A1.14 What makes a Romanian wine special?
If you are not convinced that Romanian wine is a very good wine, we hope that after the explanations below you'll realize that this is less of a marketing trick and more of a reality.
We'll briefly explain why a Romanian wine is good:
- Romanian Terroir
- International grape vines that are grown in Romania
- Local wine varieties that are produced in Romania
- Romanian vocabulary (wine regions, wine types...)
Romanian terroir is a key element in the good qualities of Romanian wine. Romania is a medium sized country with mountains, many hills, coastal areas on the Black Sea, many rivers, a delta (Danube Delta).
The Romanian wine regions, all over Romania, have a wide mix of environmental factors (e.g. close to a river, on a hill, with a lot of sun on a yearly basis e.g. average 300 sunny days in a year).
Romanian climate is continental with sunny, warm/hot summers and cold winters. Therefore Romanian vineyards benefit from a lot of sun on a yearly basis.
Romanian wine regions lie at the same latitudes as France's important wine regions. Northern Romania vineyards such as Cotnari cross the 47th parallel, on which southern Alsace and northern Burgundy are situated. Southern Romania regions such as Murfatlar vineyrad, spanning the 43rd and 44th parallels, lie perfectly aligned with some parts of France's Mediterranean coast e.g. Provence and Languedoc-Roussillon.
Obviously, such comparisons are not entirely indisputable because many other elements play a role in the makeup of a particular terroir such as climate, soil, relief, altitude, proximity to water…
However studies have shown that particular vineyards in France and Romania share many characteristics: e.g. Comparative Physico-Geographical Considerations Referring to Cotnari Vineyard and Côte De Beaune Vineyard
Around the time Romania joined the European Union (2007) the winemakers industry started growing exponentially. Around 250 million euro have been invested in Romanian wineries over the last 15 years. This has lead to a significant improvement in the quality of the grape vines (e.g. new noble grapevines were planted, replacing old ones and new wineries have been established while old ones have been modernized).
This in turn lead to a higher competition on the Romanian wine market resulting in a higher quality of Romanian wines.
Romanian consumers have also gone through a serious transformation from wine as a ordinary drink to a more sophisticated take on wine demanding quality wines.
Last but not least, know-how has been imported as well from countries such as France, Italy and Germany, with French winemakers establishing new wineries in Romania.
Nowadays Romania can boast a dynamic wine market with many professional winemakers and a steady but growing presence on the international market. We see in recent years Romanian wines being submitted to renowned experts such as the Wine Advocate (Robert Parker) scoring Romanian wines (e.g. 90 points). Jancis Robinson also reviewed many Romanian wines appreciating their qualities.
Romania has also another very important advantage, lower prices and a very competitive quality/price ratio.
You will find very many international wine varieties in Romania. Below we are listing both the red and white wine grape vines.
International red wine grape varieties cultivated in Romania
Merlot, Cabernet Sauvignon, and Pinot Noir top the red wine grape varieties that Romanian wineries prefer.
Please find below a list of all the wine grapes grown in Romania for red wines:
Blaufraenkish, Cabernet Franc, Cabernt Sauvignon, Marselan, Merlot, Pinot Noir, Zinfandel (primitivo), Zweigelt
International white wine grape varieties cultivated in Romania
There are many well known white wine varieties in Romania:
Aligoté, Chardonnay, Gewürztraminer (Traminer roz in Romanian), Muscat Ottonel, Pinot Gris, Riesling, Sauvignon Blanc, Syrah (Shiraz), Welschriesling
For white wine: Busuoaică de Bohotin, Crâmpoșie, Fetească albă, Fetească Regală, Frâncușă, Galbenă de Odobești, Grasă de Cotnari, Tămâioasă Românească, Zghihară de Huși
For red wine: Băbească Neagră, Cadarcă, Creață de Banat, Fetească Neagră, Negru de Drăgășani, Novac, Plăvaie
Which are the most popular local Romanian wine grape vines?
Fetească neagră is maybe the most important Romanian local grape variety. It is an acient local grape vine planted in many regions of Romania.
The typical red wines are dry or medium dry with only a few medium or sweet. The Fetească Neagră wine can be aged in the bottle.
Grapes are shaped like a cylinder or a cone with small spherical berries.
Fetească neagră wine color: deep red with ruby shades.
Fetească neagră wine aroma: discreet but very specific resembling dry plums. In aged wines a light cinnamon aroma is perceived.
Fetească neagră wine flavors: blackcurrant.
Typical wine acidity: 5,5-6,5 g/l tartaric acid (well balanced)
Typical wine alcohol:12.0% - 12,5% (up to 14%)
Which is the best Fetească neagră wine? Please see our dedicated article on best local varieties wines.
