The wines and vineyards of Romania have been coveted for almost 6,000 years. During ancient times, Romania, known as Dacia, was constantly being invaded. King Burebista (1st Century BC) even ordered all the country’s vineyards be destroyed because he thought this would stop the invasions which he believed were happening because others wanted the vineyards and wine in the country.
Apparently not all of them were destroyed, or they grew back, because in 106 AD the Romans invaded. Roman and Greek historians often mention the great agriculturalists from Dacia, the beautiful vineyards and their delicious wines in their historical records. A Roman coin was found that says Dacia, with a woman and two children on it. One of the children is holding a large amount of grapes. Historians believe the coin was released as a testimony to the rest of the empire of how rich Dacia was in grape cultivation, making the conquest of Dacia a huge victory. Legend also has it that Dionysis, the Greek god of wine, was born in the area of Dobrogea.
Many countries have wine regions, but there are few wine producing countries which can say that the entire country is a wine producing region. All 7 of Romania’s historical regions produce wine. Many people who dream of owning vineyards and producing wine have been buying up land in Romania because the terroirs are comparable with Italy, Germany and France, but for a fraction of the price.
Wine has been the traditional alcoholic beverage in Romania since Medieval times. Traditionally they drank only native varieties, then the Saxons brought in some German varieties. After a phylloxera outbreak in 1880 most of the vineyards were wiped out and were replaced with French varieties. During the Communist Regime (1948-1989) the government seized most of the vineyards and turned them into government cooperatives where the focus of production was quantity rather than quality. With the fall of the regime, the lands are returning to their rightful owners and the focus on quality wine is returning.
Some of the big names in the business are:
- Jidvei Winery in Transylvania known for its dry whites
- Segarcea – Crown Estate, southwest of Bucharest. The only producer of Tamaioasa Roza (rose wine)
- Murfatlar Vineyard on the coast of the Black Sea known for their Chardonnay and their fortified wine selection Lacrima Lui Ovidiu.
- Cotnari Vineyard dates back seven centuries to the time of Stephen the Great (1457-1504). World famous for sweet white wines.
- Senator Wines grows in 4 regions and is the only company that produces Babeasca Gri, a rare and ancient varietal.
For a fantastic list and review of some of the smaller, boutique wines and wineries check out wine lover Oana Calugar’s article on the Winerist “Romanian Wineries Not To Be Missed – The Newcomers“.
In Romania, the most widespread grape varieties for white wines are Fetească Albă, Fetească Regală, Riesling, Aligoté, Sauvignon, Muscat, Pinot Gris, Chardonnay, Tămâioasă Românească, Grasă de Cotnari, Galbenă de Odobești. The main grape varieties for red wines are Merlot, Cabernet Sauvignon, Băbească Neagră, Fetească Neagră, Pinot Noir, Busuioacă de Bohotin, Cadarca.
The following is a quick run down of the domestic varieties from Romania Tourism to get your palettes curious:
Fetească Albă – Semi-dry white wine, well balanced, with a distinct aroma reminiscient of the first flowering of the vineyard.
Tămâioasă Romanească – A naturally sweet or semi-sweet white wine with subtle honey and basil aromas, an exquisite amber color and a persistent rich taste. Its sweet taste may also suggest a blend of rose petals and wild berries.
Grasă de Cotnari – A naturally sweet white wine with a delicate fragrance and a smooth interplay of fruitiness and acidity.
Galbenă de Odobeşti – A light white wine with a delicate bouquet that preserves the fragrance of the mellow grape.
Fetească Neagră – Semi-sweet, medium bodied, light red wine, with original aromas.
Băbească Neagră – Traditional full bodied red wine with a delicate bouquet and a slight taste of clove.
Cadarca – this red, native variety , displaying a ruby-red color with a stinging taste of fresh clove, was the wine of the imperial court of Vienna during the reign of Emperor Franz Josef, in the 18th century.
In 2009, Romania was the 11th largest wine producer in the world and by 2015 the 6th largest wine producer in Europe, producing 4.069 million hectolitres. However only 10% of the wine produced is exported. Romania also attracts many wine buyers because the prices are very affordable for the quality of the wines.
Another famous Romanian drink is the spritzer. This cool, refreshing drink is great for the summer and especially at BBQs. Take your favourite wine (I prefer not to use expensive ones) and mix it with sparkling mineral water, soda water or my family mixes it with Sprite. Noroc! Sanatate!
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