Romania - Wine Country

Romania has one of the oldest wine making traditions in the world, it's viticulture dating back more than 6000 years. Legend says that Dionysos, the god of wine, was born in Thracia, on what is nowadays the territory of Romania. Romania or Dacia as the Romans knew it, had a well-established wine culture. The abundance of food and fame of the Dacian wines were so well-known and tempting that, to put an end to the migratory peoples’ repeated invasions, the Dacian king Burebista (1st century BC), ordered the destruction of all vineyards, as his high Priest Deceneu suggested.

Romania is one of the world's largest wine producers, 5th in Europe and 11th in the world, producing around 610,000 tons of wine (as of 2009).

Romanian Traditional Grape Varieties

While varieties of Western European origin with well-known oenological characteristics, such as Merlot, Cabernet Sauvignon, Pinot Noir, Chardonnay, Sauvignon Blanc, have been successfully adapted to Romanian vine-growing conditions, there are also several extremely valuable native Romanian varieties which deserve a particular interest:

  • Fetească Albă - "White Maiden" is an old Romanian variety and is grown in most vineyards, especially in Moldova and Transylvania. Wines are dry or semi-dry, having a balanced content of alcohol (11.5-12% by volume), acidity and sugar, and feature a velvety, natural finesse. At Cotnari, the Feteasca Alba yields natural semi-sweet and sweet wines produced by separate or assorted vinification.
  • Grasă de Cotnari - this grape belongs to the old Cotnari vineyard, where it has been grown since the days of Stephen the Great or more than 7 centuries. It is picked when is shrivels and is attacked by Botrytis Cinerea (Noble Rot). The sugar content is high: over 240 grams per litre. This variety has a common origin with Furmint, latest scientific results showing that both varieties originated in Transylvania.
  • Fetească Regală - "The Royal Maiden" originates from Transylvania and is grown in most vineyards. It is a combination of Feteasca Alba and Grasa varieties. Wines ranges from table to high quality ones. The wines have an alcoholic content of 10.5-11.5% by volume. They are dry, fresh and have high acidity and a specific flavor.
  • Băbească Neagră - an old native grown in the vineyards of Moldova (Odobesti, Cotesti, Panciu, as well as other areas located in the south of this viticultural zone) and is the second most planted grape variety in Romania. Usually the Băbească Neagră wines are made for current consumption. The name Băbească Neagră means "grandmother's grape".
  • Fetească Neagră - "The Black Maiden" is an old pre-phylloxeric variety grown in several viticultural areas of central and southern Moldova (Vrancea, Galati, Vaslui), as well as in Dealu Mare and Stefanesti Arges vineyards of Muntenia. They are dry or semi-dry (sugar content ranging between 6-12 grams per litre), have an alcohol content of 12-12.5% by volume, a deep red color with ruby shades, specific flavor resembling the blackcurrant and at the same time are robust and smooth, getting richer by ageing.
  • Tămâioasă Românească - "Romanian Muscatel" used for the production of high quality aromatic wines. These wines are naturally sweet or semisweet wines with an alcohol content of 12-12.5% by volume and an imposing originality offered by their yellow-golden color, complex flavor resembling field flowers and honey, persistent rich taste where alcohol, sugar and acidity reach a perfect harmony. Tamaiosa is usually released for sale as an aged wine when the frankincense character of the fruit is overlaid by a developed, honeyed bouquet. However, it can also be attractive when young, especially when the must has had extended cold skin contact before pressing and fermentation.

Transylvania Wines

The Transylvanian plateau is home to some of the coolest vineyards in Romania. Here white varieties predominate for both still and sparkling wines. In certain areas vines are grown at altitudes of over 300m, a lot of the wines with some Germanic influence produce wines with good acidity. Varieties such as Fetească Albă, Sauvignon Blanc and Pinot Gris flourish.

Famous Romanian Vineyards

  • Jidvei Vinery - located in the Târnava valley (Transylvania) is known for its superb dry white wines. Wine tasting is offered at the 16th century Bethlen Castle in Cetatea de Baltă, located between Târnăveni and Blaj.
  • Murfatlar Vineyard - one of the most famous Romanian vineyards, is located just miles west from the Black Sea coast. Over 300 days of sunshine, along with cool breezes from the sea, make this area ideal for the production of sweet dessert wines, such as late harvest Chardonnay, Pinot Gris and Muscat Ottonel. Soft, rich red wines are also produced here - Cabernet Sauvignon and Pinot Noir being the most popular.
  • Cotnari Vineyard is world famous for the delicious sweet white wines made of grapes rich in sugar and harvested in late autumn following the first frost, such as Grasă de Cotnari, a noble aromatic wine with a nutlike savor. The quality of these wines relies on a combination of rich soil, the late harvest and the presence of a special mold (Botritis cinerea). The vineyards have a long history, spanning over seven centuries, dating from the time of Stephan the Great (1457 - 1504). The winery’s most popular wines include Frâncuşă (dry), Fetească Albă (semi-sweet) - highly appreciated for preserving the flavor and freshness of the grape; and the sweet, golden Grasă de Cotnari, a noble aromatic wine with a nutlike savor and Tămâioasă.
  • Odobeşti is one of largest and oldest vineyards in Romania. Its most famous product is Galbenă de Odobeşti, a light white wine with a delicate bouquet that preserves the fragrance of the mellow grape. The wide variety of wines produced by the Odobeşti includes five traditional sorts of Romanian wine, namely: Galbenă de Odobeşti, Plăvaie, Fetească Albă and Fetească Regală (white wines) and Băbească Neagră (red wine).

More info: WineRomania.com & WineTaste.ro.

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