Barta, Öreg Király, Dry Furmint

Mád, Tokaj, Hungary 2015

This is one of the most singularly delicious whites I’ve had all year and a wine that’s fit for the tables of Michelin 3-star restaurants—not to mention your own! Barta’s dry Furmint is a region-defining wine that’s all about pure grape and single-site expression: Furmint from the steep hillside vineyard Öreg Király in Tokaj.

This prized piece of land is one of Hungary’s most historic (first mentioned back in the 13th Century) and prominent sites—it has consistently been labeled as a “first growth” vineyard. In a region where sweet Tokaji used to be more valuable than gold itself, the emergence of completely dry wine from the same grape has caught the attention of wine lovers all over, and for good reason. This wine stimulates the senses in the best way: Imagine the convergence of great dry Riesling, top quality Loire Valley Chenin, and Grand Cru Chablis and you’ll be somewhere in the ballpark of Barta’s Öreg Király Furmint. I understand it takes courage to price a relatively obscure wine at $35, but I guarantee you’ll agree that it far exceeds its price tag. If you only make one adventurous purchase this year, let it be this. Your only regret will be that you didn’t buy more—that’s our promise to you!

Barta is a small artisan estate that has spearheaded the growing movement of restoring neglected vineyards—ones that previously were considered among the finest in the country before the destruction of war and communism hit. Having been abandoned since World War II, Barta single-handedly rescued Öreg Király in the early 2000s and began nursing it back to its former prestige. Today, it is farmed with organic principles and each wine is crafted as naturally as possible. Located in the village of Mád, just northeast of Tokaj proper, Barta’s winery and cellar is a baroque mansion first built in the late 1500s that they have carefully renovated since acquiring it. 

Öreg Király is a steep, rounded hill with a vertiginous vineyard trekking up one side. It’s terraced with rock walls that were hand-built centuries ago and its volcanic soils make for a terroir-expressive wine. It was extremely hot and dry in 2015—not an ideal year for sweet Tokaji, but dry wines from here thrived! Barta practices organic techniques in the winery, always eschewing chemicals and working entirely by hand. During harvest the workers painstakingly scaled the hill six times over the course of a month, making sure each grape they picked had achieved perfect ripeness. In the winery, the wine fermented with indigenous yeasts and aged nine months in a combination of new and used 500-liter Hungarian oak casks. It was pulled from their cellar and bottled in August of 2016. 

In the glass, Barta’s 2015 Öreg Király displays a straw-yellow core with bright silver reflections and hints of green leading to the rim. I can’t stress how pronounced and attractive the nose is: loads of yellow apple, lime blossom, dried lemon, grapefruit, apricot pit, white peach, herbs, crushed stone, and beeswax rush your senses. There are just so many hints of other great whites from Chardonnay, Riesling, Chenin...the list goes on. The palate is very textured, with pronounced acidity that is rounded out by substantial fruit extract. This Furmint a superbly fresh wine and with the sweet core of fruit and its striking mineral notes, having just one glass is impossible. It is peaking now and will be drinking well over the next five years so there’s no need to rush if you feel like storing a few. When consuming, pop and pour into Burgundy stems around 50 degrees and try making a classic Hungarian dish: a vegetarian potato and egg casserole or a classic chicken paprikash. Either way, enjoy yourselves and this amazing expression of Furmint—it’s my favorite dry white from Hungary in many years. Cheers!
Print Tasting Notes
Mád — Öreg Király Vineyard
Furmint 100%
New & Used 500L Hungarian Barrels
Volcanic & Red Clay
Practicing Organic
Service Temperature
Burgundy Stem
Drinking Window