2022 Demeter Zoltán, Tokaj Furmint Birtok
2022 Demeter Zoltán, Tokaj Furmint Birtok

2022 Demeter Zoltán, Tokaj Furmint Birtok

Tokaj, Hungary 2022 (750mL)
Regular price$44.00

2022 Demeter Zoltán, Tokaj Furmint Birtok

Today, we’ve got a wine that completely defies easy categorization. Demeter Zoltán’s “Birtok” is a table wine from one of the world’s most famous sweet wine regions, made from the great yet underappreciated Furmint grape, and, at least on paper, pulls off the Riesling-esque push-pull between sugar and screaming acid. But when it came across the SommSelect tasting table, the word that kept cropping up was, of all things, “Burgundian.” Riotous, rich orchard fruit, thrumming minerality, and a patina of spice had us tossing out village names for the nearest comparison. In the end we agreed that while “Birtok” would suffice to satiate a lifetime of Meursault cravings, it also sings with a mineral rigor and airy lift only achievable in the extraordinary place that is Tokaj.  On second thought, perhaps the only category “Birtok” easily slots into is “great white wines of the world!”

While Demeter Zoltán wasn’t the first to produce dry Tokaj, he’s perhaps the style’s most important advocate. He studied enology in Beaune and worked at Stag’s Leap in Napa, then returned to Hungary in 1993 with a mission to prove Tokaj’s greatness on the world stage. Tokaj has a centuries-long history of producing some of the world’s most important sweet wines. But the region had fallen into disarray, and off the wider wine world’s radar, during Soviet rule. Upon his return to the region, Zoltán set out on his mission. First he aided Istvan Szepsy, founder of Kiralyudvar, in pioneering dry Furmint-based wines. Then he started his own project in 1998. With his eponymous label, he’s established himself as a living legend in the region, working some of Tokaj’s most historical sites and producing perhaps its most important dry wines.

Zoltán farms just seven hectares, the most he feels he can do while remaining in control of every aspect. These aren’t contiguous sites; Zoltán has specifically sought out older vineyards with histories of producing famed wine, and that’s meant small holdings spread across the region’s most significant villages–Mád, Bodrogkeresztúr, Rátka, and Tokaj itself. Soils range from loess to sand to clay, but underpinning it all is the volcanic substratum that imbues even the sweetest wines here with spectacular minerality. And while Zoltán also farms Muscat and Hárslevelű, the most important variety for him is easily Furmint. It’s a grape that can seem almost Riesling-like in its linear structure and stony precision. But it has a malleability, a sensitivity to place, not unlike Chardonnay. Zoltán produces a stunning array of single vineyard wines, but “Birtok” is something like his entry point, a blend of fruit from the Hold-völgy site in Rátka and a high-elevation parcel in the famed Lapis vineyard.

“Birtok” was hand-picked without any botrytis influence, then fermented and aged in stainless steel. It pours a limpid yellow with hints of green and silver, and a single swirl immediately offers up a panoply of fruit and stones. Pear skin, yellow apple flesh, just-ripe white peach, acacia flowers, and lemon zest commingle with pulverized chalk, seaspray, and a faint smoky hint. The palate is dense and deep, laden with an unctuous texture belying the warm 2022 vintage. The fruit takes a golden turn, with some honeyed apple and straw, backed up by pulsing mineral tones. While there’s technically residual sugar here, it’s basically undetectable, just acting as a buffer against Furmint’s screaming acid and rounding out the texture. “Birtok” is a wine that simultaneously calls to mind any number of the world’s great whites while feeling totally singular. In short, it’s an experience not to be missed!

2022 Demeter Zoltán, Tokaj Furmint Birtok

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