Romanian Wine | A Growing Force In European Wine

Harry Lambourne
5th February 2024

Romanian wine is becoming increasingly popular. In the not so recent past, you’d be unlikely to find a bottle of it outside of Romania. Indeed, today they only export around 5-6% of their wine.

Yet, a demand for export is growing and you can now find Romanian wine in the UK. Even better, it often represents an excellent value for money. Yet, it can be hard to know exactly what you’re getting yourself in for, as many people won’t know nearly as much about Romanian wine, as they would say Italian wine or Spanish wine.

So, we’re here to help! We have put together a quick guide to Romanian wine. This will include a brief history of Romanian wine, the key grape varieties, as well as the varied terroir of a few key Romanian wine regions.

Part of the fun of wine stems from the sheer variety of wines to try. Peruse through this quick little article and go and pick up a bottle of Romanian wine for you to sample at home.

Let’s learn about Romanian wine.

The History of Romanian Wine

Romanian Wine Landscape
Romanian Wine

While it may only be recently that Romanian wine has found its way onto the British market, in fact Romanian wine has an ancient history.

Wine production in Romania actually dates all the way back to the Ancient Greeks, who would have brought over grapevines across the Black Sea as far back as 600BC. This would’ve been in the modern day area of Dobrogea. Today, the Dobrogea hills in the far south-eastern portion of the country is still a source of wine.

These sites were then utilised and expanded on by the Ancient Romans, (Romans in Romania seems to make sense after all).

Monasteries were also crucial in sustaining viticulture and developing vines right through the 16th and 17th century. Monks are often inextricably linked to the history of wine. They have had a profound influence in German wine, the French regions of Burgundy and Champagne, as well as countless others.

It would have been around these times that the famous sweet wine of Contari were being produced. It was held in high regard, along with other notable wines of the time such as Tokaji Aszú from Hungary and Vin de Constantia from South Africa.

However, the story of Romanian wine takes a sadly familiar turn in 1884. Romania, like most of Europe, was devastated by a phylloxera outbreak. These pests ripped through the nation and decimated the winemaking industry.

French winemakers helped to introduce American rootstocks to Romania. This helped to fight the pests and in the 20th century, Romania was back on its feet and had established its first demarcated wine regions.

Yet, instability was introduced again through two world wars. Then, as part of the Soviet Union, high yields and quantity were prioritised over quality. State owned vineyards were asked to crank out as much wine as possible and there was no private ownership for vineyards, which would allow them to try and put their own creative stamp on the wines which they were producing.

As we all know, this came to an end. Though, Romania still had a great deal of work to do to catch up to other wine-making nations. A scarcity of both investment and resources stalled progress. However, Romania was introduced into the European Union in 2007 and this has led to greater funding in the wine industry. This helps to replant vineyards, modernise wineries and attract foreign investment.

This points towards a brighter future for Romanian wine as they look to recapture successes of the past and plant both international and indigenous grape varieties. Let’s look into which grape varieties have begun to thrive in Romania.

The Grape Varieties Of Romanian Wine

Romanian wine tends to place equal importance on both international and indigenous grape varieties.

Merlot Grapes
Merlot Grapes – Crucial In Romanian Wine

For example, you can expect to find large amounts of Merlot and Cabernet Sauvignon in a classic International style. It’ll be fresher and more fruit-forward than the wines of Bordeaux, as a comparison.

You can also look out for Pinot Noir, Pinot Gris, Sauvignon Blanc and Chardonnay.

Another key white grape, which isn’t indigenous to Romania, is Welschriesling, (not to be confused with Riesling). They are still aromatic, fresh and acidic, often displaying notes of apple, citrus fruit, tropical fruit and whispers of ginger.

Now, for the indigenous grape varieties, you should remember the word ‘Fêteasca’. There are three variations. Fêteasca Regala which is an acidic white wine which is delicate and elegant when done properly. It often delivers ripe notes of peach and apricot.

Next up, is Fêteasca Alba. This is another white wine grape that possesses naturally high sugar levels. This makes it well suited to sweet wine production. However, it also means that it will struggle to retain acidity in the warmer years.

Finally, we have Fêteasca Neagra, the second most planted red grape variety behind Merlot. It is dark and has clear tannins with black and red fruit flavours. It also has powerful notes of smoke and spice. The appetite for this style of wine is clear. You’ll also find the smokey and spicy Blaufränkisch planted in Romania which is a staple of Austrian wine.

Key Romanian Wine Regions

Romania is home to a rich and varied landscape, so the individual terroir of each region can be really distinct and natural factors vary in the vineyards. However, the climate is largely moderate and continental. The latter means there are large fluctuations in temperature across the seasons, with less severe differences between daytime and nighttime temperature.

Yet, there are clear points of difference. For instance, vines in and around the Carpathian mountains, (which covers about 33% of the land area in Romania), will be far cooler due to the altitude and have a somewhat Alpine climate, (which isn’t disimilar to Piedmont). The mountains also help to block the worst of the cold wind coming in from Siberia. The mountains are especially important to the Translyvanian Plateau, Banat, Crisana and Maramures Romanian wine regions.

Carpathian Mountains
Carpathian Mountains

Then, in the south you have the Dobrogea Hills which sit by the Black Sea. The Danube Terraces to the west of this and finally, the Oltenia and Muntenia Hills area which is spread across Romania towards the Serbian border.

This has been our quick guide to Romanian wine and hopefully, it gives you some inspiration to go out and grab a bottle for yourself! If you’d like to browse our range of Romanian wine, be sure to click the button below!

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If you’d simply just like to learn more about wine from the comfort of your own home, be sure to check out our online blog and sign up to our mailing list. We’re always looking to teach people about different regions, grape varieties and producers. Beyond that, you can expect to find a whole host of playlists, cocktail cards and recipe cards packed full of wine pairing ideas. There might even be some special offers along the way so make sure that you don’t miss out!

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