So, you love wine. And you love the idea of visiting Romania. Are you, by any chance, dreaming about combining the two experiences? You are in the right place. Keep reading to learn more about Romanian wine, Romanian wineries, wine tasting tours (yes, you read that right!), the winemaking process, and much more.
History of Romanian Wine
We can track the existence of vineyards on Romanian territory back to the year 7000 B.C. Of course, we have come a long way since; All the grapes known today descend from the wild grape (the mother, if I may) known as Vitis Vinifera Silvestris. The 100% Romanian grape Feteasca Neagra is a direct descendant and one of the oldest red grape types.
We will be heading back to the winemaking regions of Romania right after we establish the history of winemaking in Romania. It should be noted that the actual winemaking has only begun to grow in the region with the fall of communism in 1989- once the vineyards have been reprivatized and given back to the rightful owners who soon understood the potential and insisted to produce wine, at first locally and later on internationally. If we are to look at the statistics, Romanian wines have had a fulminant growth and within 3 decades it now occupies an honorable 6th place in the EU for winemaking and an even more honorable 13th place worldwide.
On the International Market
Romanian wines have had a fulminant growth and within 3 decades it now occupies an honorable 6th place in the EU for winemaking and an even more honorable 13th place worldwideIt is safe to say the ranking would be even better if more Romanian wine would actually leave the territory. Although we applaud and we encourage local consumption (or whatever, in general), more export means more money and probably an overall better quality since wine producers would have all the means to invest in their businesses and of course, a much better recognition.
The biggest consumer of Romanian wines, besides Romania itself, is and has been for quite some time now the UK. The peak of export of Romanian wines to the UK was reached in 2018- marking 3 years of consecutive growth, according to thedrinkbusiness.com
It is common knowledge that clime and soil are two extremely important factors when talking about wine. It influences the final product’s taste, color, acidity, and so on. On that note, you should know that Romania has got a total of 8 wine-growing regions that fall into the EU’s climatic zones B, CI, and CII. The very wide temperature and climatic range mean that thanks to it, Romania is able to produce a large variety of wine styles: from sparkling and cool climate whites in Transylvania to full-bodied in the Dealu Mare region.
Specialists agree that Romanian wines would gain even more recognition (or the well-deserved recognition, some would argue) with better marketing and with sommeliers trained in Romanian wines. It is a bit hard to convince a non-connoisseur in Romanian wines having dinner at a restaurant in London to purchase a bottle of wine with a name they cannot pronounce and they know nothing about it. But things are looking up, measures have been taken into this matter and we sure are excited to see Romanian wines grow worldwide.
Local Types of Wine
Earlier in this article, we were mentioning the wine-producing regions of Romania. Let us have a closer look at this matter. An important thing to keep in mind is that each region of Romania is famous or exclusive at growing certain kinds of grapes. Before getting into details regarding regions, however, let us name a few Romanian all-time favorites that have passed the test of time:
- Reds: Feteasca Neagra, Negru de Dragasani and Codarca
- Whites: Feteasca Alba, Feteasca Regala, Grasa de Cotnari
As you may know, the wine itself is a form of art. That being said, let us dive into the ritual of wine tasting and how we can fully enjoy it, from A to Z.
What are the steps to a wine tasting?
While most people who define themselves as being wine lovers would say “just drink and enjoy”, there is so much more to wine tasting. As we were saying earlier, everything related to wine (and here, we might add the winemaking process and wine tasting itself) is a very subtle form of art.
We highly recommend you to experience this assisted by a wine expert/sommelier and here is a glimpse at what you should expect.
Before getting into the actual wine tasting, let’s have a look into how a wine tasting tour looks like. Because, mind our words it’s an experience like no other; or it should be, in order to fully understand the fact that this amazing drink you often enjoy with a meal or a nice dessert is so much more than just that. A drink. It is a drink with a story which starts from the very moment the soil from which the grapes grow is carefully taken care of and prepared. Let’s have a glimpse at what you should expect:
Step 1: Visit the vineyard
When you choose to visit a vineyard you are about to witness an experience at a whole new level. We have looked into Romania’s famous wineries and we even visited a few just to make sure we are giving you the right information. And you can take our word for it, it definitely feels like a ritual.
Frequently, a wine tasting (tour) starts early in the morning. Do not let the early morning start scare you though as you won’t get straight to drinking.
