Romania is certainly not the first country that springs to mind when pondering tasting something new. But perhaps it should be. Rich in cultural tradition and wine making values Romania has been somewhat left behind in a commercial sense, a turbulent past somewhat denting progress in recent decades.
Romania’s 2007 entry into the European Union however demonstrates just how far the country has come since the collapse of Communism in 1989 and as Europe’s 5th biggest wine producer there is plenty to get excited about for the bargain hunting wine lover.
Although quality can be inconsistent and some regions are in desperate need of investment to become serious commercial players, the wealth of indigenous grapes and huge variety of soils and microclimates mean there is incredible potential for stunning wines that express the people and places from which they are made.
The key region is Dealu Mare, located in the province of Wallachia in the south of the country, where age worthy quality reds can be found. With around 14,500 compact hectares of vineyard the region benefits from the rich soils of the Carpathian mountain foothills as well as south facing exposure that ensures a lengthy ripening period. International varieties such as Merlot and
Cabernet can be found here but the local varieties such as Fetească Neagră and Tamaioasa Romaneasca offer both more potential and interest.
Fetească Neagră is an ancient grape that produces dry, semi-dry or sweet wines, with an alcohol content of 12-12.5%, a deep red colour with ruby shades, and a black currant flavour, which becomes richer and smoother with ageing.
Tamaioasa Romaneasca meanwhile is ideal for the production of sweet or partially sweet aromatic white wines. These wines tend to have a pronounce honey like nose with hints of flowers.
Another important grape, Grasa de Cotnari belongs to the old Cotnari vineyard, where it has been grown since the days of Stephen the Great. Picked when it shrivels and is attacked by botrytis cinerea (a welcome form of rot) the sugar content is consequently high. Similar to the Hungarian Furmint the grape gives distinct flavours of apricot, walnut and almond.
International varieties are also planted in the major growing areas around Romania. Cabernet Sauvignon has found particular success along with Merlot while Chardonnay, Sauvignon Blanc and Pinto Gris are having good success as improved vineyard techniques towards achieving quality over quantity start to become commonplace.
Whether or not Romanian producers pursue the production of international varieties or favour indigenous, largely unknown grapes the future looks bright as long as investment in top wineries and equipment continues to arrive. Over the coming months Cantina Caputo will taste and stock the best examples the country has to offer and we look forward to sharing our experiences with you.
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