The Best 10 Romanian White Wines
The mission to create a top of the best Romanian wines will always be followed by a wave of divergent opinions, a very elaborate spectrum of aromas and a touch of subjectivism.
But what is relevant, in the context of the global wine market, is the amazement of expats and even foreign tourists who find out that Romania is a wine-producing country.
A country which also has the potential to become an important worldwide player – especially since Romania in terms of production ranks 6th in Europe and 13th in the world.
Arguments that would certainly make a strong impression even at the level of the European consumer. Tasting it in blind, the consumer will appreciate grape varieties such as Fetească Regală, Crâmpoşie, Şarbă or Tămâioasa Românească which are truly exotic compared to a South African Chenin Blanc or the well-known New Zealand’s Sauvignon Blanc from the Marlborough vineyard.
A list of the best Romanian white wines can only start with the presentation of one of the most well-known local varieties: Mustoasă de Măderat.
1. Balla Géza, Mustoasă de Măderat
It is a grape variety cultivated almost exclusively in the old Miniş-Măderat vineyard, which dates back to 1023. Furthermore, Mustoasa de Măderat is experiencing a period of renaissance in the Romanian wine recent history.
Based on the principle of less is more, Balla Géza’s creation is a dry, fresh white wine which starts to enchant us with a pale lemon yellow color with green reflections.
The nose is intense and delicate at the same time with aromas of lemon peel and wildflowers. In the taste, the wine has a delicate body, with light aromas of quince, white grapes and citrus. Served chilled at a temperature of 6-8°C (42-46°F) may be paired with shellfish with lemongrass and coconut sauce, poultry, salads or by itself.
2. Cramele Recaş, Solo Quinta (Chardonnay, Sauvignon Blanc, Fetească Regală, Muscat Ottonel, Cabernet Sauvignon)
A wine-growing region dating back to the Roman occupation of Banat, the Recaş vineyard is shrouded in mysteries and legends. One of them even mentions that this was Bacchus’ birthplace. This is not at all surprising since one of the most successful white wine assemblages in Romania was created here.
Solo Quinta is an assemblage of five elements, one of them is a red variety made in white wine style. A grape variety that changes every year, and for the last vintage (2017) Cabernet Sauvignon was chosen.
In the glass, the wine has a light golden yellow color and then it becomes memorable from the first nose with very intense floral aromas, especially elderflower and acacia.
The wine is full-bodied and has an excellent balance, with a high acidity and complex aromatic palette where we identify apricots, peaches and quinces. Solo Quinta has a very long aftertaste, with persistent final notes of vanilla, mango and apricot kernel. Served at a temperature of 8-10°C (46-50°F) the wine can be perfectly combined with salads, pasta in white sauce, or grilled turkey with vegetables.
3. Liliac, Fetească Regală
A saga of articles related to the legends, origin and name of this grape variety can be written about the Fetească Regală (literally ‘Royal Maiden’).
However, the most widely known legend tells us that this grape variety was discovered in 1920, in Transylvania, not far away from Daneş, where the synonym of Dăneşană comes from. Noted for its freshness, high acidity and extremely fruity aromatic profile, it is no surprise that it is the most planted grape in Romania.
The version made by Liliac Winery, located near its place of origin, offers us a dry, young, very fresh wine that stands out from the beginning with a pale lemon yellow color with green notes.
The nose is medium to intense with well-defined notes of elderflower and pomelo. In the taste, the wine has a medium body, with increased acidity and predominant minerality and aromas of grapefruit and lime. The aftertaste is medium, leaving the impression of an elegant and young wine.
It must be served at a temperature of 8-10°C (46-50°F) can be served by itself, or in the company of simple and delicious recipes such as grilled vegetables, salads with seafood or salmon in butter sauce.
4. Crama Gîrboiu, Tectonic Şarbă
Şarba is an aromatic grape variety harvested only in certain subregions of Moldova with a quite recent origin.
More precisely, the variety was created in 1972 from the crossing between Tămâioasă Românească and Italian Riesling. And the sublime example created by Gîrboiu Winery in the Tectonic range stands out as a winemaking model for this grape variety.
Elegant, light and dry, with a pale lemon yellow color, the wine opens in the nose with typical of roses, basil and linden flowers.
The body is delicate to medium, with well-defined aromas of pears, yellow apples and apricots supported by high acidity and well-integrated minerality.
The aftertaste is long, with slightly sweet notes and discreet vegetable and citrus aromas that confirm the aromatic character and the perfect balance of the wine. Served at a temperature of 6-8°C (42-46°F), it goes great with fresh cheeses, linguini with shellfish or white sauce penne pasta.
5. Crama Tohani, ARUM Tămâioasă Românească
Also known as the ‘Romanian Bordeaux’, due to its position on the 45th parallel, the Dealu Mare region (in translation ‘The Romanian Highlands’) is famous for its memorable, robust red wines, with a great aging potential.
Be that as it may, through history, the region also produces legendary aromatic and full-bodied white wines made from grape varieties such as Tămâioasă Românească and Muscat Ottonel.
Under the saying ‘At Tohani, the earth speaks and people listen. And then, wine is made’, Tămâioasa Românească from Arum collection surprises us as an assemblage of exceptional vintages of 1973, 1985 and 2010. In other words, this wine is a chapter of bottled history for both the winery and the region.
