“Ma Roumanie contée” – tales of Romanian wine
By Julia Scavo Dipwset - Photographs: Courtesy of the estate, posted on 05 July 2022
Romania is home to one of the oldest wine growing cultures in Europe, predating ancient Dacia, shaped by the Romans, the monasteries and subsequently influenced by the French. It now has a clear focus on quality and harmonisation with European standards.
Domeniul Aristiței, the visionary
This tiny four-hectare winery is located in the Dealu Mare PDO in Muntenia and more specifically in its sub-designation Valea Călugărească. “The Valley of the monks”, a nod to the monastic influence in the area, is attested by documents dating back to the 15th and 16th centuries, also naming Valea Nicovani – the village where the estate is situated. The valley was well known as a residential area by the end of the 19th century when the nobility, ministers and businessmen owned land and manors here, including Ion Bujoiu. His heirs took up ownership after 1989 and eventually sold it to the present owners in 2013.
In this westernmost part of the Dealu Mare, the soils are mainly composed of red clay rich in iron oxide with some marl and reddish sand. Here, the continental influence is more pronounced than in the rest of the PDO, with fewer mild influences from the Black Sea. Owner Bogdan Dumitrescu has decided to focus on international grape varieties, except for Fetească neagră and has given carte blanche to his young winemaker Cristian Tudor to put his signature style on every single detail at the estate, including the labels.
Their most prominent brand is “Vizionar” whose name aims to encapsulate the owner´s visionary spirit. He spent 5 years, from 2014 to 2019, building everything from scratch. With the outbreak of Covid in 2020, he kept pushing the envelope in his boutique winery to fulfil his vision of an idyllic setting where vines and lavender fields mingle, where stories from the past and ultramodern technology combine. He strongly believes that Dealu Mare can also offer surprising white wines despite its reputation for reds, which at Domeniul Aristiței show extraction and concentration, a plush texture, soft acidities and luscious oak maturation to complement both the structure and the ripe fruit, like the 2019 Merlot “Vizionar”.
Cornel Tudor of Domeniul Aristitei sharing his vision
Crama Basilescu, the wine of Little Paris
The estate acts as a bridge between the bright and modern present and the company’s glorious past, when Nicolae Basilescu, the dean of the Bucharest Law Faculty created a winery for sparkling wine in the capital, spending his own money, plus some credit, and 11 years from 1910 to 1921. He built the facilities from the ground up, ultimately gaining a listing for his wines in the most famous restaurant in Little Paris: “Casa Capşa”. He even entered into a joint-venture with Champagne producer St. Marceaux & Co and left a prosperous business to his son, Aristide, chairman of the Economy and Political Science faculty in Bucharest. After being confiscated by the Communists, the name was lost until 2002 when heir Nicole Basilescu was given back the manor in Urlați, the base-wine production area. Present-day owners Ilie Buican and Sofia Dana took over the estate in 2008.
They now own 60 ha in Urlați, on brownish-red clay with iron oxide, marl and red sand in a sun-filled continental part of the Carpathian piedmont which is particularly famous for red wines. The remaining 40 ha are situated in Pietroasa on limestone with shell fossils, shallow soil on a rich calcium carbonate bedrock, where whites and aromatic grapes reach the pinnacle of freshness and aromatic vibrancy.
The winery at Crama Basilescu
With wines ranging from €4 to 20 and average production of 250,000 bottles, this medium-sized winery is above all famous for the plush style of its Fetească neagră “Ingeri din Micul Paris”5, a pure treat with plummy characters tinged with hints of liquorice and a generous fleshy feel accompanied by plump tannins. This Amarone-ish profile also appears, though in a more understated way, in the iconic “Golem” but with ethereal, minty vibrancy, layers of chocolate and Christmas spices and superb freshness with dusty tannins.