A wine tasting at a wine cellar starts with a tour of the vineyard– not all of it, of course since some areas are huge. It is long enough however so you can see the grapes ripe and thrive into the sunlight with a touch of morning dew slowly evaporating. You will be introduced to the grape types grown, their distribution around the vineyard, the treatment and care required, ripping timeline and challenges faced. A little history will not be omitted as it’s always nice to know when and how everything started, right?
Step 2: Visit the wine cellar and witness the wine making process
Still not time to drink yet. After visiting the vineyard, you will next move on to learn a little something about the wine cellar. Most wine cellars are located in old castles or, generally old edifices with an amazing history and stories hidden between their walls. You will be hearing about how everything started: everything from the very first owners, the dreams and ideas that pioneered that particular wine cellar up to the present day. Thirsty yet? Understandable.
Now you are about to witness one of the most interesting stages of the tour? Ever found fascinating how wine is put into barrels made of different wood species to reach a certain taste and flavour? This is the part where you will get to learn everything about that. The sommelier will walk you around explaining the entire ageing process and how closely wine is being watched every step of the way. If you are lucky, you will be allowed to taste what specialists call “nectar”- which is actually very young wine aka still in the process of becoming wine; extremely sweet and thick. However, you should double check with your wine expert before even thinking about tasting the nectar- some of them are not safe, so be responsible and ask for a professional opinion.
Step 3: Time for some wine tasting!
Last but (definitely) not least you get to enjoy a proper wine tasting. A wine expert/sommelier would have prepared everything for the group before you arrive. They usually display their best wines and they choose between 4-7 whites, 4-7 reds and, if any, rose and sparkling. They will be paired with a delicious platter of cheeses (both local and international), nuts (predominantly local walnuts, hazelnuts) and dried fruits. If you don’t know what to pair with what, not to worry, a wine expert/sommelier will be there to guide you throughout the entire experience. During the wine tasting you will be told to use four senses and write down every feeling and impression you get during the actual tasting. One thing you will be told (and it is actually very true) is that you cannot go wrong when tasting different fruits, flowers or woods- there is a very high chance that you are right. Most wines have a multitude of flavours and tastes, all at different levels and some can taste a more obvious note while others more subtle notes. Just sharpen your senses, let it sink in and enjoy the tastes.
We use no mess than 4 (yes, four) senses when wine tasting.
- Look: stay under a neutral light, slowly move the glass from one side to the other and observe the trail the wine leaves on the glass walls
- Smell: do this in order to identify the predominant aromas
- Taste: this step helps you assess the taste structure (sweet, sour, bitter)
- Think: is the wine balanced? Is it memorable? Were you impressed by anything in particular?
Step 4: Visit the souvenir shop
Before you leave, you might want to pay a visit to the souvenir shop. Most wine cellars have those; and if you are not a fan of magnets and postcards let’s face it: a bottle of wine makes a much better souvenir anyway! Take advantage of your new knowledge, take your notes and see which wine impressed you the most during the wine tasting session and take it home with you. Share your knowledge with your friends and family.
Top 3 Romanian Wineries, by Regions
You can find lots of excellent wineries all across Romanian territory. We have divided them by region, so it will be a lot easier for you to decide which way you want to head to.
Their story begins in 2005, just one year after the construction of the winery. They bottle over 10 million bottles of wine per year, using the most advanced technology.
Amazing type of wines: Feteasca Regala, Chardonnay, Muscat Ottonel, Syrah
Address: Comuna Ceptura, Prahova, Romania.
Contact: www.serve.ro/ +40 372 771 038
City nearby: Ploiesti (65 km from Bucharest)
Enter the Lacerta domain to find the Dorobantu Mansion, designed by the famous architect Ion Micu. It was built in 1901 and renovated in 2005. The 82 hectares of vineyard produces gold medal wine year after year.
Amazing type of wines: Sauvignon Blanc, Blanc de Noir, Feteasca Neagra
Address: Sat Fințeți, Buzău, Romania
Contact: www.lacertawinery.ro/ +40-374-887-474
City nearby: Buzau (109 km from Bucharest)
One of the newest wineries, located in an ancient Thracian vineyard. They can host huge wine tasting groups up to 50 people. Their vineyards’ altitude is between 175-400m, making it a perfect position for growing delicious and sweet black grape types.
