Author: Kristian Kielmayer, Ágnes Herczeg
An aromatic variety that yields excellent dry and sweet wines, it was first mentioned in the mid-1700s. It is of Hungarian origin, related to Furmint and probably a descendant of a naturally occurring seedling. While its origin is relatively clear, there are many stories relating to the choice of the variety’s name. Older records called it Zöld Szőlő, Halszőlő and also Bodzavirág Szagú.
Nowadays, the variety is mainly planted only in Hungary. There are another 200 hectares around the world, which are not really considered in Hungary. Limited plantings can be found in Austria in Burgenland and, besides neighbouring countries, there is also evidence that this really enticing Hungarian variety is also valued in South Africa.
It is cultivated on a total of 1,630 hectares in Hungary, of which 20% is in the Tokaj wine region, followed by the Eger and Villány wine districts.
In Tokaj, it not only plays an important role in Aszú but also in dry wines, either as a monovarietal or blended with Furmint, refining its distinctive acidity and perfectly complementing it with its delicate aromatic character.
The Debrői Hárslevelű PDO should also be mentioned in connection with Eger; this wine style is associated with the name of cellar master Pál Rácz and is a Hárslevelű-based blend designed to balance out vintage variation. Any blend must contain at least 85% of the variety; these can be made in Classic, Superior or late-harvested style wines.
It is characterised by delicate floral notes, mainly linden blossom, linden blossom honey and chestnut. It usually boasts ripe aromas of stone fruit, pear, apricot and fine honey, with its aromatics led by restrained perfume. It is well-proportioned and balanced with a silky texture, medium body and soft acidity.
Hárslevelű grape bunch and leaf
Hárslevelű is a pleasant, versatile variety and can be used to make light, dry wines through to really sweet Essencia with extremely high sugar content. Light, simple dry, off-dry or medium-sweet wines with their floral and pear notes and silky, oily texture made good everyday wines. They are best drunk young, preferably from a recent vintage, and served at around 8-10°C in a tulip-shaped white wine glass.
More complex dry and off-dry Hárslevelű blends, estate wines and single-vineyard Hárslevelű wines develop well in bottle, so you can also lay them down for a year or two. These wines are particularly full-bodied and characterised by rich flavours and delicate minerality, so when considering food pairings, you can also consider more complex dishes. Poultry, pork and veal are good choices and even slightly richer sauces and gravies work well with high-quality Hárslevelű. These wines are best enjoyed at around 8-10°C in a tulip-shaped white wine glass, or you could also try the special Furmint glass.
Late-harvested Hárslevelű and Aszú boast plenty of honey, dried fruit and linden blossom notes, so they pair well with light fruit salads, richer cakes, cream pots and honey cakes, depending on their residual sugar. Sweet wines should be served chilled at 6-8°C in a small tulip-shaped white wine glass or a dessert wine glass.