For most winemakers in Austria, Blauer Portugieser is a filler, grape, used in blends or for house wines.
We don't buy these, we buy from people who give the grape the same attention as the more popular grapes and make delicious wines. Like a lot of "neglected" grapes, it is simply lack of attention in planting or winemaking that makes so many of the wines simple. Just like Swiss Chasselas, Blauer Portugieser vines give prolific yields and has low acidity. Just like Swiss Chasselas, Portugieser wines were meant to be drunk in their youth and considered not suited to long-term cellaring. And - no surprise here - just as Swiss Chasselas there's no reason they cannot age magnificently with proper winemaking, or make truly impressive wines.
A medium ruby colour with a fruity, grape juice kind of nose. There are also some aromas of plum and red cherry. On the palate, the wine is medium bodied with low tannins and with moderately low acidity. On the palate, it tastes of grape with some cherry and raspberry fruit. Very smooth.
Furmint is, of course, the main grape in the production of Tokaj, the unctuous sweet wine from Hungary. However, that country does not have the monopoly on this grape. It is grown in other nearby countries, Austria being one of them. Heidi Schröck was one of the pioneers that reintroduced the grape and now produces some of the best Furmint wines in the world. Her dry Furmint is elegant and filled with spice and quince. Her sweet Furmint and blends incorporating Furmint are truly astonishing and need to be tasted to be believed. I would urge everyone to become a believer.
Furmint originates in Hungary with the first references found in documents from the late sixteenth century. It is no surprise that it comes from the Tokaj region whose eponymous wines have made it famous and given so much pleasure. Other origins have been suggested but are without substance.
Furmint is related to Gouais Blanc and therefore to a vast number of well-known varieties such as Chardonnay and Riesling. It is a parent of the other main grape in Tokaji wines, Hárslevelü and the Swiss Plantscher.
Although popular for its generous harvests, the variety has poor disease resistance (mildew and grey rot are a particular concern) and requires careful maintenance in the vineyard to make good wine.
Despite the suggestion of the grape's name of having a Portuguese origin, ampelographers have uncovered little evidence to suggest that this is the case. It is often said that the Austrian, Johann von Fries, brought it from Oporto to his estates near Voslau in 1772. Until recently and for that reason, it was called Kékoportó in Hungary. There is evidence to indicate that by the 19th century, the grape was widely established in Austria and that it was then that cuttings were brought to Germany.
As a half-Swiss I know what distinctive, quality wines Switzerland can produce. Until now, the problem has been locating them in the UK, since the demise of the Swiss Centre in Leicester Square many years ago. Keep them coming!
PS: I would like to see, and taste a pinot noir or two from the Germanic region - very distinctive from Burgundy, but more importantly from the lighter, thinner Germanic pinot.