Author: Kristian Kielmayer, Ágnes Herczeg
It is most likely an ancient Hungarian variety, whose name is derived from its long, cylindrical clusters. Nowadays, Juhfark is synonymous with the special autochthonous (native) varieties that can produce really intriguing wines which perfectly reflect the personality of their terroir. However, this has not always been the case; at one time, it was considered a completely forgotten variety and was only re-authorised from the early 1990s. It has large, round leaves with pointed tips and long, dense clusters with thin-skinned, round, juicy berries. It is an early flowering, relatively high-yielding variety. It is a neutral variety with high acidity, restrained fruitiness and the ability to reflect its character of its terroir. It is used less often in blends nowadays but was certainly as part of blends in its Somló home in the past. The variety makes unique, appealing, characterful wines, not to mention the fact that it’s so unique that you can’t come even come across it anywhere else.
The variety is not mentioned outside Hungary, and even in Hungary, there are currently less than 200 hectares of it cultivated. Its most important wine district is undoubtably Nagy-Somló, where it is grown on 105 hectares, or 20%, of the wine district. Most of the remaining plantings are divided between the Balatonfüred-Csopak and the Balaton-Uplands wine districts, while it can also be found in the Etyek-Buda and Pécs wine districts.
Somló stands out as the variety’s home, where it can be found on volcanic basalt, basalt tuff, limestone tuff and clay soils, while in Etyek-Buda and Pécs, the variety thrives on calcareous soils.
It is lean and neutral yet complex and characterised by high acidity, medium body and alcohol in most wine districts. Its structure means that the variety can produce wines with ageing potential, whose quality may even improve over time.
When youthful, Somló wines are characterised by citrus fruit, grapefruit, herbs, mint and bold flavours, complemented by salty, mineral, stony leanness and piercing acidity. Ageing in oak can add additional complexity to the wines, which are also an attractive component of blends. Wines from the Balaton Highlands are similarly characterised by spice and pronounced acidity, although they may also boast ripe stone fruit flavours. The wines benefit from some bottle ageing before drinking.
Juhfark grape bunch and leaf
Juhfark is a variety only grown in relatively small quantities; however, it can be used to make very appealing wines. Most Juhfark is cultivated on volcanic soils, thus as well as being tight, lean and neutral, it often boasts elegant, delicate minerality. It is a classic food wine, which, thanks to its lively acidity, also works well with hearty, fatty dishes. It can also be made in an off-dry style, with some natural residual sugar nicely softening its acidity. If a few botrytised berries have also ended up in the wine, this can add the delicious honeyed notes of dried fruit. While bone dry Juhfark works best with fresh, savoury dishes and is particularly delicious with savoury soups and fatty meat, wines with some residual sugar are excellent with offal and liver dishes. High-quality Juhfark also ages well in bottle, softening the acidity and adding layers of complexity to the flavours. If you lay wines down, make sure they are stored in a cool place at a constant temperature, away from sunlight and direct heat, to best preserve their fragile aromas. Ideal serving temperature is around 8-10°C, best enjoyed from a tulip-shaped white wine glass.
Ingredients that best match the flavour and texture of wines made from Juhfark include lettuce, celery, cauliflower, broccoli, legumes, lentils, citrus fruit, other steamed and fried vegetables, soups, cream soups, full-fat cow and sheep’s cheeses, poultry, white fish, offal, pork and veal dishes, and gratins.