Translation:The word "Fetească" is translated as "maiden" and is a word that is mainly used in connection with the wine, thus not used in any other non-wine context. "Neagră" means black, thus the "Fetească neagră" would be translated as "Black maiden".
Fetească regală (Royal maiden)
Fetească regală is the most widely planted local variety in Romania (in all regions of Romania). It is a cross between Fetească albă and Grasă de Cotnari. Typical wines are dry or medium dry with only a few medium or sweet.
Grapes are shaped like a cylinder or a cone with many small yellow-greenish berries.
Fetească regală wine color: while the young wine's color is yellow-greenish the vintage Fetească regală wine has a pale yellow tone, like straw.
Fetească regală wine aroma this is a fine, fresh aromatic wine, light and harmonious with a discreet flower flavor. It is well balanced between a light perfume and a special flavor that helps the wine stand out and impress.
Typical wine acidity: 7-7,5 g/l tartaric acid
Typical wine alcohol:11.5% - 12,5%
Which is the best Fetească regală wine? Please see our dedicated article on best local varieties wines.
Translation:"Fetească" is translated as "maiden" and is a word that is mainly used in connection with the wine, thus not used in any other non-wine context. "Regală" means "royal", thus the "Fetească regală" would be translated as "Royal maiden".
Fetească albă (White maiden)
Fetească albă is the second most cultivated local variety in Romania (it is wide spread across Romania, especially in Romanian - Moldova). It is an old Romanian variety that has its roots in the Fetească Neagră variety. Typical wines are dry, with only a few medium dry, medium or sweet.
Grapes are shaped like a cylinder or a cone with many small yellow-greenish berries.
Fetească albă wine is a fine, elegant wine, with a well-balanced amount of alcohol (11,5-12%) and acidity.
Typical wine acidity: 5,5-6,3 g/l tartaric acid
Typical wine alcohol:11.5% - 12,5%
Which is the best Fetească albă wine? Please see our dedicated article on best local varieties wines.
Translation:"Fetească" is translated as "maiden" and is a word that is mainly used in connection with the wine, thus not used in any other non-wine context. "Albă" means white, thus the "Fetească albă" would be translated as "White maiden".
Grasă de Cotnari
Grasă de Cotnari is a wine grape variety originating from Cotnari vineyard (located in the north-est of Romania in the Moldavia region). It is thought that one of the greatest Moldavian rulers of the 15th century Stephen the Great drank this wine. This wine is less fashionable nowadays as opposed to 10-20 years ago.
The typical wines are white, sweet, medium or medium-dry produced mainly via a noble rot process.
Grapes are average in size shaped like a cylinder or a cone with small less dense spherical berries.
Grasă de Cotnari wine color: while younger wine tends to be yellow with some greenish shades, the aged wine gets a golden yellow color.
Grasă de Cotnari wine aroma: dried apricots and walnuts
Grasă de Cotnari wine flavors: complex combination of walnut, raisins and bitter almonds
Typical Grasă de Cotnari wine acidity: min 4,5 g/l tartaric acid
Typical wine alcohol:11,5% - 12,5%
Which is the best Grasă de Cotnari wine? Please see our dedicated article on best local varieties wines.
Translation:"Grasă" is translated as "fat" whereas " de Cotnari" means from Cotnari (a specific village in the north est Romanian Moldavian region).
Tămâioasă românească is an old Romanian grape variety. It is cultivated in many regions of Romania. Also known as Romanian Muscatel it is said to be derived from Muscat.
Typical wines are white mostly sweet or medium but equally available as medium dry or dry. Tămâioasă românească has a powerful personality which impresses by its intense floral flavor. This aromatic wine can be aged in the bottle.
Grapes are cylinder-conical shaped with dense golden-yellow berries.
Tămâioasă românească wine color: golden yellow and sometimes with greenish shades
Tămâioasă românească wine aroma: While younger wines have an intense floral bouquet the old wines present a honeycomb aroma.
Tămâioasă românească wine flavors: light bodied, with a pleasant acidity exposing floral flavors
Typical Tămâioasă românească wine acidity: 5-6 g/l tartaric acid (well balanced)
Typical Tămâioasă românească wine alcohol:12% - 12,5%
Which is the best Tămâioasă românească wine? Please see our dedicated article on best local varieties wines.
Translation:"Tămâioasă" is a derived term of "Tămâie" that is the name given to an aromatic resin (Frankincense) used in religious ceremonies.
Busuoaică de Bohotin (Basil of Bohotin)
Busuioacă de Bohotin comes from Bohotin, a vilage in the Iași county.
Grapes are mid-sized and shaped like a cylinder or a cone. The berries are spherical, dense on the stem, purple-reddish colored. Supposedly it belongs to the family of Muscat Rouge à Petits Grains.
