A new visit at Cramele Recas
It does seem to me that this starts to become a regular annual event. Just like about one year ago, I received an invitation to visit Recas Winery at the beginning of March. The same means of transportation: one hour by plane as they are situated 550 km NW from Bucharest, but this time the crowd invited was slightly different than in the past. If last year the guests were only people writing about wine in a professional or amateur way, this year’s group was far bigger (25 people) and far more varied. There were also journalists from financial and food publications, owners or part-owners of restaurants from Bucharest and people from marketing agencies. You could not get a more diversified group of people visiting a winery.
The purpose of our visit was to taste their new wines, with emphasize on the new Castel Huniade range. Castel Huniade replaces the old Castle Rock brand and it covers the range of 15-17 Ron wines. Just as the management mentioned, this seems to be the preferred range of wines for weddings and it is demanded by most of hotels, restaurants and other enterprises involved in the hospitality business.
Mr Philip Cox was, just like last year, our host during the visit. The visit started with a tour of the premises and detailed explanations about each step involved in the wine making process. It seems that Recas winery is among one of the few very successful producers in Romania as last year they faced more demand than their actual production for some of the wines. Their premium wines: the red Cuvee Uberland and the white Solo Quinta were real blockbusters, completely sold out way before the new vintage was even harvested. Mr Cox explained that currently they produce about 12 Millions L of wine per vintage and the aim is to increase to 18 Millions by 2015. Their exports increased significantly – 130%, last year they sold about 1 Million bottles in UK through Tesco. The exports are expected to increase from 40% of the total production to 50%. The most most notable success, that Mr Cox is very proud of, was the selection of Solo Quinta 2011 by Maze – a British Michelin star restaurant belonging to Gordon Ramsay – as one of their white house wines.
Mr Cox was very transparent about the company’s strategy and mentioned they are always looking in advance what are the global fashionable trends in wines and they try to go along those lines. This is a fairly big winery,with around 950 ha under production, and they started to extend more with acquisitions in Minis, near Arad area.
The visit was structured to start with an initial tasting of the Castel Huniade range in the morning, lunch, visit in the vineyard and then a tasting of Cocosul and Sole range, Cuvee Uberland and Solo Quinta in the afternoon. Castel Huniade range comprises of 8 wines: whites are Riesling, Feteasca Regala, Sauvignon Blanc, Chardonnay, a rose and three reds, Merlot/Feteasca Neagra, Cabernet Sauvignon and Merlot/Pinot Noir. Many of these wines are off-dry and semi-sweet which I find fatiguing to enjoy, but it does seem to appeal to a vast majority of consumers. If I were to point some favorites of this range I would choose the only dry of the reds: the Cabernet Sauvignon and the off-dry Feteasca Regala from the whites.
Lunch consisted of a five course menu prepared by their own chef that heads the winery’s restaurant. The dishes were matched with foreign wines, the winery having a significant portfolio of imports consisting of top International brands: MASI, Robert Mondavi, Piccini, Planeta, Louis Latour and many others.
The menu: salmon carpaccio with salad and parmigiano / grilled shrimps with green beans soup / duck breast with Gorgonzola, nuts, quince jam, rice and baby carrots / beef steak with cheese and black truffles sauce, tagliatelle and endives / dessert: pastry with apple and vanilla sauce.
The wines served during the meal were: 2010 Nederburg Chardonnay South Africa, 2007 and 2010 Nobilo Sauvignon Blanc New Zeeland, 2009 Planeta Chardonnay, 2009 Cono Sur Carmenere Reserva, 2005 Robert Mondavi Cabernet Sauvignon Napa Valley and for dessert we had, just like the previous visit, a sweet 2005 Traminer produced from vines that are no longer existent.
I particularly enjoyed 2009 Planeta Chardonnay: gold yellow color, expressive nose, elegant, with plenty of flavors of butter, vanilla, yellow flowers,ripe yellow fruit, honey, unctuous on the palate, an oxidative character, rich, with a long finish (91/100).
2005 Robert Mondavi Cabernet Sauvignon was a perfect choice for the truffles infused sauce served with beef. The wine has a rich nose, with plenty of aromas of truffles, meat, peppery, but also generous ripe black fruits and bell pepper like typical Cabernet Sauvignon aromas, finely grained tannins, good structure and, considering the 15% alcohol, it feels pleasantly balanced, with a medium long spicy finish. It is however the type of wine that feels too much after 1 or 2 glasses. (91/100)
2005 Traminer does not have a label. The wine was made in very limited quantity, was never released on the market and nor will it be. It is gold colored, and has very nice aromas of kerosene, smoke, apricot, lime and pear, rose petals, a vibrant acidity that balances very well the natural sweetness and an intense long, lively finish. It goes very well with the dessert. (91/100)
After such a generous lunch, a walk into the vineyards was most welcomed. We also got the chance to take some nice pictures of the area that provides the grapes for Cuvee Uberland. The soil is rich in white clay and can be easily seen in the middle of the hill next to the winery.
Back at the winery, we started the next tasting. The former Cocosul brand was also re-branded and is now called Cocosul dintre vii. We tasted a Sauvignon Blanc, a Dry Muscat and a Pinot Noir from this range. I enjoyed the Dry Muscat the most. We tasted Sole Feteasca Regala and Chardonnay 2011, Solo Quinta 2011 and Cuvee Uberland 2009 and 2011. I confess liking more the 2011 Sole Chardonnay than the 2011 Solo Quinta (which contains up to 80% Chardonnay). The Sole Chardonnay comes along as a more serious wine to me, not having the Muscat like profile of Solo Quinta.
2009 Cuvee Uberland is a lot more different than last time I tasted it from barrel more than 1 year ago. Back then, it felt really big, with a body builder like profile and very ripe fruit flavors. Now, the wine seems to have lost a lot of its over-the-top muscles and metamorphosed into a more supple wine. It is however very young, it has a wide spectrum of flavors, but I find it hard to enjoy at the moment, due to a pronounced presence of its tannins on the finish.
2011 Cuvee Uberland from barrels has all the attributes of a wine situated in full transformation. The acidity is over the board, but the layers of fruit are there, the structure is in place and it seems to have a supple, but yet full body.
Cuvee Uberland’s style varied a lot from its inception. The first vintage produced – 2006, was supple and marching on elegance rather than power. Then, 2007 was powerful more than anything else, closer to an Amarone, as they employed a similar technique of drying the grapes ( cut and left on the vines for 3-4 weeks). The next vintages are more of a balancing between the two different styles, using with the same technique of drying the grapes. Cuvee Uberland was produced in 2006, 2007, 2008, 2009 and 2011. The 2010 vintage did not offer the right conditions to produce grapes of the quality required to make Cuvee Uberland.
For more pictures from this visit please click here.