ourists might know less that Romania is an important international wine producer, being the 12th in the world and the 6th in Europe. We are not here to enchant Bacchus, but to speak about the special Romanian local grapes and the incredible wines we make. The bouquet of these amazing liqueurs is an experiential journey throughout Romania that involves all travellers’ senses: sight, smell, taste and even hearing.
We will take you in two regional wine tours, where we will focus more on the vineyards and wines, and less on the beautiful landscapes, local traditions or people.
The first Romanian wine journey is in the North-Eastern side of the country, so let’s be cheerful and start the exploratory mission!
A journey into wine production in Romania
Dionysus, the God of wine
In order to introduce you in wine subject and Romanian wine as traditional chore, we shall go back time, prior Anno Domini, when nowadays-Romanian territory was ancient Dacia land, part of a wider nation of tribes known as Traco-Dacians.
Historians assert that Dionysus, the Greek God of wine (Bacchus for Romans), lived on Thracian region, and that grape culture is an ancient agricultural craft on actual Romanian territory. Therefore, we can assume that we have a 4000 years viticulture history–, which means that, if proved, we are more connected with the wine production than France is!
The fact is that in 85-82 BC Burebista, Dacia leader, asked to his people to grab a part of the vineyards. Some say that was for Dacians’ health, as they loved wine too much, others interpreted as a gesture to stop neighbours from invading the country for its grape yields. Nobody knows! The certain fact remains that almost 100 Before Christ, wine production was a very important occupation on this land.
Tales and tours over a glass of wine
We are not to tell the story of wine since Burebista. However, as we are to speak about Moldavian grapes is worthwhile to write about a place like a legend, Ancuta’s Inn. What this inn has in common with wine? The travellers stopped by and, similar to “Canterbury Tales”, each passer-by shared a personal experience over a glass of local wine. The place still exists and travellers can stop by to have a drink and enjoy tasty local food. Eventually, they can share their tales about Romanian holiday and people met across the journey.
Travel on Romanian authentic vineyards
Romanian authentic grapes and amazing unique wines
There are more than two thousand years since Burebista and wine production remains an important segment of agriculture in Romania. Moreover, there are special grape genes, which can only grow on that specific soil, climate and geographical conditions.
The grapes have special sweetness, taste, smell and colour and the resulting wine carries the features of the fruits.
Husi wines, a tour of sparkling flavour
Located in the East of Romania, Husi is known as the country of wine since forever. A document issued at the beginning of 15th century by Alexandru cel Bun (Alexander the Bright), a wise Moldavian leader, showed that vine estate was a real business. In time, winery craft grew accordingly became more mature and sophisticated, but two things remained unchanged: the land (and soil conditions) and indigenous grape gene.
The name of the grape might seem impossible to pronounce by overseas travellers; actually, some of the are difficult for Romanians as well, but they are indigenous local names and to keep their authenticity we do not even try to translate.
Zghihara de Husi is a white-greenish, dry wine. It has a sparkle of acidity, like humour of people living there. Zghihara doesn’t grow mature, it is a wine that reaches its full taste and flavour after production. It goes well with fish, Romanian “telemea” cheese or zacusca (an eggplant and other vegetable salad).
On the opposite, Babeasca Neagra de Husi is a dark, red wine. The older, the better, like a woman: she grows wiser with age (as “Babeasca” name, in Romanian, sends ones’ thought to a senior lady). Light and fruity, Babeasca is a wine for a family barbecue weekend.
Feteasca Neagra (Black Feteasca) is the crazy queen of Romanian authentic wines. In Romanian, “Feteasca” inspires virginity and youth – so, as the name says, Feteasca has a fresh fruity flavour, a lovely smell, a beautiful red colour, just like a beautiful maiden. Feteasca Neagra is not light, nor tough, just good enough to sip it slowly. Making Feteasca is a demanding procedure and locals have learnt all the secrets behind this picky, but amazing tasting, grape type. Pork, lamb and even Romanian bean stews are a delight next to a glass of Feteasca Neagra.
Busuioaca de Bohotin, fresh and peachy, is a wine that originates in Bohotin village, close to Iasi and it is a pride for Husi vineyards. Defined as a rosé wine, depending on the weather over the agricultural year, its colour can be either orange, pure pink or might turn into purple-pink in dry years – just like a rose! Demi-sweet, Busuioaca de Bohotin enchants with raspberry, peach or strawberry smell and flavour – and after 8 to 15 maturation years, it becomes tastier and smoother. Creamy cheese or fruity desserts and Busuioaca de Bohotin is a must!
Journey into Cotnari wines world
Cotnari vineyards were mentioned in documents as soon as 15th century, and the tradition in viticulture hold out time in this Romanian region. The wines produced challenged local known and unknown artist to sing it and write poems about it (e.g. Vasile Militaru: “A glass of “Grasa de Cotnari’ / And a roasted quail, / I wouldn’t change my dinner, / With the great kings of the world! ‘”).
Historians say that Grasa de Cotnari was brought in Moldavia by the bravest local prince Stefan cel Mare (Stephen the Great) in 1467. The Grapes grew well in Cotnari area as the sun shines on the hilly vineyards. Nowadays, this sort grows only here and cannot be adapted for farming to another area.
The white grapes are special with their skin that allows “noble mould”, in a process named Botrysation, where the grapes are picked and lefts in the care of Botrytis fungi, which dry the fruit, giving a currant-like aspect and flavour. The wines become sweet and noble, yellow-greenish coloured, and becomes even sweeter when having it after desert. Nevertheless, be careful and don’t get outwitted by the sweet taste! It is full-bodied, with 11,5% – 12,5% alcohol in volume.
We carry on our journey with Francusa de Cotnari, an opposite to Grasa de Cotnari when it comes to taste and flavour: it is dry and acid, a white delight with complete grape flavour wine. It seems hot, but yet smooth and cannot be taken for any other wine with its fully-ripe grape smell. If you have chicken and garlic or Romanian cheese for dinner, Francusa de Cotnari is your wine!
All these wines can be found only in Romania, they are as old, and deep as local nation is.
Well, this is enough with our appetisers for today! We will bring you more wine tales with our next Food and Wine tour.
Are you craving for a glass of wine? Join our tour and enjoy Romania with all your senses!