Furmint should be among the most expensive wines of the world,

said Christopher Burr, Master of Wine and former director of Christie’s Auction House wine department, at the Sauska wine launch in the Kempinski Hotel, Budapest. The wine expert thinks that the best Villányi and Tokaji wines hold their own with the most highly respected international brands.

The daredevil of the British wine world arrived in Hungary to learn more about the wine regions of Tokaj and Villány, and to present the new vintage, 2011, of Sauska Cuvée 5. Burr noted that the new wine is better and more elegant than the previous saying, “I would be very surprised if this doesn’t produce better sales”. (The 2009 Sauska Cuvée 5 won the DWWA International Trophy in 2013 in the Red Bordeaux Varietal over £15. Read more about this here.)

The expert also said that while there are perhaps fifty wine regions similar to Villány, at most just two or three in the world are comparable to Tokaj. Although he had been invited to assess the red wines, surprisingly Burr was most enthusiastic about the dry Tokaji Furmints. He thinks Furmint has the potential to take up the gauntlet with the world’s most prestigious Burgundy Chardonnays and Rhine Rieslings.

After tasting a 100 euro Chablis with Sauska Winery’s vineyard selected Furmints and Tokaji cuvées, the Master of Wine said that there was no measurable difference in terms of quality or elegance. (Incidentally the same happened with the 600 euro 2009 Angelus Saint-Émilion (Bordeaux) and the 2011 Villányi Cuvée 5 where Burr judged only the tiniest differences in the finish to make the French wine “a little more food friendly”.

Christopher Burr MW

Opera fan Burr thinks that although it is difficult to compare Bach, Brahms and Liszt, Furmint can be equated to only the greatest white wines, adding that it is true that we shouldn’t be afraid of blends as a cuvee with a little Hárslevelű or Sárga muskotály can make it even more elegant and consumer friendly than single varietal Furmint wines.

The wine presentation at the Kempinski was also eye-opening for the 120 wine and food experts assembled as one of the most esteemed experts in the world deemed Tokaji dry whites and Villányi reds to be worthy competitors for their most lauded international rivals. Which means that the time has come in both Hungarian and foreign cuisine for the value of these wines at the peak of the Hungarian wine pyramid to be acknowledged accordingly in terms of price.

    Christopher S. Burr

  • 64 years old
  • graduated in 1971 from the City of London Business School, in 1975 from Ashridge Management College in brand management and marketing
  • 1990-97 managing director at Domaines Drouhin, distributor of Château Lafitte and the the Domaines Rothschild among others.
  • in 1996 became a Master of Wine with distinction (there are a total of just 300 MW in the world!)
  • 1997-2000 director of Christie’s international wine department, under his management turnover increased from 22 million pounds to 52 million (this annual total has still not been superseded to this day.)
  • in 2004 he was elected as a member of the British The Royal Society
  • founder of secretsommelier.com, one of the leading websites for independent wine reviews
  • married since 1975, he has two sons (36 and 32) with his wife Joanna.


Tasting notes

Sauska Tokaji Birsalmas Dry Furmint 2011
Lovely pure bright fruit character, tart orange peel citrus and quince, then the complexity of a mineral background giving a true sense of place. More complexity from quite a lot of smokey new oak, and starting to become honeyed from gentle ageing. Lovely backbone of acidity, good intensity of flavours, a good expression of the furmint grape and this unique vineyard.

Sauska Tokaji Birsalmas Dry Furmint 2012
Very pure fruit and again a wonderful acidity balanced with a crystal clear mineral character. Gentle use of new oak allowing the fruit character of lime, tart quince and ripe apricot to shine, and underpinning all this a real sense of the vineyard character.I like this wine very much indeed. It has a purity of character, but also an intriguing complexity. I find it very “gastronomic”, crying out for a wonderful fish dish, and I also think this wine has potential to age well given it’s balance and acidity. It reminds me of the very best dry Vouvray which age for 50 years and more in a good vintage.

Sauska Tokaji Medve Dry Furmint 2012
This wine has masses of appeal and character, has a lovely intensity and richness balanced by crisp but more gentle acidity than it’s Birsalmas neighbour. There is some lovely fruit character of peach and ripe lemons, and a chalky flinty character. The richness from the alcohol and intensity of flavour is balanced by lovely acidity. This is extremely well crafted wine, made with wonderful care to explore the wine’s sense of place and personality. A vineyard worth following as each vintage reveals itself.

Sauska Tokaji Cuvée 105, 2011
This wine is a different expression of what great dry white wines can be produced in Tokaji, as it shows the complexity and potential for the art of the blend. A blend of Furmint, Harslevalu and Yellow Muscat, mainly from the Birsalmas and Medve vineyards, so one can see the brightness of the Birsalmas and the richness of Medve working together, and the additional complexity of different grape varieties. This is a big wine, lots of ripe fruit and the bite of orange or even tangerine peel, sweet oak giving layers of flavour and a fair dollop of alcohol.

Sauska Tokaji Cuvée 105, 2012
I like this very much, it has a lighter touch than the previous vintage and shows more refinement. Vibrant fresh fruit, peach skins, apricots, and jasmine, Very elegant balance of fruit, acidity and alcohol, but still persistent and very complex.  This really shows the art of blending ,with a delicacy of touch in the winemaking, a more gentle use of new oak allowing the elements of each grape varietal and each vineyard to work together with wonderful harmony.

Sauska Villanyi Cuvée 5, 2009
A blockbuster “Bordeaux Blend” of Merlot, Cabernet Sauvignon and Cabernet Franc, with very big dark ripe berry fruit, lots of sweet new oak, and lots of alcohol. As the primary dark fruit character matures the secondary flavours of leather, wood and coffee and mocha chocolate emerge. Very impressive wine which should be fascinating to watch develop with more age. Will it become unbalanced, or will the intensity and alcohol allow it to develop the lovely oxidative sweetness one finds in mature Bordeaux from big ripe intense vintages?

Sauska Villanyi Cuvée 5, 2011
Very impressive intense wine, wonderful black cherry, cassis and dark ripe plums, underpinned with fruit acidity and round tannins. Again the hint of chocolate and very clean lingering intense flavours. This wine has the intensity, ripeness, alcohol, and class of a top “New World”  Bordeaux blend from say Napa, or Barossa, but still has a European fruit profile, (less blueberries and eucalyptus minty sweet fruit). I think this is a real “benchmark” for the region, incredibly impressive.  The care and quality of this wine growing and wine making is very apparent.

      The tasting notes of Christopher Burr are published with his permission.