Good Whine, Good Partners

Romanian Wine is Well Served by Joint-Ventures

With large expenses of land dedicated to vineyards, with the right soil and the suitable climate for growing row upon row of luscoius grapes, you would expect to find many fine Romanian wines. First time visitors may well be pleasantly surprised by what they uncork. Alexander Grell spoke to the experts about the state of the industry and the wines on offer.

 Vox populi
 “In 1999 will be a good year for wine. It was a little cold early in the season, but that’s all gone”, believes Cătălin Păduraru of wine distributor Vinexpert. Prior to the 1989 revolution, Romanian wine fed primarily the Russian market which asked for sweet, cheap wines. Today, it is sold throughout Europe and the United States. Some foreign companies have come here to produce and distribute wine. “The climate in Romania is similar to France, and there are similar grape varieties, too, “said Cristina Staicu from DVFR (Domeniile Viticole Franco-Române). They produce great wines as Vox Populi, and came to Romania in 1996. “In France there is no room for expantion, so we came here, but looking for similar conditions.” Now, Vox Populi is certainly worth a try. SERVE, a French – Romanian husband and wife team, produces a delightful Vinul Cavalerului. Much of the wine produced by these teams is for the export. DVFR exports 80%, the bottling is done in France for Holland, Belgium and Sweeden.

 Technology and Economics
 Both wineries are based in Dealu Mare region, where the foreign companies have brought up-to-date methods of production and storage. One major step has been the use of refrigeration techniques for preserving the wine’s flavour and aroma. “ In 1997 many vineyards gave up the pasteurization of wine, and started to use the refrigeration”, says Păduraru, “and the quality of Romanian wine has improved greatly”. Pesticides and fungicides helped to increase yields, but modern bottling methods are essential as well – some past compliants over the quality of wine were attributed to poor bottling and poor storage. Vineyards with foreign financial input have an advantage over those trying to survive alone or with a limited government support – although, a research station in Dobrogea is producing some excellent wines. Apart from refrigerators and bottling machines, the expenditures include US dollars payments for Portugese corks and Italian capsules (that cover the corks). In an unstable economy this creates problems: only 10% of the million hectoliters are exported, while not many locals afford a bottle of wine. Therefore, any cost increase resulting from the instable currency cannot be passed on the consumer.

 Politics play a role
 Another problem is the issue of land ownership. During the communist regime, land was taken over by the state. Since 1989, a proportion has been returned to the former owners, but many have no wish to continue with the costly wine production, meaning the loss of valuable vineyards. Newer rulling only allows land thast was previously used for growing vines to be returned to its previous owners. The winemakers are confused knowing who will own the land, there is no point in developing the long-term strategy essential for wine production. In addition, the large communist vineyards, were all suited in bulk, as required by the Russian market, and much of Romania’s wine is still exported in bulk today.

 But exporting in bulk means little opportunity for making wines with character and style. While vineyards with foreign connections are smaller, enabling quality control, they could also design new labels to create a more appealing product. For those with no international connections, history turned sour. After 1989, Russia started to import wine from the Republic of Moldova, which was cheaper, or from Bulgaria which is also a Slavic country. The Romanians learned about new competitions, as Chile, South Africa and California.
 A trink to joint-ventures!
 While today Romanian wine-makers may struggle, some of the vintage wines around demonstrate the style and character that are possible. One taste, say, of a 1971 Muscat Ottonel, or a 1976 Valea Călugărească Chardonnay, will leave little doubt of Romania’s potential. The main problem with the vintage wines is that they are not widely available, and that limited amounts were produced. Romanian winemakers look set to start producing again wines of quality, but in the meantime the joint-ventures vineyards, bringing Western technical expertise and marketing skills, are creating some impressive wines.

 Contact details: A wide selection of wines is available from most supermarkets. For a tasting of vintage wines or further information, contact Cătălin Păduraru at Prier Vinexpert on 336.55.00. Vinexpert has just opened a wine shop in Bucharest. The first of its kind in Romania, it will provide a place to sample wines, and will also sell all kinds of wine gadgetry. Another exporter and distributor, Vinexport, can be conatcted on 222.47.86


 Districts:Argeş – Ştefăneşti, Drăgăşani, Drobeta – Turnu – Severin, Segarcea
This region has been producing wine since Roman times and now uses a mixture of traditional and “modern” grapes. The town of Sâmbureşti in the Drăgăşani district produces Oltenia’s best red wines. The station has a reputation for a full, dry red wine from the Fetească Neagră grape, as well as the Cabernet Sauvignon.


 Districts: Cotnari, Dealurile-Moldovei, Odobeşti, Tecuci-Galaţi
The vineyards of Cotnari, near Iaşi are the most famous in Romania – their reputation dates back to the 15th century – for the production of a rich dessert wine. The Bucium Hills of Vişan and Doi Peri overlook the city of Iaşi and the cool climatic conditions are reflected in the Cabernet Sauvignon wines that have clear, crisp, leafy characteristics.

 Districts: Miniş, Recaş-Tirol, Teremia
This western region is best known for the wines grown on the sandy plain of the Teremia district. The hilly Miniş district produces excellent, inexpensive reds from the Cadarca, Pinot Noir, Cabernet, and Merlot grapes. The mountain slopes of Recaş-Tirol produce Valea Lungă, a pleasant light bodied red wine.


 District: Dealu Mare
North of Bucharest is the Dealu Mare district, which streches across the lower, southeast facing slopes of the Carpatian Mountains. Dealu Mare is famous for its red wines, Valea Călugărească and Tohani. A personal favourite is the 1994 Galerie Roumaine Merlot from the Valea Călugărească Winery.


 Districts: Alba Iulia-Aiud, Bistriţa-Năsăud, Târnave
The crisp fruit and good acidity of Transylvania’s white wines is somawhere between the style of Alsace and South Tyrol. The steep sloping Târnave vineyards lie between the two Târnave rivers, where they produce good quality wines with a Germanic style and delicacy.


 Districts: Sarica-Niculiţel
Murfatlar is the most ancient wine making area in Dobrogea, with well organized vineyards on the hills close to the Black Sea and a state-owned research station. Once too reliant on its prestigious past, the wines used to be too old, oxidised and heavy, but they are now clean and well balanced, made from lovely, late harvested, softly sweet and stylish grapes. Gewurztraminer and Cabernet Sauvignon are good examples.

Lasa un mesaj

© 2006-2008 Catalin Paduraru