When Romania joined the European Union in 2007, it began the task of creating a good reputation for producing quality Romanian wines. Five years were spent reviewing and organizing its wine industry. New wine laws covering production standards and labeling have been put in place and they have continued to evolve. The three quality categories are Vin de Masa (Table Wine), Vin cu Indicatie Geografica (IGP) and Denumire de Origine Controlata (AOP/DOC equivalent).
There has been an emergence of good quality, small Romanian wine producers. These wineries have a completely different approach to wine making than the large volume producers. This has resulted in the development of some premium Romanian wine. However, there is still a lot of low-quality, high-volume production. It has been reported that only about a third of Romanian vineyards use high quality grapes. This is the lowest percentage in Europe.
International Organisation of Vine and Wine (OIV) statistics place Romania as fifth in Europe and tenth in the world for the area under vine. This puts Romania in a similar situation to Chile and Portugal when comparing the portion of the country under vine. Wine production is slightly above that of New Zealand.
The Romanian wine-making industry suffered during the communist era as a result of quantity being prioritized over quality. With the end of communism the country had to deal with hyperinflation and hard economic times and the wine industry suffered further as a result. During this time mass market wine, “cheap plonk”, became the main export, giving Romanian wine a bad reputation for producing low quality wine.
However, since then the wine industry is improving. During the past few years a new generation of wine makers has been developing. These small, craft producers have taken advantage of EU funds to invest in new winemaking technology.
They have begun replanting older vines with better quality clones and are experimenting with the winemaking style, taking a new world approach to the process. Grape-growing expertise has been brought in from France and Germany to help make the most from the terrain.
These niche producers dedicate a percentage of their produce to premium, high-quality wine that feature the best grapes and have the highest care and attention. In response to the growing demand for quality wine, some of the well-established large producers have also started to make more premium wine.
Most Romanian wine producers are now making wine from a mix of international and indigenous grapes, although there are a number of producers that focus exclusively on international grape varieties. Many of the high-quality clones are French. While Romania’s domestic preference is for white wines, red varietals are on the rise to compete with the international market.
The most popular international white grape varieties are Chardonnay, Pinot Grigio and Sauvignon Blanc, while the reds include Merlot, Cabernet Sauvignon, Syrah and Pinot Noir.
There are also some Romanian grape varieties that can be very good as well. These include:
- Fetească, which is used to make dry, fresh, perfumed white wines. It has some body and can be barrel fermented for more complexity.
- Tămȃioasă Romȃnească (‘frankincense grape’) or Romanian Muscat, which is a clone of the Muscat Blanc à Petit Grains, one of the world’s oldest grape varieties. It results in perfumed and aromatic white wines.
- Fetească Neagra is a red wine which is full-bodied and contains a medium amount of tannins. These wines become velvety with age and contain aromas of spice and black or red fruit.
Romanian wines have the name of the grape varietal on the label, making it easier to identify the type of wines you like.