The evolution of the Romanian wines
The March 2012 edition of Goodwine fair brought more visitors in the first day of opening than any of the previous editions – definitely a big step forward for the Romanian wine sector. There were a lot of interesting new wines launched and, more importantly, there seems to be a significant evolution in the overall quality and commitment to improve at all levels: from small boutique wineries, that produce just a few tens of thousands of bottles, to large, mammoth wineries, producing tens of millions of wine every year. In this respect I was very pleasantly impressed by the new premium wines launched by Jidvei and the new Cotnari division.
Jidvei hired Mr. Marc Dworkin as wine maker. Mr. Dworkin is a Frenchman with a strong Bordeaux background who worked together with Mr. Michel Rolland in the past and already produces red wines from Merlot, Feteasca Neagra and Cabernet Sauvignon in Romania at Aliman (Winero) and from International red grape varieties for Enira, in Bulgaria. For Jidvei, Mr. Dworkin produced for now a Pinot Gris, a Feteasca Alba and a Chardonnay as their first white wines, and a Pinot Noir that still undergoes maturation in oak barrels. I actually attended a private preview blind tasting of these wines in December 2011 while they were unfiltered in tanks and they were already very promising. As the blind tasting was organized by Mr. Dworkin it was clear who the winemaker was but I had, at that time, no clue who was the producer.
At Jidvei’s booth I particularly enjoyed the Feteasca Alba, a wine with very nice floral aromas and very good body, lively and fresh, but keeping an elegant line. I also liked the Chardonnay, aged for 4-5 months in oak barrels that shows very good oak absorption already, elegant, round and long.
The collaboration between Jidvei and Mr. Dworkin will be extended from 100 ha as he’s supervising now to 200+ ha next year.
The same move of associating their name with a prestigious International winemaker was done last year by Murfatlar, when they entered into an agreement with Mr. Razvan Macici – the most famous Romanian winemaker working for Nederbug, a large producer of quality wines from South-Africa.
Cotnari, a very large winery that mostly produces modest and unconvincing wines, made also a spin-off winery focused on quality, premium wines. Launched under the Simpozion brand, the wines tasted at the fair are different, better than all previous ones. Feteasca Alba, Tamaioasa Romaneasca and Grasa de Cotnari vinified dry are really interesting to try. If they maintain the same course, the consumers will have a wide range of alternatives to choose from in the future.
Liliac is a new winery from Lechinta, near Targu Mures, that recently launched a first line of wines and was also present at this fair. The wines come from very young vines, but the owners made serious investments in replanting, building a new winery and buying brand new, state of the art equipment. The wines are produced by Mr. Willi Opitz, an Austrian winemaker more known for his Austrian sweet wines listed in famous restaurants and locations all over the world. Hopefully, as the vines will get older and offer better fruit, Mr. Opitz will be able to show the potential of this otherwise renowned white wine region. For now, Liliac showcased a Rose, a Feteasca Alba, a Feteasca Regala and a Sauvignon Blanc from the 2011 vintage, but also a sweet wine from 2010 as their whites, and a blend of Feteasca Neagra and Merlot from 2011 as their red.
I tasted the new 2011 whites from Crama Oprisor and their top reds from 2010, 2008 and 2007. The whites from “La Cetate” range are fresh, lively and forward, with fruity aromas and rewarding. I particularly liked the dry Tamaioasa Romaneasca, Sauvignon Blanc and Chardonnay, but the white that stood apart was their Rusalca Alba, a blend of four or five white grapes. The wine is elegant, not betting all on intense fruity aromas but also showing a nice complexity.
From the reds tasted I particularly liked the 2008 Nenumita, a wine with an extremely youthful dark red-purple color that shows a developed nose and intense spicy flavors, with a good tannins structure and extraction, having more room for development.
The 2007 Cutia Paleologu has a red color, showing more evolution both on the nose as the taste, more round and integrated, but with a less intense finish compared to Nenumita.
If I had to choose from the two, my bets would go for the 2008 Nenumita. The 2010 Smerenie is supple and spicy, and probably 6 months more of bottle aging will only make it better.
The Hungarian wines from Vylyan are very interesting. I enjoyed a lot their 2007 Cabernet Sauvignon – aged for 14-15 months in Hungarian oak – that shows a real supple character, with enough stuff to make it both interesting and intense in flavors, as well as a very good drink-ability.
Vinarte offered a good surprise this year. At their booth, I tasted 2009 Prince Mircea, 2008 Prince Matei and 2000 Prince Mircea from magnum. 2009 Prince Mircea is a really dense and fleshy Merlot, that shows a rich nose filled with truffles, black fruit and coffee aromas. Rich texture on the palate, with good structure and vibrant red and black fruit mixed with cocoa and plums, the wine has a medium aftertaste with assertive tannins and long flavors.
2008 Prince Matei is more backwards, supple and not revealing itself too much for the moment.
The 2000 Prince Mircea from magnum shows a maturing nose, with plenty of leather, tobacco and game aromas, mixed with bright fruit and coffee, a nose with really good intensity. Unfortunately the wine does not maintain the same intensity of flavors in the mouth, the aftertaste being relatively short. This wine should be drunk now as I do not find any more room for improvement. (85/100)
Avincis showcased also a few new wines, a new white blend and a red Cabernet Sauvignon. The 2007 Avincis Cabernet Sauvignon is already interesting. Stirbey continues to impress with their Extra Brut sparkling made from Cramposie.
I also enjoyed a 2009 Budureasca Pinot Noir Rezerva produced in a limited 2000 bottles release. The 2008 Origini Feteasca Neagra, the 2008 Cabernet Sauvignon and the 2007 Reserva are a bit too tannic for the moment, but the dry top white wine is already rewarding.
My visit at this fair was fairly short, for just a few hours on FRI. However, as short as it was, I could not miss the excitement of the organizers and the wineries representatives present, for the larger number of people that came on this first day of the fair, compared to the previous editions. I guess the revolution and abundance of new and better wines that we experience now is directly mirrored by the enthusiasm and the increasing number of people that want to discover and enjoy better wines.