Maturation in bottles
The Iconic Estate, a taste for medals since 1892
With over 250 hectares of vines in Dealu Mare and Dobrogea, The Iconic Estate, which is part of the Alexandrion Group, has built state-of-the-art production facilities in Tohani. It also owns warehousing in Ploieşti, together with Rhein & CIE Azuga 1892, the oldest traditional method sparkling wine company in Romania, official supplier to the Royal House since 1904 and King Ferdinand’s coronation wine.
Focusing mainly on Dealu Mare PDO, within the Muntenia Hills wine region, The Iconic Estate fully explores the potential of this “realm of red wines”, also crafting incredibly fresh white wines for the area and elegant sparklings from both Romanian and international grape varieties. The remarkable quality of these sparkling wines has been recognised since 1906, when they obtained the highest distinction at “The Romanian General Exhibition”.
The 850 oak barrels in the barrel cellar
The region´s warm summers are followed by fairly long, mild autumns. This favours slow and thorough ripening of the grapes during a long growing season with low rainfall, sunny days, and significant diurnal shift. The vines are mainly situated on Sarmatian limestone including marine fossils, clay, sandstone and deposits of fine sand.
The winery located in Tohani is one of the most prominent in the Dealu Mare region, with cutting-edge winemaking facilities and storage capacities, including 850 oak barriques. The temperature-controlled warehousing facilities in Ploieşti offer underground storage for 1 million bottles, with ultramodern bottling lines for still and sparkling wines.
With over 25 years’ experience, Lorena Deaconu Stoian is the chief winemaker at The Iconic Estate Winery, managing and supervising the production processes from the vineyard to the bottled still and sparkling wines. Her proficiency is encapsulated in the clean, precise wines, from the easy-drinking and varietal-driven “La Umbra” wines up to the top brands. The food-friendly Byzantium Rosé is juicy and textured, imbued with spices and blossomy notes, while “Prahova Valley” Fetească Regală offers a rounded palate, with a dense mouthfeel and tropical hints. The iconic “Hyperion” brand has recently been extended to other varieties in addition to the initial Fetească neagră and Cabernet Sauvignon. It offers one of the most pristine expressions of a dry, gastronomic, dense and complex Tămâioasa Românească Muscat.
Lorena Deaconu Stoian, the lady behind the magic sparkle of Rhein & CIE Azuga 1892
Before she took over the winemaking reins of The Iconic Estate, she was manager and chief winemaker for Halewood Cellars Romania, production director for Domeniul Coroanei Segarcea, and winemaker and head of red wine production and the brandy department at Murfatlar Winery. She has held titles such as member of the referee board for international wine competitions, professional member of the Romanian Authorised Wine Tasters Association (ADAR) and member of the wine industry inspection board for the Romanian Ministry of Agriculture. In some respects, Lorena fully represents the tremendous post-Communist boom within the Romanian wine industry.
She enrolled for the degree course at the Faculty of Horticulture at the University of Agricultural Sciences in Bucharest, specialising in oenology, in 1989, concurrently with the fall of the Communist Bloc. She graduated in 1994 and was among the first Romanians to be trained in various latitudes in France, Chile and the USA.
From the outset, her research focused on crafting the purest, flawless wines with precise varietal definition, giving her the perfect base for meticulous oak maturation or traditional method wine production. Lorena admits that during harvest time she moves into the apartment specially built on the first floor of the cellar at Tohani. I remember that before entering the Alexandrion Group, she used to bring her own mattress and sleep next to the vats. She even dreams of wine and bubbles as a mother would of her own children.
Lorena is also one of the few female cellar masters to craft traditional method sparkling wines in Romania. This was the fulfilment of a dream and lengthy collaboration with the Champagne Oenology Research Institute. Under her management, the oldest sparkling wine house in Romania, Rhein & CIE Azuga 1892 improved the quality of its wines and will soon launch some exciting new cuvées using indigenous grape varieties.
