Velvety, aromatic and distinctive – this is how Romanian wines can be described. Follow our venture into this unexplored part of the Romanian culture and find out what the best local grape varieties are, the particularities of each wine region and where you can taste the best wines, all coupled with a handful of useful tips.
The seventh biggest wine producer in Europe and owning the largest area of vineyard in Eastern Europe, Romania has recently started to develop a market for fine and high quality wines.
The country has a tradition of over 6000 years in wine-making, in some remote villages people going as far as believing that Dionysus, the god of wine, was born on the present territory of southern Romania. During Middle Ages the excellent soil and climate constituted perfect conditions for people to start growing their own vineyards and soon each region had its specific wine grape variety.
Unfortunately, in the 19th century the country suffered from a plague of Phylloxera, an insect that destroys the vines, thus leading to the dying of most of the local grapes. The soil was replanted with French grapes, more popular at the time, resulting in the actual configuration of the Romanian wine assortment, a mix of French and local varieties.
During the communism period the vineyards became property of the estate and although a great amount of wine was produced and exported, the focus was on quantity rather than quality. After joining the European Union in 2007, significant investments have been made and the wine-making industry has been rapidly growing.
Local grape varieties
In Romania wine is produced using two types of grapes: an international assortment, consisting mainly of Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot and Pinot Noir for red wines and Aligoté, Chardonnay and Pinot Gris for white wines and domestic varieties. Amongst these, the most famous are:
- Fetească Albă (The White Maiden)
It’s one of the most popular types of grapes cultivated across the country, from which an elegant, delicate white wine is produced. The wine is usually dry or semidry, with balanced alcohol content (11.5-12%). It stands out through its aromatic, citrusy flavors, reminiscent of wildflowers.
Tip: It can be served as an appetizer or during a meal, accompanying white meat or fish based dishes. It is recommended during summer or autumn.
- Fetească Regală (The Royal Maiden)
Another sought-after variety, the Fetească Regală grapes are a hybrid between the Fetească Albă and Grasă de Cotnari types. The resulting wine is dry, fresh and high in acidity, with an alcohol content of 13%. It has a fruity and intense flavor, slightly more pronounced than that of Fetească Albă.
Tip: It can be served together with white meat, fish, seafood and pasta.
- Crâmpoșie Selecționată
It is a typical variety of the Dragasani vineyards which produces a fresh white wine, with aromas of pear and green apple. It leaves a clean, bitter aftertaste, representing a wonderful choice for lively social events.
Tip: It can be perfectly combined with asparagus and white wine.
- Fetească Neagră (The Black Maiden)
One of the oldest types of grapes cultivated all over the country, the Fetească Neagră variety gives us a wonderful red wine, which can be dry, medium dry or sweet. It has an alcohol content of 12%, but it can reach 14% and intricate, specific aromas of red fruits and dry plums.
Tip: It can accompany a large range of dishes, including red meats, turkey, mature cheese and dark chocolate. It is recommended during winter.
- Negru de Drăgășani
Created in the 1990’s in the Dragasani vineyards, this grape assortment is a relatively new one, which gives a fresh red wine. It has a lingering flavor of red cherries and blueberries and a pleasant acidity. This dry wine has an alcoholic content of around 12%.
Tip: It is a suitable accompaniment for fresh cheese, red meat and heavy Romanian dishes.
- Băbească Neagră
It is a type of grapes with more than 2000 years of history which produces a light red wine, easy to drink and high in acidity. It has fruity and floral aromas, reminiscing of red fruits and an alcohol content of 10-11.5%.
Tip: It is best served with red meat or fresh cheese.
- Tamaioasa Romaneasca (Romanian Incensed Maiden)
From this variety of grapes comes a high quality, sweet or semi-sweet white wine. It has an invigorating acidity, an alcohol content of 12-12.5% and flavors of honey and roses.
Tip: It can be served as an appetizer, with light dishes (fish, poultry) and desserts.
- Grasă de Cotnari
It is a variety of grapes grown only in Cotnari vineyards in Moldova region. The resulting wines range from dry to sweet, are white in color and have an alcohol content of 11.5-12.5%. They are rich and very aromatic, with a bouquet of honey, raisins and almonds.
Tip: This fragrant wine is best served with light dishes and desserts.
- Busuioacă de Bohotin (Basil of Bohotin)
Cultivated only in Bohotin, a village from Moldova region, this type of grapes produces a rose wine with purple color and sweet or semi-sweet taste. It has an alcohol content of 11.5-13.5% and it stands out through its basil aroma, combined with succulent peaches and almonds.
Tip: It is a suitable accompaniment for desserts and light dishes, such as fish, seafood and white meat.
Romania’s wine regions
Vineyards are found all across the country, with small differences in the terroir, which includes the climate, soil type and landscape characteristics. Romania has hot, sunny summers and cold winters, specific to the continental climate. It also has all major landforms: mountains, hills, plateaus, the Black Sea and a delta. All these elements, similar to the French terroir, are thought to account for Romanian wines’ high quality.
The main wine regions are:
This region is known for producing wines of excellent quality, widely sought-after in the country and abroad. The vineyard areas are narrow, but well-maintained.
Most important vineyards: Târnave and Alba.
Wineries: Nachbil, Jidvei, Liliac Wines and Villa Vinea.
- Muntenia, Oltenia, Danube Terraces and Southern Lands
It is the most extended vineyard area of Romania and home to some of the most famous wineries of the country. Unlike other regions the temperature is warmer, making for first-rate sweet white wines and a deep, aromatic red Fetească Neagră wine.
Most important vineyards: Dealu Mare and Dragasani.
Wineries: Avincis, Prince Stirbey, Rotenberg, Oprisor, Halewood, Lacerta.
It is notorious for producing the largest quantity of wine made from local varieties, an understandable fact given that it owns almost a third of the country’s vineyards.
Most important vineyards: Cotnari, Iaşi, and Dealul Bujorului.
Wineries: Cotnari, Tenuta Odobesti, Beciul Domnesc.
This region has exceptional natural qualifications for producing wine of the best quality, fact proven by the large number of awards won at major international competitions by local winemakers.
Most important vineyards: Murfatlar and Sarica.
Wineries: Murfatlar, Domeniile Ostrov, Clos des Colombes.
It is famous internationally for having provided wine for centuries for the imperial court of the Austro-Hungarians.
Most important vineyards: Viile Banatului, Minis-Maderat
Wineries: Petro Vaselo, Recas.
Tip: For tasting sessions, usually a reservation is required. Also, don’t forget to take a look at your surroundings, as many of the wineries are close to local landmarks.
For a wine lover, Romania is unmistakably the perfect choice: splendid vast vineyards set in a breathtaking décor, buildings charged with history that now house magnificent wineries and a selection of savory, elegant wines. Come try them for yourself in one of our memorable wine tours and let us turn your expectations into reality!