Each Glass Has a Story: Discovering the Wines of Romania
Imagine a realm where, reminiscent of Grimm fairy tales, a queen's heart rests in a majestic silver case, in the grandeur of a medieval castle. Amidst dense emerald forests, formidable bears stand guard while their neighbors, diligent winemakers, throughout centuries, craft wines that have conquered even the noblest of royal courts with their exquisite elegance and complexity.
Welcome to Romania, a land veiled in enigmatic lore and legends, where heartfelt hospitality and the warm smiles of locals intertwine harmoniously with captivating historical narratives and gourmet delights, leaving an indelible imprint on one's soul.
In this article, we embark on a journey to a place where mountain peaks touch the clouds, where diverse cultures interweave like a masterfully tied knot, infusing vibrant colors and an unparalleled ambiance. Here, contrasting with ancient towns, new trendy establishments start to flourish, ready to satiate the most refined palates.
A Haven for Wine Lovers in the Heart of Bucharest
I find immense joy in embarking on journeys without expectations, where an open heart paves the way for delightful adventures, and a newfound destination never fails to astonish. Such was my experience during my trip to Romania. Fueled by a longing to discover a hidden gem in the world of wine, I set my sights on Bucharest.
This vibrant city often likened to a petite Paris, surpassed all my expectations. Its elegant classical architecture, sprawling green parks, awe-inspiring palaces, and magnificent museums evoked a sense of grandeur. And amidst this captivating backdrop, I was pleasantly surprised to stumble upon a myriad of modern wine bars, inviting me to indulge in the pleasures of wine tasting and food pairing.
In my quest for exceptional vintages and local grape varietals, I stumbled upon a small yet elegant gem known as "Wine Drops." Stepping through its doors, I was warmly welcomed by an enthusiastic gentleman. As I savored my first sip, a full-bodied red wine, a sophisticated blend of Merlot, Cabernet Franc, and the indigenous Feteasca Neagra, I couldn't help but be captivated by more than just the flavors. The story of my host, Liviu, left a lasting impression on me. Once a successful IT professional, he found himself irresistibly drawn to the world of wine. Determined to create a haven in the historic heart of Bucharest, where locals and international visitors could revel in the pleasures of wine and explore the rich winemaking heritage of Romania, Liviu embarked on an ambitious journey.
Over the past few months, he’s been ensuring his customers get an exceptional experience, studying for WSET, and polishing glasses that shine with perfection. With his sights set on the horizon, his next ambitious endeavor is to bring forth remarkable wines from every corner of the globe, allowing his esteemed guests to embark on a remarkable journey of "tasting the world" from the comfort of his intimate establishment. As we engaged in conversation, his passion for Romanian winemaking and his deep love for both wine and country radiated from him, leaving me inspired and eager to delve further into this captivating world.
Romanian Traditions, Italian Accents
My journey takes me further north, where I find myself strolling along the charming cobblestone streets of the captivating medieval city of Brasov. Enveloped by lush green forests and adorned with majestic cathedrals and red-tiled roofs that grace the pastel-coloured houses, I chanced upon yet another treasure—Antreu Focaccerie.
Stepping inside, I’m immediately immersed in a captivating fusion of Italian culinary traditions. The air is filled with the delightful aroma of freshly baked focaccias, generously adorned with an array of exquisite ingredients. From luscious mozzarella balls to delicate slices of prosciutto, from the velvety texture of black olive paste to the vibrant flavours of pesto sauce and sun-dried tomatoes—the options seem endless.
Here, a harmonious marriage of Mediterranean culinary delights and an extensive selection of wines awaits, a wondrous innovation that stems from Niku's (the owner) immersive travels through Italy. Inspired by his experiences, he ingeniously melds the winemaking traditions of his native land with the rich and trendy gastronomic heritage of Italy, resulting in exceptional gourmet heaven.
