (apricot), orchard fruit (baked apple), spice (nutmeg, cinnamon), nuts (brazils), lees (butter)

Development fully developed
Palate

Sweetness dry, but sweet-fruited

Acidity high-

Body medium++ despite modest 12% ABV

Intensity medium+

Flavours orchard fruit (baked apple), stone fruit, citrus (grapefruit) on afterpalate, herbs, lots of oak, lees (broad buttery texture)
Finish

Length long, mouthwatering

Flavours grapefruit, lots of salted bitter almonds
Other notes
Smells & tastes like 1er Cru white burgundy, but more exotic. Empty glass smells of lovage!


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