Wine Guide: The Best 10 Romanian Red Wines
The ‘Red’ Romanian Decanter
The geographical position, temperate-continental climate, hot summers and cold winters, sun exposure, history and tradition are solid arguments for the production of high-quality Romanian wines with controlled designation of origin (‘denumire de origine controlată’ or DOC). And their quality is obviously reflected in the multitude of styles, grape varieties and aromas.
The quality of Romanian red wines has increased tremendously over the past few decades, offering us in certain vintages (millésime), unforgettable masterpieces.
Also worth mentioning are the unique grape varieties such as Fetească Neagră, Băbească Neagră, Negru de Drăgăşani, Novac or Cadarcă, which are rewriting the history of Romanian wine. And their description almost requires a new wine explanatory dictionary or maybe even a special decanter dedicated to Romanian wines.
1. Crama Delta Dunării „La Săpata”, Băbească Neagră
After almost 20 years in which most of the Sarica-Niculiţel vineyard was practically abandoned, the Delta Dunării “La Săpata” winery is one of the main producers that revives the old and main activity of the area.
Established at the initiative of four Italian investors, the Dobrogea winery stands out in the local market with typical fresh and tasty wines produced from organic grapes which reflects the typicality of the region.
Băbeasca Neagră is an ancient variety, which in this version amazes us with its elegance and simplicity.
The color is light ruby, with purple hues and a pleasant nose of May cherries, morello cherry, violets and eucalyptus. In the taste is dry and has a delicate, well-balanced body with high acidity, medium tannins and leaves an interesting final impression of blackberries, sweet spices and mint.
It is recommended to decant the wine for a maximum period of 30 minutes before consumption. It can be served at a temperature of 15-17°C (59-62°F) and be paired with a plate of unripe cheeses, roasted duck breast, or even sea bass in red wine sauce.
2. Viile Metamorfosis, Via Marchizului, Negru de Drăgăşani
Vineyard: Viile Metamorfosis;
Region: Dealu Mare;
Viile Metamorfosis was founded in 2008, at the will of the Marquis Piero Antinori to invest in a successful project focused on the production of premium and superpremium wines, some of them being produced from certified organic grapes.
The project could not be other than a winner considering that the Antinori Family has been producing wine in Tuscany since 1385 and is part of the select group called Primum Familliae Vini. An association that includes legendary wineries such as the Torres Family, Vega Sicilia, Sassicaia or Baron Philippe de Rothschild.
Surprising for many lovers of this variety is that Negru de Drăgăşani was relocated to the Dealu Mare vineyard with notable results and with the satisfaction of “adopting” a new tradition in the region.
The creation of Fiorenzo Rista, the winemaker of the winery, is expressed by a deep purple red color with ruby hues and a spectacular bouquet of blackberries, blueberries and candied figs. The body is medium, with round tannins and velvety structure.
The aftertaste is medium with delicious final notes of vanilla and chocolate. The wine was aged for 8 months in large oak barrels, which is why it is recommended to keep it in the decanter for at least 30 minutes before consumption.
Served at a temperature of 15-17°C (59-62°F) it is perfectly combined with spicy lamb ribs, steak tartare or ripened cheeses.
3. Crama Balla Géza, Stonewine, Cadarcă
Region: Dealurile de Vest;
Stonewine Cadarcă stands for the rebirth of an emblem grape variety of the Miniş-Măderat vineyard. A grape variety disputed between Romania, Albania and Hungary, the Cadarcă created by Balla Géza “borrows” many elements from the features of the Latin people such as maturity, temper and hospitality.
Sober, but friendly, the Cadarcă from the Stonewine range impresses with a ruby red color and an intense bouquet of aromas of red berries, black cherries and black pepper.
The wine is dry, with a strong texture, high concentration of tannins and very well-defined aromas of plum, cinnamon and tobacco. Matured in oak barrels, it is recommended to decant the wine at least half an hour before consumption. Served at a temperature of 16-18°(60-64°F) and it goes perfectly with Emmentaller or Cheddar type of cheeses, game or with the food that you like.
4. Vinarte, Nedeea (Fetească Neagră, Negru de Drăgăşani and Novac)
Region: Dealu Mare;
Nedeea is probably the first red assemblage consisting of three different Romanian varieties: Fetească Neagră, Negru de Drăgăşani and Novac. Thus, you have three grape varieties with three different aroma ranges and a single terroir.
All of them concentrated in a wine which has a light ruby red color with violet reflections and a fruity bouquet in which prunes, black cherries and blackberries. In taste, the wine has a very velvety texture, medium body and round tannins.
The aftertaste is medium to long, and the wine needs at least 30 minutes spent in the decanter to show off its notes of dry spices and dark chocolate. Consumed at a temperature of 16-18°C (60-64°F), it can be a very inspired choice in the company of a venison stew with polenta, baked veal with tortilla and red wine sauce or with the famous local cheese of Năsal.