In terms of winemaking style, she is inspired by reductive Champagnes such as Laurent Perrier Rosé, Dom Pérignon and Ruinart, minimising oxygen contact to the extreme in the stainless-steel-fermented base wines. She has suffused her sparkling wines with a fresher style, continuously striving to reduce dosage, creating more delicate nuances for the Rhein Extra Rosé Pinot noir, and releasing wines with longer lees ageing for the coming years.
Crama Jidvei, in the realm of white wines
The Târnave area is situated on the plateaus set in the heart of the Transylvanian region, in the “Weinland”. This is attested by a map from the 1200s where the village of Seiden – present-day Jidvei – was also featured.
Built upon the remains of the communist I.A.S6 founded in 1949, the company was privatised in 1999. Father and son Liviu and Claudiu Necşulescu have tirelessly and rapidly built up the business. Crama Jidvei also prides itself on its Bethlen Haller and Sânmicluş castles. The vines, however, extend beyond the boundaries of these two proprieties, with almost 2,400ha planted along the two Târnava rivers in a cool climate, the only one located in the B zone in Romania. Southern-facing slopes and the hydrographic basin mitigate the weather patterns and allow the white and aromatic grape varieties to ripen slowly. The only noticeable red grape here is Pinot noir, used for rosés and sparklings. Crama Jidvei is also home to the largest unbroken block of Sauvignon blanc in Europe.
Claudiu Necșulescu, owner Crama Jidvei
The vineyards at Crama Tăuni
A huge investment programme produced 4 state-of-the-art wineries in Jidvei, Tăuni, Blaj and Bălcaciu with impressive capacities of 35 million litres. 90% of the wines are sold under the Târnave-Jidvei PDO, embracing multiple price points and showing consistent quality. The estate is also renowned for traditional method sparkling wines and brandy – Vinars produced at the Bălcaciu winery.
The wines are clean, with good varietal definition. Their vibrancy is preserved through cutting-edge temperature-controlled winemaking techniques, enhancing positive reduction and aromatic thiols. The “Clasic” Fetească Regală offers excellent value for money. The “Mysterium” range rolls out sophisticated blends boasting youthful freshness, while the top “Owner´s Choice” range is a tribute to Mr. Necşulescu´s daughters. “Ana” is one of the most varietally driven Sauvignon blanc wines in Romania. It shows European characters, with the herbal touch of Styria but the polished texture of a Pouilly Fumé, while “Maria” aims to please enthusiasts of Alsace Pinot gris with tropical, mellow candied fruits, a dense palate with a gourmet texture and a phenolic backbone.
Ioan Buia, the sparkling wine cellarmaster at Jidvei
Via Viticola, in the oldest viticultural part of Dobrogea
Via Viticola is situated in the oldest attested viticultural area in the Dobrogea region - Sarica-Niculițel, now proudly sporting a PDO. Although ancient references date back to the Aegyssus fortress in Tulcea and Noviodunum in Isaccea, the property’s recent history starts in 1991 when the land was privatised from the Communist I.A.S based on the extensive enlargement of the G.A.S7 founded in 1958. After passing through various hands, it was purchased by the present-day holding company Vintruvian Estates. Currently, 383 ha are planted with vines, complemented by grapes purchased from partner growers over 400 ha.
The soil is mainly loess in the area, with limestone veins. It has high alkalinity, and excellent permeability, preserving water reserves deep below the surface and counterbalancing low rainfall. This combines with northern exposures, refreshing winds and the moderating effect of the Danube. Its delta and neighbouring Letea forest create a mild meso-climate with surprising conditions for white grapes such as the area’s flagship Aligoté, complemented by Chardonnay, Sauvignon blanc, Rhine Riesling, Fetească Albă, Pinot gris, Muscat Ottonel, Fetească Regală or, more naturally, for red grapes such as Fetească neagră, Petit Verdot, Cabernet Sauvignon, Pinot noir, Merlot and Syrah. Due to the weather conditions, Pinot noir and Syrah are only used for the rosé blends.
