Most people have at least some misconceptions about Romania. With Halloween coming up, no doubt the most popular seem to be about vampires, Transylvania and the eponymous hero of Bram Stoker’s novel, Dracula.
While the vampire king may be fictional, his home region of Transylvania isn’t.
And it’s far from being the creepy domain that those who walk the night appear to love. It’s a rich landscape with plenty of historical buildings, something that makes it a great place to visit even if you aren’t an avid horror fan.
But, you may be surprised to learn that Romania has a thriving wine making industry too.
Romanian wine at a glance
1 – Joining the EU in 2007, gave Romania the impetus to improve its wine production and put their vineyards on the global map with access to the European markets.
2 – Dracula’s lair, the Carpathian Mountains, is particularly rich in wine making soils. The mountains provide shelter for the vineyards and the temperate weather conditions are good for a variety of grapes.
3 – According to the International Organisation of Vine and Wine, out of all the Eastern European countries, Romania has come out top in terms of sales in recent years.
4 – Since the fall of communism, where the industry suffered because of industrialisation, Romania has seen a rise in a new breed of wine makers who have helped change the culture and reputation.
The story of wine making in Romania
Romanian wine can be dated back several thousand years. There are records of wine production here throughout the Roman occupation. In the Middle Ages, Transylvania was noted as a strong wine producing region along with Moldavia and Dobrogea.
In the 19th century, disaster struck when vineyards and crops were decimated by phylloxera and desperate wine growers were forced to import grapes from France. Unfortunately, this led to the creation of hybrid varieties that produced poor quality wines, at least in the short term.
By the time the industry in Romania was beginning to recover, Europe entered a period of sustained war that ended in the communist revolution. Land was taken over and owners displaced. The quality of the wine suffered because production was industrialised.
Even after the fall of communism, there were legal arguments over who owned the land and it took a while for the vineyards to get back to making quality wine again.
When the country joined the EU, things improved, however, with financial help and access to nearby markets. Although there is still some way to go, the industry is once again beginning to thrive and the vineyards are producing quality wine that is making the world sit up and take notice.
Romania as a wine producing country
While it might not be top of your current list of regions, you may want to investigate Romania a little more. You can certainly find great quality wines at a pretty reasonable price here. Romania now has eight major wine growing areas, the three most notable being Tarnave, Dealu Mare and Murfatlar.
Indigenous Grape Varieties
Alongside international grape varieties such as Chardonnay, Merlot and Pinot Noir, Romania has a rich culture of indigenous grapes producing wines that are definitely worth getting your hands on.
These local grape varieties include:
Fetească Neagra: If you love a classic dry red this grape certainly delivers along with a delicious ruby colour and a splash of blackcurrant. It pairs well with strong meat dishes such as lamb casserole and steak.
Fetească Alba: This is the main white grape variety in the region and is known for its deep flavour and floral bouquet similar to a crisp chardonnay. Refreshing and acidic, it goes well with white meat and fish dishes.
Tămȃioasă Romȃnească: A Muscat grape variety that delivers spicy aromas and is suitably dry while having a strong perfume aroma, this is again a good choice for both succulent roast chickens and barbecue grilled fish as well as vegetarian dishes.
Why Romanian wines are great value
It’s taken a lot of work to turn Romania into the 6th largest wine producer in Europe (13th in the world) and the effort is beginning to pay off.
Wine lovers looking for something different won’t be disappointed by the quality nor the price.
The wine makers themselves are using the latest technology which, combined with good soil and a temperate climate, is really helping them make a name for themselves.