When we think about Romanian wine it’s easy to imagine a rustic old vineyard, perhaps a dusty old donkey pulling a ramshackled cart while young Andrei presses the grapes under foot. It’s true, grape growing is nothing new to the country, it’s likely the first vines were planted as far back as 6000 years and vineyards still operating today can trace back their beginnings to the middle ages.
However the battle of world wide recognition in the wine world was fought & won in the last century when commercialised wine production boomed. Unfortunately the people of Romania spent most of that time under the communist cosh & let’s just say those guys weren’t big into culture.
When Englishman Philip Cox and his Romanian wife Elvira founded Cramele Recas in 1998 they believed it would be a ‘boutique’ winery. 20 years later their state of the art operation employs 250 people and produces 65 different wines that ship all around the world. They’ve achieved this in 2 ways. Romania has a climate very similar to France, but without the coastal influences (Romania has just 152 miles of coastline) which makes things far more consistent & stable than Western rivals. As a result they can produce the famous international varieties like Pinot Grigio, Sauvignon, Merlot & Pinot Noir to an amazing standard, and without the land costs of France & the yield damaging change in weather the value for money is second to none.
The second route to their success is in Native Varieties. Prior to the phylloxera plague of the 1800s which wiped out pretty much everything grape-like in Europe, Romania’s many regions were represented by their own individual grape varieties.
Many didn’t survive but in the last century every effort has been made to bring them back. Grapes like Feteasca Alba, Feteasca Regala and Grasa de Cotnari might be hard to pronounce but offer incredible tasting wines at highly accessible prices.
20+ years on Cramele Recas now hosts ‘flying winemakers’ - some of the world’s most prominent names from Spain, Australia & New Zealand who flock to the country to make use of their unique grapes and produce exciting new wines.
Wine trends tend to happen slowly in the UK, top New Zealand Sauv didn’t really take off until 30+ years of top level production. Our tip - get in on Romanian wine now, before it becomes the latest trend!