“Caii de la Letea” Vol. II and “Princeps” are among the winery’s top brands, targeting primarily the hospitality industry. The “Princeps” limited edition Aligoté Reserva shows both precise varietal definition and surprising potential, due to its vibrant acidity, its complexity and the support afforded by oak maturation. The Rosé Vol. II is intense with a blossomy veil recalling peony and a fleshy core of spicy fruits, gaining layers of complexity over a year in the bottle. Finally, the "Quintessence Reserva" red blend is incredibly fresh, ethereal, and polished with savoury fine-grain tannins and proficient oak maturation.
Vinarte 1- Castel Bolovanu, where Cabernet Sauvignon is king
The first plantings seem to date back to 1894 when a Frenchman experimented both in Drăgăşani and Sâmbureşti, especially with Cabernet Sauvignon, which thrived particularly in the latter. Between the World Wars, various plantings followed and the cellar was built, then launched when the Soviet army withdrew from Romania, as the event was celebrated with wines from Sâmbureşti.
During Communism, the cellar became a bottle warehouse as part of the state farm8. Vinarte privatised 60ha for red grapes, refurbishing the cellar within the original architectural structure, which fortunately was built for red winemaking.
Tasting wines at Vinarte
Iustin Urucu, the head winemaker, arrived with the first crate of grapes harvested in 1999 and has continued working under the new ownership of Tim Brockman since 2018.
The soil is mainly thick, rich clay, but the top of the hills is poorer and thinner with more stones9. The grape varieties are planted according to their adaptability to the soils with 70-75% Cabernet Sauvignon, but also Merlot over 6ha, Cabernet Franc (3ha), and local specialties Negru de Drăgăşani and Novac (0.5ha each), planted in 2007 as an experiment. The winery also owns an experimental 6-ha plot of different varieties and rootstocks, complemented by last year´s plantings of 9 ha of white grapes.
With very good thermal regulation helped by the clayish soils and the protection afforded by the Olt River, the area is not affected by low rainfall of around 600 mm. There is no issue with drought, thanks to the high proportion of humus that prevents run-off and allows very good water storage. However, this maximises the attention paid to lowering production, both through strict pruning and green harvesting.
“Soare” is the top, single-vineyard brand from 4 small blocks - Platou Doneşti, Amfiteatru, Nuc and Spate Crama – vinted in premium Bordeaux style with oak maturation. It is one of the few Romanian wines able to offer vertical tastings down to 1999, my last one going back to 2015.
2001 was an exceptional vintage, so were 2008, 2009, 2011, 2013, just like the last three vintages 2018, 2019, 2020, as Iustin assured me during our ProViRo Winelover Romania tour last August. With a ripe attack and juicy mouthfeel suffused with fleshy fresh fruit, the structure of “Soare” is based upon a holy trinity of elevated but balanced parameters. The second label, Castel Bolovanu, is a good introduction to Vinarte´s world.
Vinarte 2- Castel Stârmina, Vinarte’s alter ego
The same group of investors who privatised Castel Bolovanu also purchased what would become Castel Stârmina in 1998. The 160 ha are situated in the Mehedinți PDO, Stârmina sub-designation, near to the Danube where the hillside vines benefit from a Mediterranean influence from the Adriatic.
The modern winery and wine tourism facilities were launched in 2009. The story continued after 2018 with the same businessman, Tim Brockman, purchasing both Vinarte estates, while head winemaker Iustin Urucu remained in charge of production.
While Castel Bolovanu mainly focuses on red wines, with recent white plantings, Castel Stârmina has prided itself on both colours since the beginning. The flagship wine here is the long-lived Prince Mircea Merlot, with a fleshy core, vibrant fruit mingling with fine oak influence and a firm but integrated tannic backbone. The Fetească neagră offers a surprising off-dry expression packed with ripe fruit and balsamic scents while the “Between Danube and Sun”10 blend (Cabernet Sauvignon and Fetească neagră) combines the serious structure of the former with the lush fruit of the latter.