Amazing types of wine: Bristena Busuioaca de Bohotin, Pinot Gris, Alba de Budureasca
Address: Gura Vadului, Prahova, Romania
Contact: www.budureasca.ro/ 0732 200 130
City nearby: Ploiesti/ Buzau (85 km from Bucharest)
Liliac has revitalized the Lechința wine region, whilst respecting the traditions of Transylvanian winemakers; a history that has roots with the vines first planted by the Roman Empire and continued by German colonists, who cultivated the first vineyards at the foot of the Carpathians.
Amazing types of wine: Neuburger, Ice Wine, Sauvignon Blanc
Address: Batos, Mures, Romania
Contact: www.liliac.ro/ +40 21 539 90 92
City nearby: Targu-Mures, Sighisoara
The Bethlen Castle was built in the 16th century in the French Renaissance style and restored in the 17th and 18th centuries when Baroque elements were added. The Reformed Church, situated next to the Castle, is a 13th-century structure.
The Jidvei (Bethlen-Haller) castle, with its eclectic combination of architectural styles, is located on the outskirts of Cetatea de Balta and it offers its guests with quaint views of the village. Jidvei, one of Romania’s premier white wines wineries is a five-minute drive from Cetatea de Balta.
Jidvei ((Bethlen-Haller) features 14 guest rooms and four luxurious suites decorated in a variety of styles, several meeting and event spaces and a beautiful garden with panoramic views.
Amazing types of wine: Ana Sauvignon Blanc, Eiswein Jidvei, Nec Plus Ultra Roze
Address: Jidvei, Romania
City Nearby: Alba-Iulia
Note: If you choose to visit Jidvei, close to Alba-Iulia you should know that we have a top-notch Transylvanian tour that includes the visit of Alba-Iulia Carolina Citadel, amongst other great Transylvanian destinations. Have a look here and contact us if you decide this one is for you.
They are proud of their unique orientation of the vineyards. The south-western exposure, 300 m. altitude gives enough light and warmth and protection against spring and winter winds.
Amazing types of wine: Gewurztraminer, Kerner, Zweigelt
Address: Mica, Mures, Romania
Contact: www.villavinea.ro/ 40365 – 505107
City nearby: Targu-Mures, Sighisoara
As early as the beginning of the 15th century, the accounts of the Cotnari vineyard became substantial, during the reigns of Peter II (1444-1449), Stefan cel Mare (1457-1504) and Despot-Voda (1561-1563), when the vineyard reached a maximum share both in the size of the area cultivated with the vine and in the quality of the wine obtained. The first evidence of the vineyard’s total vineyard dates back to 1830 when 500 pogonas out of 720 of Cotnari belonged to the locals.
Amazing types of wine: Tamaioasa romaneasca Sparkling, Blanc de Cotnari, Busuioaca
Address: Cotnari, Iași, Romania
Contact: www.cotnari.ro/ +40-232-730-392
City nearby: Iasi
The story of Girboiu winery begins in 2005 when the founder was looking for a business opportunity and decided to purchase the old Farm 16 from the heir of the family Zamfirescu. In 2006 they began planting noble kinds of grapes, including Sauvignon Blanc. They have come a long way since and they now have more than 55 hectares of vineyard.
Amazing types of wine: Constantin Red Blend, Helena White Blend, Livia Sarba
Address: Dragosloveni, Vrancea, Romania
Contact: www.cramagirboiu.ro/ 0237232079
City nearby: Focșani
The vine has been cultivated here at the heart of the Cucuteni culture area for thousands of years. Notes of local wines can be found in chroniclers’ manuscripts, and in 1874 Stefan Negruzzi boyar, along with the talented French oenologist René Faure, have intuited that the terroir of the area was special and began to integrate modern viticulture concepts and practices. The virtue for the rebirth of ancient Romanian varieties, Zghihara and Busuioaca, as well as the introduction of the French varieties such as Merlot, Cabernet or Aligote is due to the Frenchman.
Amazing types of wine: Busuioaca de Averesti, Feteasca Neagra, Rose
Address: Averești, Vaslui, Romania
Contact: www.domeniile-averesti.ro/ +40 235 484 830
City nearby: Iasi
Starting with 2005, 55 hectares of land has been replanted with vines from Pepiniers Hebinger in France and strains dating back from the time of Bibescu’s estate – Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, Pinot Noir, Syrah, Muscat Ottonel, Chardonnay, Sauvignon Blanc – as well as Feteasca Neagra. Furthermore, the wine cellars built by Prince Antoine Bibescu were completely refurbished throughout 2008-2009, observing the initial architecture and equipped with wine production machines manufactured by the most prestigious specialized companies in France and Italy.
