A trip through the wines of Romania

If you haven’t had wines from Romania, you’re missing out. Big time!

I know this is a bold statement, especially with so many amazing wines being produced worldwide today. But, with that being said, I am convinced that there should be room in our cellars for some good bottles of Fetească Neagră (Black Maiden in English), arguably, the most renowned native grape variety of the country. The grape is very high in phenolic compounds, giving the wine an intense ruby-red colour, a firm structure, and excellent aging potential (hence, the recommendation for the cellar). Aromas and flavours would be reminiscent of blackcurrants, black cherries and plums. In the hands of a good winemaker, they become truly delicious wines.

Two other very good bets for getting a very unique “Romanian taste” are Babească Neagra (Black Grandmother) which, in most cases, present to the eye a vivid ruby-red colour and to the palate a remarkably fresh acidity.

A vineyard in Transilvania.

The second one is Negru de Drăgășani (NdD – Black from Drăgășani). With lots of berries and red cherries on the palate, but with a fairly decent tannic structure, it is one of my favourite wines from Romania. Think of a very good Cru Beaujolais and you get NdD.

But wait! If you are a white wine drinker, the white Feteascăs — Albă (White Maiden) and Regală (Royal Maiden) — are also worth trying. The first is slightly floral with refreshing acidity and a bone-dry finish (unless someone decided to leave some residual sugar to tame the high acid, just like it is done with some rieslings in Germany). The latter is considered to be the one that consistently delivers wines of high quality. The colour tends to be golden yellow with some greenish hues. It can be very floral with tropical flavours and herbs on the nose and palate. In many cases, producers decide to make blends of the two. The results vary drastically. But the best ones are very complex and give you the certainty that Romania can produce white wines of very high quality.

Other very interesting native grape varieties are:

Reds: Novac, with lots of berries, fresh acidity and a from tannic structure; Cadarcă, with its exotic aromas and flavours.

Whites: Crâmpoşie, some fresh and elegant wines with floral notes; Tămâioasă Românească (Romanian Muscatel), wines with floral aromas and tropical flavours.

There are also many high quality wines (reds and whites) made from international (mostly French) grape varieties.

Rosé wines seem to be very popular in Romania these days. They are made from indigenous grape varieties such as Fetească Neagră and Busuioacă de Bohotin, but also from international grapes such as Pinot Noir, Syrah, Cabernet Sauvignon, and Merlot. Blends are very common in this category too. Many of them are dry, but a good share of them contains at least some residual sugar (and sometimes a lot of it!).

A Moldovan vineyard.

In my experience, some of the most amazing Romanian bottles happen to be sparkling wines made in the traditional method (second fermentation in the bottle). Most of them are made with their indigenous grape varieties, such as Fetească Albă, Fetească Regală, Crâmpoşie Selecţionată, Busuioacă de Bohotin, Tămâioasă Românească, Frâncușa, Grasă de Cotnari, Băbească Neagră. They also make some delicious sparkling wines with international grape varieties. The one used most successfully is by a long shot Pinot Noir.

Romania’s 7 wine regions are Banat, Crisana, Dobrogea, Moldova, Muntenia, Oltenia and Transilvania.

So, as they say in Romania, oroc!

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