Iustin Urucu, the iconic winemaker at both Vinarte properties
Crama Beciul Domnesc, the cellars of Stephen the Great
Crama Beciul Domnesc is part of Vincon Romania, one of the largest producers of wine, spirits and vinegar in the country. Founded in 1949, Vincon Romania was privatised in 1999 with Luchi Georgescu the majority shareholder and company president ever since. The company owns 1,400 hectares of vines in the Odobeşti, Coteşti, Panciu and Huşi PDOs, with huge facilities including wineries, industrial sites for packaging and bottling wine, spirits and vinegar, and warehouses. One of the latter – Beciul Domnesc, the royal cellars dating back to Stephan the Great11, is part of the cultural heritage of Romania with a collection of 100,000 bottles. It proudly inspired the name to the present-day winery.
The company also owns historic distillation facilities in Focşani with Charente-type pot stills and storage capacity for ageing Vinars Brandy. Vrancea - Coteşti, Odobeşti and Panciu are the only double-distilled and matured Vinars DOCs in Romania.
With a large portfolio of grape varieties planted, among which are Fetească alba, Fetească Regală, Sauvignon blanc, Rhine Riesling, Muscat Ottonel, Tamâioasa Românească, Merlot, Cabernet Sauvignon, Pinot noir and Fetească neagră, the winery has a vast range encompassing over 18 brands priced from €2 to 10. There are therefore wines to cover all consumer segments on the domestic and export markets, mainly Germany, Spain, Ireland, Austria, Italy and the United Kingdom.
Domeniul Coroanei Segracea, wine for a King
Segarcea comes from the Latin “seges”- or agrarian field - and “arcesitus” meaning exotic, foreign. It clearly harks back to the Roman origins of this coveted land. Its fertile fields were mentioned for winegrowing throughout the Middle Ages and naturally prompted the Romanian Royal House of Hohenzollern-Sigmaringen to include them in the Royal Estates in 1884. Vineyard plantings were re-established with the help of French ampelographer Georges Couderc after phylloxera and the cellar was built on four levels, which was pioneering for the time. It still represents the heart of the present-day winery which has been extended to over 1 hectare.
The Anghel family at Domeniul Coroanei Segarcea
On 10 May 2002, the Romanian monarchy´s day, the vineyard and the winery were purchased from the Romanian State by the Anghel family, the current owners. Starting in 2004, an extensive investment programme has been undertaken to restructure the entire vineyard and rebuild a state-of-the-art winery using the latest technology in vine growing and winemaking. The estate’s 300 ha were entirely replanted with clones from selected varieties, supplied by nurseries in Italy and France.
With the help of French consultants and after becoming appointed Purveyor to the Romanian Royal House, the estate launched its top ranges – “Principesa Margareta” and “Minima Moralia” - in 2011 and 2012 while the “Marama” brand was dedicated to Romanian grapes in 2019. These include the aromatic Tămâioasa Românească, a dry musky wine with an incredibly fresh palate for a Muscat. The French pedigree imparted by consultant Ombaline Pages shines through with grapes like Viognier, which tends to be leaner and crispier than in the South of France, on similar latitudes. Reds are cherished in this southern area with its warm climate, offering up jammy fruit expression combined with moderate freshness and elegant, appealing texture like the “Vardo” Fetească neagră.
The state of art winery at Domeniul Coroanei Segarcea
Crama Gabai, in the name of the grandfather
A young, boutique estate born in the aftermath of the collapse of the former leader in Dobrogea – Murfatlar Winery - Crama Gabai is situated in one of the easternmost parts of the PDO Murfatlar, in the village of Valu lui Traian. Despite a name that harks back to traditions going back to Trajan´s conquests, the cellar was founded in 2014 as a tribute to the owner´s grandfather named Gabai. Gabriel Bercea, the current owner is also the estate’s winemaker, crafting wines over 3 ha from varieties such as Chardonnay, Fetească Albă, Muscat Ottonel, Italian Riesling, Fetească neagră, Pinot noir, Merlot and Cabernet Sauvignon.