Amazing type of wine: Syrah 2016, Pinot Noir, Chardonnay 2016
Address: Corcova, Mehedinti, Romania
City nearby: Drobeta Turnu Severin
After years in which the whole wine produced at Oprişor had been directed exclusively towards the international market, they decided to offer it to Romanian consumers too. In spring 2001, Carl Reh Winery launched on the Romanian market the first editions of the VAL DUNA and LA CETATE /AT THE CITADEL/ brands.
Amazing types of wine: La Cetate Feteasca Neagra, Sauvignon Blanc, Coloian Roze
Address: Oprisor, Mehedinti, Romania
Contact: www.oprisor.ro/ 40 374 620 891
City nearby: Craiova
The family manor, reconditioned by architect Alexandru Beldiman, maintains the Brâncovenesc style influences from the beginning of the 20th century, whereas the winery was designed as a ship situated at the top of the Dobrușa hill, perfectly integrated into the landscape, with its walls covered with Arnota limestone, with its lawn that goes up to the roof and the three wooden houses that delimit the terrace. The winery’s construction ensures the quality of the winemaking, since it was built so that it would take into account the imperatives of this process and the circulation of the flows through gravity. An underground access ramp and a wide tunnel enable optimal communication with the technical spaces.
Amazing types of wine: Tamaioasa Romaneasca, Negru de Dragasani, Cuvee Gradiflora
Address: Drăgășani, Valcea, Romania
Contact: www.avincis.ro/ +40 350 522 003
City nearby: Dragasani/Craiova
How to pair wine and cheese like an expert?
Pairing cheese with wine can be a very personal and subjective matter. And since we are all different and have different tastes, it’s totally fine to disagree. Nonetheless, specialists have long looked into the “perfect” combinations considering intensity, durability, aromas, and so forth. Some of the best wine and cheese combinations known to men today are:
- Fresh Cheeses (such as Mozzarella, Cas, Burrata, Stachino) with Reds: Pinot Noir, Cabernet Franc, Zweigelt or Whites: Feteasca Regala, Sauvignon Blanc, Chardonnay
- Matured Soft Cheeses (Telemea de vaca, Brie, Camembert) with Reds: Pinot Noir, Novac, Cabernet Franc or Whites: Gruner Veltiner, Chardonnay, Riesling
- Blue Cheeses (Gorgonzola, Roquefort, Stilton) with Reds: Feteasca Neagra, Merlot, Cabernet Sauvignon or Dessert wines: Muscat Ottonel, Tamaioasa Romaneasca, Busuioaca de Bohotin, Port, Tokay
- Semi-hard cheeses (Cheddar, Edam, Gouda) with Reds: Cabernet Sauvignon, Shiraz, Sangiovese or Whites: Chardonnay, Pinot Gris, Gewurztraminer
- Hard cheeses (Parmesan, Grana Padano, Beaufort) with Reds: Cabernet Sauvignon, Shiraz, Fetească Neagră or Whites: Chardonnay, Feteasca Regala
So, how could we translate a bad wine and cheese pairing? Well, there is no tragedy whatsoever, but what happens when the aromas do not complement each other? It brings out unwanted aromas, therefore an unpleasant wine pairing experience.
What about wine serving temperatures?
Most of us know the basics: red wines should be served at room temperature, while white, sparkling, champagne, and rose wines should be served cool. But how high is room temperature supposed to be? And how cold is cool enough? Here is a closer look:
- Sparkling wines, champagne, and demi-sweet whites should be served at a temperature between 6-8 degrees Celsius
- White wines and dry rose wines should be served at a temperature between 8-12 degrees Celsius
- Light red wines should be served at a temperature between 14-16 degrees Celsius
- Full-bodied red wines should be served at a temperature between 16-18 degrees Celsius
What happens when we don’t enjoy the wines at the recommended serving temperature?
Well, red wines become sour, which stops us from feeling the flavour and in all honestly: who wants that? In contrast, a white wine that is too cold will have their taste and flavour altered and we would not be able to fully enjoy that one and only refreshing feeling!
Now that we have gone through a few basics of the wine and we have told you a little bit about top Romanian wineries by region, let’s have a look into wine tasting experiences that you can (and should) enjoy.