Antreu Focaccerie and its owner Niku. Images by Darya Boronilo ©
Nestled upon the cozy tiny bar, I savor each bite of the warm, freshly baked focaccia, all while being captivated by the sight of a long queue of customers stretching beyond the doorway. A warm smile adorns Niku's face as he gracefully serves me a captivating blend of Fetească Negră and Saperavi, a wine that effortlessly wins my heart with its exquisite harmony and impeccable structure. Eagerly, I transition to a refreshing Romanian Riesling, which pleasantly surprises me with its invigorating freshness and pronounced acidity. And finally, I’m introduced to the enchanting world of local Sparkling, a testament to the country's diverse winemaking prowess.
Romanian Sparkling Wines for the Royal Family
Tucked away along the revered Wine Road, a treasure trove of stories infused with regal allure awaits me in Azuga. Within the historic cellars of Rhein, a distinguished winery that dates back to 1892, sparkling wine has been crafted in the traditional Champenoise manner, a process involving the fermentation of wine within bottles. Notably, Rhein held the esteemed privilege of supplying wine to a Royal family, bestowing their renowned sparkling elixirs with an extra touch of prestige. It’s here, within these hallowed walls, that Rhein Extra, the oldest and most illustrious Romanian brand of sparkling wine, was born, forever cementing its legacy in the annals of vinicultural excellence.
A mere 20-minute train ride transports me to the Peles Castle, hailed as the epitome of Romania's architectural beauty. Within its walls, the heart of Queen Maria’s heart, a pivotal figure in the country's unification following the First World War, finds its resting place in a delicate silver case placed in the golden room. Surrounded by an ensemble of mythological statues and vibrant gardens, this captivating sight evokes a profound sense of stepping into a genuine fairy tale. And what could be more resplendent than indulging in a glass of sparkling wine while gazing upon the majestic castle, allowing the harmonious blend of flavors to intertwine with the breathtaking scenery before me?
Heritage Tracing Back to the Roman Empire
Romania's winemaking heritage is deeply rooted in history, tracing back to the days of the Roman Empire. However, it was the French who played a significant role in shaping modern Romanian viticulture by imparting their knowledge of planting vineyards on rootstocks after the devastating phylloxera outbreak.
One fascinating aspect of Romanian wine lies in the Dealu Mare region, nestled within the embrace of the Southern Carpathian Mountains. Situated at the same latitude as renowned wine regions like Bordeaux and Tuscany, this exceptional location offers similar climatic conditions, fostering the cultivation of exceptional grapes. Dealu Mare holds the distinction of being the first region in Romania to produce red wine, with the local grape variety, Fetyasca Neagra, reigning as a true celebrity, known for crafting elegant wines.
Moreover, an exciting array of other grape varieties thrives in Romanian fertile lands, including Cabernet Sauvignon, Pinot Noir, Merlot, Burgundy, Zweigelt for reds, and Riesling, Pinot Gris, Sauvignon Blanc, Muscat Ottonel, Tamayoasa Romanesca, Fetyaska Regala, Chardonnay, Italian Riesling, Riesling de Rhin, and Aligote for whites.
The captivating blend of tradition, unique terroir, and diverse grape varieties make Romanian winemaking a truly captivating journey for enthusiasts and connoisseurs alike.
Sip Your Wine Among Luxury
As a wine writer, I’m left utterly captivated by the discovery of Romanian wines. This remarkable destination has left an indelible mark on my new journey. It’s not solely the rich winemaking heritage and the introduction of new grape varieties that have won my heart. What truly astounds me is the unparalleled experience of sipping Romanian wines amidst luxury and in the most breathtaking settings. Picture holding your glass while relaxing in the warm embrace of hot thermal springs at one of Europe's finest thermal resorts, or relishing in the warmth of a glass of mulled wine while hitting the slopes of picturesque ski slopes. And let us not forget the sheer magic of savoring a glass of sparkling wine, its effervescence mirroring the enchantment of fairytale-like castles that grace the landscape. In Romania, the opportunities for one-of-a-kind experiences seem boundless. It’s this captivating aspect that fascinates me the most and leaves me yearning to uncover more hidden vinous treasures within this extraordinary destination.