Finding Chardonnay, Muscat Ottonel, Italian Riesling or Pinot noir might come as a surprise in this warm continental climate, considered as a CII zone with torrid summers, mild winters and long autumns mitigated by the influence of the Black Sea. They have been part of the landscape since the first experiments by Gh. Nicoleanu and V. Brezeanu in 1907, continued by the Research Institute of Murfatlar in 1927 and wineries still believe in their potential despite the global climate change.
Gabriel Bercea at Crama Gabai sharing his passion
Steluta Bercea, the lady behind Crama Gabai
Surprisingly, the white wines are lean, with mouth-watering energy and zesty crispness like the “Miraz” Alb blend, while the Chardonnay interlaces an invigorating acid structure with creamy but not overpowering oak maturation. The “Miraz” Rosé is easy- going and fresh with nice herbal aromatics. Gabriel Bercea is experimenting with different blends for his rosé cuvées, aiming to produce palatable wines in this warm area.
The reds are the estate’s forte and include the fleshy Fetească neagră with a fairly fresh, firm frame and plush texture, or the vertical, typical Cabernet Sauvignon. The blend brings together the fleshy core of the former and the tannic structure of the latter variety, mingling ripe fruit and balsamic scents with masterful oak influence, all bound by the lush mouthfeel instilled by the Merlot.
Gabriel Bercea, owner and winemaker at Crama Gabai
Crama Mennini, Paolo´s dream
Italy’s Paolo Mennini has spent the last 20 years in Romania, first doing business in industry. His Romanian associate just happened to work at the Research and Development Institute for Viticulture and Oenology in Drăgăşani and advised him to purchase a farm with 120 ha of vines, most of them abandoned or in bad condition. 70 ha have been restructured since 2006, allowing the winery to come on-stream for 2014, its first vintage. In addition to these half red-half white vineyards, Paolo owns up to 300 ha of land allowing him to also plant cereals and orchards, mainly plum trees.
Tasting with Paolo Mennini at Crama Mennini and Bruno Scavo on the Proviro tour Winelover Romania
The winery, whose name changed from Tenuta Colibaşi in 2015, produces 60,000 litres of wine from grapes including white Tămâioasă Românească, Muscat Ottonel, Fetească Albă, Fetească Regală, Crâmpoşie Selecționată, Sauvignon blanc, and red Negru de Drăgăşani, Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot and Burgund Mare. The latter is Paolo´s pride and joy and he explained to us during our ProViRo Winelover Romania tour, that he is the only one to craft Blaufränkisch in the area, purchasing the last existing grafts from the Drăgăşani Institute. The wines are mainly sold to the hospitality industry and despite his commercial links with foreign countries, few of the wines are exported.
Paolo fell in love with the local area and his partner, Luminița, but held onto his Tuscan roots through the consultancy of Italian oenologist Stefano Tofanelli. His wines recall his native country and region. The white wines are simple and approachable, whilst the reds are firm with a serious tannic bite. They pair with game, as Paolo is fond of hunting, another tradition he bought from Tuscany, where red rules. His musky, semi-sweet sparkler is a quaffer and ranks between an Asti and a Prosecco, with a fresher style.
Crama Oprişor, innermost Oltenia
In the mid-1990s, Reh Kendermann, a very prominent German importer-exporter, started collaborating with various Romanian producers. Aiming to select and import Romanian wines, the company quickly realised it was easier to purchase land and build their own winemaking facilities. Hence, the Carl Reh Trading Company was set up in Mehedinți, in the Oltenia region in 1994, and eventually became Carl Reh Winery in 1998.
My family originated in Oprişor, owning vines in Golul Drîncei, and took me many times there as a child for various stages of work in the vineyard. 1996 was our last harvest before selling to Carl Reh. I am therefore proud to be writing this article while partnering with my husband Bruno Scavo in co-authoring a book about Oltenia, as part of the ProViRo Winelover Romania project.
