Furmint sounds like trouble. Autocorrect might change it to ferment, or foment, or varmint, as in, a pesky vine yielding lean, green wine. In Austria, the vine was trouble enough that, no matter its noble legend, it virtually disappeared, the region’s history with furmint fading after German West Hungary became Burgenland in 1921. Now the variety is undergoing a renaissance in Rust, and beginning to spread to other parts of Austria. In his research for this “royal restoration” (page 34), David Schildknecht spoke with growers about the future of furmint in our contemporary climate—a viticultural climate that might not continue to favor grüner veltliner and riesling, but may be more accommodating to furmint (and welschriesling) than it was three decades ago, when the furmint renaissance began.
The cultural and the environmental climate has also changed in Mendocino’s Anderson Valley (page 44), once a place thought too cold to consistently ripen pinot noir. Settled by a generation of hippies who grew pinot gris and pot—and the French who arrived to focus on sparkling wine—Anderson Valley is now a coveted source of far-coast pinot noir. Sydney Love, our tasting coordinator in Los Angeles, headed to the valley to find growers in the midst of a community project, working to better understand and articulate the region’s varied terroir.
As it happens, that terroir study was launched by Gilian Handelman, an inveterate wine country organizer, who, in 2003, was working as education and marketing director for this magazine and created our first Top 100 event. Handelman was a great resource for Love, a recent graduate of Agnes Scott College’s creative writing program. This is Love’s first feature article for Wine & Spirits, though she has already penned two stories on winegrowers in the Santa Cruz Mountains for the San Francisco Chronicle.
In our research for our Annual Restaurant Poll Report, we weren’t surprised to find furmints from Austria or pinot noirs from Anderson Valley’s Deep End among the pairings respondents offered with their tasting menus. As change becomes the norm for winegrowers, many sommeliers and diners are finding that flexibility gives them the most pleasurable outcome. Or, at least, it does for those diners outside the One Percent, without the hundreds or thousands to spend on a grand cru Burgundy, a first-growth Bordeaux or a legendary Napa Valley cabernet. For us, there’s more great wine than ever at $50 or $60 a bottle, waiting at your favorite restaurant.
This story appears in the print issue of April 2020.
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