Obtained only from late harvests, Arum surprises us with an intense golden color with amber notes. Later, in the nose it opens up with a rich and unmistakable bouquet of linden flowers, acacia and white roses, along with delicate notes of orange jam.
The taste is extremely intense, outlined by intense notes of raisins, acacia honey, raisins and candied figs. While the body has an excellent balance between acidity, minerality and sweetness.
The aftertaste is very long, with almost endless final notes of honeycomb, quince, cloves and raisins. The ideal tasting temperature is 12°C (53°F) and can be paired perfectly with cheeses such as Blue Stilton or Gorgonzola or with dishes such as lemon tart, panna cotta or with Romanian sweet cheese with raisins pie.
6. Crama Ştirbey, Spumant Crâmpoşie
A grape variety from the Drăgăşani region, Crâmpoşia remains known for its great potential to produce dry, mineral and fresh wines. And due to its acidity, this grape variety can be used for creating excellent sparkling wines, assemblages and distillates.
The ‘bubbles story’ regarding Crâmpoşie starts at the beginning of the 19th century when winemakers from France and Germany found it to be a suitable grape variety for sparkling wine production. At this moment, the tradition has been continued by Ştirbey Winery which has created a brut sparkling wine using the traditional method, with the second fermentation in bottle.
From the beginning, we are delighted by a pale lemon yellow color and an elegant nose of green apples and citrus notes. The taste is very well balanced and denotes persistent effervescence.
The finish is medium, balanced with vegetable and creamy notes of butter. The ideal serving temperature is 4-6°C (39-43°F) and can be drunk by itself or possibly paired with seafood salads.
7. Nachbil, Grünspitz
In the heart of the Maramureş vineyard, with a history of over a millennium, Nachbil Winery revives step by step the local winemaking tradition. Moreover, the winery is very much involved in the ‘recovery’ and popularization of almost extinct traditional grape varieties, such as Grünspitz.
But what is really interesting is that this grape variety is grown worldwide only by Nachbil Winery on a very small area, on the surface of only a plot.
The wine is unfiltered and made only from organic grapes, without the use of sulfur dioxide and other chemical interventions during the winemaking process. Which is why the wine has an intense golden yellow color with a slightly hazy aspect. Afterward, it opens with aromas of roasted mirabelle, ripe pears and hay.
The body is delicate to medium, with high acidity and pleasant aromas of green apples, eucalyptus and fennel. The aftertaste is interesting with vegetal and slightly bitter final notes.
8. Lacerta, Blanc de Noir, Pinot Noir
The choice of Lacerta Winery to create a white wine from red grapes came as a very inspired response to the demand of the permanently “thirsty” for new and atypical wine consumers and critics.
The challenge was even bigger since the Dealu Mare vineyard is famous for its winemakers which produce full-bodied red wines with aging potential.
In other words, the Blanc de Noir story starts with a bold paradigm shift, and in the medium and long term proves to be a winning bet. In the glass, the wine has a light lemon yellow color, with slight pink reflections and a spectacular nose with notes of strawberry and raspberry.
In taste it is dry, fresh, young, with an increased acidity and an excellent structure. The aftertaste is fruity and mineral with final notes of citrus and red fruit. Consumed at a temperature of 8-10°C (46-50°F) can be served simply or in the company of a plate of unripe cheese.
9. Domeniile Avereşti, Nativus, Zghihară de Huşi
Zghihara de Huşi is a wine that has written history not only through its freshness, minerality and fruity aromas, but also through its story that dates back to the glorious times of the Romanian voivodes.
Legend has it that during the siege of Moldova by the Turkish army, contrary to custom (since they were Muslim), a Turkish general along with his trusted officers noticed that the wine obtained from this grape variety was ‘strangling’ them due to its high acidity, like a claw. Obviously, the ‘grip’ made him mispronounce the word ‘claw’ (in Romanian, ‘ghiară’). Ergo, from ghiară to Zghihară!
From the beginning, the wine has a light yellow color with green hues and an intense nose in which you can feel well-defined aromas of lime juice, grapefruit, green apple and green bell pepper. While the body is delicate, light, fruity with medium aftertaste and final notes of green fruits.
10. Crama Bauer, O.R.A.N.G.E., Sauvignonasse
Contrary to the misleading name, ‘orange’ wines are not obtained by using oranges in the winemaking process. They are made from white varieties fermented in the winemaking style of red wines by fermenting the must together with the skin and the kernels for a period of time that can last between four days and even a year.
Although the process dates back to Antiquity, ‘orange’ wines have begun to become extremely popular in the past 20 years. And the result can be felt in intense yellow wines with orange hues, full-body and typical aromas of braised apples, honey, dried orange peel, wood, smoke and sourdough. And Oliver Bauer’s ‘orange’ creation respects the winemaking style and the spectrum of aromas that impress us with a very long aftertaste and final notes of aromatic herbs.
Consumed at a temperature of 8-10°C (46-50°F), O.R.A.N.G.E. is a gastronomic wine that can be wonderfully combined with salmon or turkey dishes, braised apples with saffron and cider, but also with exotic dishes from Indian or Asian cuisine.
Regardless of style or taste, the ‘secret’ evolution of Romanian wines in the past 20 years certainly showed us the potential to produce pleasant surprises or even organoleptic revelations for the global consumer of wines. And the adventure has just begun.