The few plots belonging to my ancestors were part of a natural amphitheatre covering over 250 ha on both sides of the Drîncei creek. They were wholly subsumed into the Carl Reh Winery by 2000, with the purchase of Crama Oprişor. Channelling production both towards the export and domestic markets, the winery has innovated from the entry-level and bag-in-box wines through to the top iconic labels like “Smerenie”, “Erotikon”, the “Paleologu Case”, “Ispita” and “Ezoterik”.
In a bid to provide a solid core of wines for local consumption, besides the already famous “La Cetate” brand – the Citadel, a whole collection inspired by the local spirit of innermost Oltenia soon appeared on shelves. They act as a perpetual dialogue between head winemaker Liviu Grigorica and the metaphors, traditions and artistic spirit of the region captured in every drop of his wines. These are highlighted by various artists on the labels.
The estate is situated in a favourable meso-climate in southern Oltenia, in the South-West of Romania. Golul Drîncei is one of the 5 additional geographical designations that can complement the Mehedinți PDO and one of the country’s southernmost (44th parallel). The climate is moderately continental, tempered by Adriatic nuances, while the rich reddish-brown soils are suitable for planting a number of grape varieties.
The area is perfectly suited for red wines, some of which mature in the estate’s 600 oak barrels. One of them is the firm, well-crafted, age-worthy La Cetate Feteasca Neagra. Surprisingly crisp, easy-drinking wines are marketed under the “Caloian” label, such as the “Zinfandel Alb” or the Pinot Grigio, with its almost Italian accent. “Jiana” and “Drăgaica” take their name from local pagan fairies and offer up an enchanting fruit and food-friendly structure.
Winemaker Veronica Ghiorghiu at Crama Oprişor
Domeniile Ostrov, reviving the Roman past
Domeniile Ostrov is located in an area steeped in history, dating back to the times of the Roman wars in Dacia (around 105 A.D.). As an ancient frontier point, protected by the Castrum Durostorum, it aims to revive the vine growing traditions that had always characterised the area. When brother and sister Horia Culcescu and Oana Camelia Belu took over the business in 2001, the facilities inherited from the former Communist I.A.S were nothing but “industrial archaeological installations”, as they tend to call them.
After huge investments and massive replanting over more than 900 ha, the first bottled vintage was released for sale in 2008. The estate now owns 1,023 ha, plus 400 ha of table grapes – a highly esteemed tradition in the area – and the same hectareage of orchards.
The rolling hills along the right bank of the Danube enjoy a warm climate with mild influences from the Black Sea, and good water reserves from the winter snow, but without the harsh frost.
Oana Belu, the owner, and Daniel Zottu, the brand ambassador and consultant at Domeniile Ostrov
The 2 modern cellars - Ostrov and Lipnița - have a capacity of 20 million bottles, though current production is 5 million and includes both PDO Oltina and PGI Terasele Dunării. Crafted with a New World style, the wines range from €2 to 10 ex- cellar, from entry-level “Vinăria Ostrov” bottlings through to the top hospitality brand “Legio”. A small amount is exported, mostly to China, Japan, Canada, Poland, Belgium and Germany.
Angel Leon Miguel, the Chilean winemaker who trained in the Napa Valley and New Zealand, runs production, crafting and blending wines from 17 international and indigenous grapes. Besides the regional classics, the winery surprisingly owns some experimental exotic varieties. Brand ambassador and wine consultant Daniel Zottu created “Legio” wines, blending local and international grapes with nuance added by French, American, Romanian and Slavonian barrels to enhance complexity and potential. The red blend is plummy and imbued with spices and violet blossom notes, showing layers of ripe fruit and a generous texture to wrap up the firm tannins.
Many readers will undoubtedly be unfamiliar with Romania, not just as a wine producer but also as a country. At Gilbert & Gaillard, we were curious to discover the potential of Romanian wines and offer readers some insight into this traditional wine producing country, its numerous native grape varieties and array of estates combining sense of place with their own unique personalities.
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