Busuioacă de Bohotin wine is classified as rosé with a unique onionskin color with shades of violet, typically sweet or medium but can also be found as medium dry or dry.
Busuioacă de Bohotin wine has a special rosy, basil aroma. Its flavor resembles a mix of honeysuckle, ripe juicy peaches and bitter almonds.
Typical wine acidity: 4-6 g/l tartaric acid
Typical wine alcohol:11.5% - 13,5%
Which is the best Busuioacă de Bohotin wine? Please see our dedicated article on best local varieties wines.
Translation: "Busuoaică" is a term that comes from "busuioc" which is translated into English as "basil". Bohotin is a vilage in nord-eastern Romania. An approximate translation of the name would be: "Basil of Bohotin". It's interesting to note that this form of the Romanian word "busuioacă" is, with a very few exceptions, exclusively used for denoting the wine variety from Bohotin.
Băbească neagră together with Fetească neagră is an ancient local grape vine planted in Romania. It is cultivated in many regions of Romania, mainly in Moldavia (in the Nicorești wineyard), Dobrujea (Dobrogea) and Wallachia (Valahia). It is the main blend in the most famous Moldovan wine Negru de Purcari. Băbească neagră or Băbească de Nicorești is said to have been appreciated by the famous French Cardinal Richelieu.
Typical wines are red and rosé, dry or medium dry. Băbească Neagră wine can be aged in the bottle.
Grapes are branchy with less dense uneven berries.
Băbească neagră wine color: ruby red
Băbească neagră wine aroma: bitter sour cherries, dry plums, as well as flower aromas such as violets, peony and iris.
Băbească neagră wine flavors: light bodied due to the smooth almost unperceived tannins coupled with a high acidity for a red wine. Băbească neagră can be considered from an structure-aroma point of view close to Pinot Noir, Zweigelt, Gamay, St. Laurent or Blaufrankisch.
Typical Băbească neagră wine acidity: 5-6 g/l tartaric acid (well balanced)
Typical Băbească neagră wine alcohol:10% - 11,5%
Which is the best Băbească neagră wine? Please see our dedicated article on best local varieties wines.
Translation:"Băbească" is translated as "old lady" whereas "neagră" means black, thus the "Băbească neagră" would be translated as "Black old lady".
Negru de Drăgășani
Negru de Drăgășani grape variety has its origin in Romania where it was created by Romanian enologists and researchers Mircea Mărculescu and Mircea Vlădăşel in 1993 at the Vine Research Domain of Drăgășani. Negru de Drăgășani wine feels fresh, with a pleasant acidity, flavorful as it enters the mouth with mild tannins and long, lingering finish.
Negru de Drăgășani wines are red mostly dry and are suitable for aging in oak barrels and then in bottles.
Negru de Drăgășani grapes are medium sized, cylindrical uni/bi/three winged with medium berries of blue-black color.
Negru de Drăgășani wine color: deep red-ruby color and violet hues
Negru de Drăgășani wine aroma: fruit bouquet (black cherry, blueberries) and spices
Negru de Drăgășani wine flavors: black cherry and spices (freshly ground pepper)
Typical Negru de Drăgășani wine acidity: 4,5-6 g/l tartaric acid (well balanced)
Typical Negru de Drăgășani wine alcohol:12% - 12,5%
Which is the best Negru de Drăgășani wine? Please see our dedicated article on best local varieties wines.
Translation:"Negru" is translated as "black" whereas Drăgășani is the name of a city in central Romania. Thus Negru de Drăgășani means: Black from/of Drăgășani.
Galbenă de Odobești
Galbenă de Odobești is an old Romanian grape variety that is cultivated in only one Romanian district Vrancea. Typical wines are dry, white light and fresh, this is why it is recommended to drink it as a young wine e.g. one year old wine. It can also be used for producing Romanian brandy (vinars).
Please pay attention to the similarly named wine Golden de Odobești which as an inferior wine that has no real connection with the Galbenă de Odobești.
Galbenă de Odobești grapes are cylindrical winged with medium berries of blue-black color.
Galbenă de Odobești wine color: yellow with greenish shades
Galbenă de Odobești wine aroma: discreet fresh fruit bouquet
Galbenă de Odobești wine flavors: light and fresh with no particular distinct flavor
Typical Galbenă de Odobești wine acidity: 4,5-6 g/l tartaric acid (well balanced)
Typical Galbenă de Odobești wine alcohol:9% - 11,5%
Which is the best Galbenă de Odobești wine? Please see our dedicated article on best local varieties wines.
Translation:"Galbenă" is translated as "yellow" whereas Odobești is the name of a city in central Romania, Vrancea county. Thus Galbenă de Odobești means: Yellow from/of Odobești.