Wine Tasting Tours from Bucharest
No time to drive around to wineries across the territory? No problem! You can enjoy a 100% Romanian wine tasting experience in Bucharest or in just one day tour from Bucharest!
1. Bucharest City Tour and Wine Tasting
We have created a special something for busy bees: Bucharest City Tour and Wine Tasting. A 2.5 hours experience, great for having a glimpse at emblematic sights of Bucharest topped up with a Romanian wine and cheese tasting at the end. You will be introduced to the marvelous flavours of Romanian wine from all regions by a sommelier who is more than excited to share wisdom with wine lovers!
2. Wines of Wallachia
Do you have a little more time on your hands? Amazing! How about a one day trip to Dealu Mare, home of some of the greatest Romanian Wines? We like to call this tour Wines of Wallachia. What’s so great about this tour (besides the fact that it’s a wine tasting tour?!) You will have a unique experience while in “Crama 1777” Museum– a closer look into how the wine process looked like in the 19th and 20th centuries. Then visit two wineries and explore the taste with a little help from wine experts and indulge in traditional cheeses and finger food.
3. Peles Royal Castle and Wine tasting
Are you the type that is looking for a little history in their travels, no matter how short they are? Have a closer look at our Peles Royal Castle and Wine Tasting Tour. Royal treatment is guaranteed during this one day tour. How? Simple as this: visit the iconic Peles Castle in Sinaia- the former residence of the Romanian Royal Family- one of the most beautiful castles in the world, built-in 1873, by Carol de Hohenzollern-Sigmaringen –the first King of Romania. By the time you have finished the tour, you should be hungry enough to enjoy a 3-course meal and wine tasting at Azuga Cellar. Ready to drink what royals drink? Then you will for sure enjoy the wines offered by Halewood- the official wine supplier of the Romanian Royal Family. Have we mentioned their award-winning sparkling wine?
4. Slanic Salt Mine and Wine Tasting
Novel experience lovers, this one’s for you! How does a wine tasting experience inside a salt mine sound to you? We promise it is as fascinating as it sounds. Slănic mine is an old salt mine, located in Slănic, Prahova County, Romania, situated at a depth of 208 m, on an area of 53,000 sqm just 100 km north of Bucharest. The salt mine is closed for extraction purposes, but is open for visitors, featuring a microclimate with natural air-conditioning and constant temperature and atmospheric pressure throughout the year. It is made up of two levels, named Unirea and Mihai. Many of the visitors come for its supposed healing effects due to the purity of the air. Throughout the mine, you will find various types of equipment for recreational activity such as playground equipment and some ping-pong tables. One area is sectioned off and is being used for medical patients with lung cancer to come and rest. Imagine the taste of wine and food inside the SuperNova Planetarium, the largest planetarium in Romania. Our Slanic Salt Mine and Wine tasting Tour is the ultimate experience.
So, you came, you saw, you TASTED and you loved it.
By now you would have to agree that a bottle of wine makes one great souvenir to bring back home to your friends and loved ones. One for sure they will appreciate (just a tad more) than a postcard. Click here for great souvenir shops in Bucharest.
Wine bars and Wine shops in Bucharest:
Corks Cozy Bar – Wine Bar, Shop & Bistro
Address: Bacani Street no. 1
Contact: 021 311 2265; www.corks.ro
Bruno Wine Bar – Wine Bar, Shop & Appetizers
Address: Covaci Street no.3
Vinexpert Calea Victoriei – Wine Bar, Shop & Bistro
Address: Calea Victoriei no. 155
Comtesse du Barry România – Ateneu – Wine Shop
Address: Episcopiei Street no.3
Wineful – Wine Bar, Shop & Appetizers
Address: Stirbei Voda Street no. 22
Wine Ambassador – Wine Bar, Shop&Appetizers
Address: Intrarea Biserica Alba Street, no.1
Tasting Room by Ethic Wine – Wine Bar, Shop & Restaurant
Address: Putul lui Zamfir Street no. 64
Romanian wine and cheese tasting events are quite popular and happening all the time. Keep an eye open, one of these great events might just happen across the street.
Have you managed to picture it? The Romanian wine tasting, the incredible locations, the novel experiences? Wait no longer, sign up for one of our tailor-made wine tasting tours.
Contact us for more information and for any other inquiry that might be crossing your mind.
Don’t forget: Save water, drink wine!