Visiting Cramele Recas
On October 1st, 2010 I got the chance to go to Timisoara and visit Cramele Recas. I have to confess that I long wished to visit them but did not have the time and willingness to drive 550 km and spend 7-8 hours on pretty busy and bad Romanian roads to get there. But out of the blue they made me an offer I couldn’t refuse: an invitation to go by plane in the morning to Timisoara and return back in the afternoon. How could I say no ?
It is quite impressive what they managed to do over there. They bought the company from the Romanian authorities in 2000 and invested over EUR 20 Millions so far. Currently they have 600 ha of newly planted vines with an additional 200 ha being planted by 2012. The oldest vines are since the 1950s.
They were in the full process of harvesting the 2010 crop so you could easily see new John Deer trucks almost everywhere in the vineyards carrying the grapes back to their premises. All equipment is brand new in the vat rooms, new stainless steel destemmers, electronically controlled temperature panels everywhere for the large fermentation tanks, a winery capable of safely fermenting and storing about 5 Million liters of wine. Probably this state of the art premise is the norm abroad, but for Romania it’s a rare picture.
Our host was one of the shareholders of the Company, Mr Philip Cox, in charge with pretty much everything there: supervising the work in the vineyard during the year, working close to the winemaker, tailor making certain wines so they can be closer to the taste of some of their export markets. Later during the visit he was joined by his wife, the export manager.
After a visit in the vineyard where plenty of people were picking up the grapes we went back to the HQ and had a tasting of some of their entry level wines. We tasted about 8-10 wines. Nothing memorable but interesting to see that they are careful with the quality on every level.
We went into the fermentation room where plenty of massive stainless steel tanks were under heavy duty carrying the ongoing fermentation of the new 2010 crop.
We also met their Australian winemaker, Mr Hartley Smithers, who usually spends 4 months in Romania during autumn coordinating the whole process of harvesting, fermenting and making the blends. When he is not in Romania, Mr Cox supervises the necessary work in the vineyards based on the his advices.
Some of the wines are aged in oak barrels for as long as 12-14 months. They started to use more French and American oak as, based on Mr Cox’s statement, the Romanian oak is not consistent in quality.
The afternoon was the most hectic part of this trip. We had to taste an additional 25-27 wines: their middle and premium level wines and some of the imports.
The most interesting part of tasting their premium wines, was a vertical of 4 vintages of Cuvee Uberland(2006-2009) with 2009 still in barrel. The 2009 Cuvee Uberland will be bottled in November and kept in bottles another 6 months before being released. They started with the 2007 vintage to change completely the style of the wine, by cutting the grapes and leaving them to naturally dry in the vines for 3 weeks in 2007 and 14 days in 2009. They are still experimenting with this new method but so far I believe that the 2009 is their most successful wine. 2009, just like the rest of Europe, was a great vintage in Romania. It seems that 2009 is in line with the 2003 vintage in Romania capable of giving some of the best wines made. As much as I do not prefer the 2007 or the 2008, I am a big fan of their 2006, which gained more in the aftertaste, and find the 2009 having a great potential to surpass it. A new tasting of these two last wines will bring more clarification to the table.
Another interesting wine is the white Solo Quinta 2009, a blend of 3-4 different white grapes with a small part of Merlot made as a white wine. The Solo Quinta has a very interesting story – a brilliant marketing initiative if you ask me. The first Solo Quinta was made in 2008 using the same recipe of 3-4 white grapes and a small Cabernet Sauvignon part made as a white wine. It seems they received an order from a customer in 2008 to make a white wine from Cabernet Sauvignon so part of this ended up making the new Solo Quinta. The wines had a very positive feedback from the customers.
Mr Cox mentioned they have an ambitious project to launch a new icon wine made from Feteasca Neagra with a double fermentation(appasimento technique) in a joint venture with the largest producer of Amarone from Veneto. Special works in the vineyards and new facilities with automatized temperature to dry the grapes are under way and signing a contract is pending.
We tasted quickly about 10-12 of their imports and the most interesting, for me, were the 2005 Robert Mondavi Cabernet Sauvignon – a nice big but not bombastic Napa Cab, the 2004 Masi Costasera Riserva – complex with plenty of aromas, the 2003 Black Pepper Shiraz – a surprising Shiraz and the 2003 Masi Campolongo di Torbe – a closed wine that didn’t have enough time to breathe as we were in a rush to catch the returning plane.
I find the 2004 Masi Costasera Riserva more approachable and giving more pleasure at the moment than the more expensive 2003 Campolongo di Torbe.
Even if the visit was short, it was very well planned and it was a great opportunity for me to taste most of their wines. I am looking forward to do a comparative tasting of their 2006 and 2009. Will post the tasting notes shortly.
If you happen to be around Timisoara I strongly advice you to go and pay them a visit as they have a lovely restaurant, good wines and they will warmly welcome you.
Thanks for reading!