5. SERVE, Cuvée Guy de Poix, Fetească Neagră
Vineyards: Serve Ceptura;
Region: Dealu Mare;
The story of the SERVE winery coincides with the story of the rebirth of the wine industry in Romania after the communist period, but also with the rebirth of the most famous Romanian variety: Fetească Neagră.
Specifically, the story begins with the young Corsican count Guy de Poix who, fascinated by Hugh Johnson’s description of Romania’s ‘World Atlas of Wine’ as a wine-producing country, decides it is time for a new challenge. Which is why, in 1994, he founded the first private winery in post-communist Romania at Ceptura.
Cuvée Guy de Poix wine is a tribute to the memory of the creator of the SERVE winery, obtained only from Fetească Neagră grapes and created only in exceptional vintages. And which according to its creators has an aging potential of at least 10 years, which still puts our patience to the test.
From the beginning, the wine has an intense ruby red color, with a nose full of notes of prunes and well-dried black fruits. In taste, the wine has a strong, elegant structure with very pleasant aromas of raisins, vanilla and black pepper. The finish is long, majestic with almost endless notes of blueberries and milk chocolate.
Being aged in oak barrels, it is recommended to aerate in the decanter for a period of at least one hour before consumption. Served at a temperature of 16-18°C (60-64°F), the wine can be paired very well with rabbit in red wine sauce, veal with green pepper sauce or dark chocolate desserts.
6. Domeniile Săhăteni, Anima 3 Fete Negre, Fetească Neagră
Vineyard: Domeniile Săhăteni;
Region: Dealu Mare;
Trei Fete Negre (in English ‘Three Black Girls’) is a tribute to Fetească Neagră in an assemblage of the same grape variety, but from different harvest years.
In other words, we are talking about an atypical style of winemaking which creates harmony between three bottled generations and vintages (2014, 2015 and 2016) in a single collection wine. A wine that has a deep ruby color, along with an intense nose of black cherries, roses and nutmeg.
The body is dry, complex, round, with a very good balance between tannins, acidity and alcohol with unforgettable aromas of prunes, licorice and rose jam. The aftertaste is long, velvety with final notes of cedar and coffee and vanilla. In order to display its elegant and feminine character, the wine must be kept in the decanter for at least an hour.
It is recommended to serve the wine at a temperature of 18-19°C (64-66°F) and can be wonderfully paired with slow-cooked suckling pig with cranberry sauce, lamb chops, brownies or your favorite food.
7. Crama Tohani, Apogeum, Fetească Neagră
Vineyard: Crama Tohani, Apogeum;
Region: Dealu Mare;
Fetească Neagră is the grape variety that best expresses everything regarding Romanian wine alongside its adaptability, tradition and history which spans for over 2000 years. It is cultivated in all regions of Romania, but in the Dealu Mare vineyard it stands out as a complex, elegant red wine, with predominant aromas of red fruits and ‘feminine’ texture.
The color is intense ruby red, with slight garnet hues and a very well defined nose of prunes, blueberries and licorice. The body has a medium to full-bodied texture, with a good structure and very pleasant notes of vanilla, pepper, cloves and coffee. The aftertaste is long, velvety with tasty notes of cherries and dark chocolate.
Given that the wine has been aged in French oak barrels for 24 months, it is recommended to aerate the wine in the decanter for at least two hours. Served at a temperature of 16-18°C (60-64°F) it pairs perfectly with game, duck breast, tuna steak, or ripened cheeses.
8. Alira Grand Vin Cuvée (Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot and Fetească Neagră)
The assemblage from the high-end Grand Vin collection best expresses the concern of the French oenologist Marc Dworkin to create masterpieces that would best express the terroir of the vineyard. The style of vinification is typical Bordeaux, but the presence of Fetească Neagră is the element of surprise that changes our entire perception of everything we knew about the two French grape varieties.
The wine begins with an intense ruby color and enticing aromas of cherries, cedar and vanilla. Tasteful, the wine is full-bodied with good structure and very strong notes of plums, blackcurrants, blackberries, dark chocolate and espresso. The wine has a medium to long aftertaste with final notes of vanilla and cocoa and it is recommended to decant it at least an hour before consumption.
Served at a temperature of 16-18°C (60-64°F), it goes very well with beef, lamb, or lasagna.
9. Cramele Recaş, Cuvée Überland (Merlot, Fetească Neagră and Syrah)
Vineyard: Cramele Recaș;
Region: Dealurile Banatului;
The story of Cuvée Überland wine was born in 2005, when Australian winemaker Hartley Smithers was looking for an area with a very high level of red grape ripening. And the result of his search was the discovery of a special area with unique soil and microclimate, called colloquially by the local Swabians ‘überland’ (‘valley over the hill’).
However, the Australian method of ‘cane cutting’ based on a better concentration of the sugars and aromas of the grapes after they riped in the vineyard for an amount of two weeks on the severed sprouts. This is why some connoisseurs refer to it as ‘The Romanian Amarone’.
Becoming a tradition and a reference for the red wines in Romania, Cuvée Überland opens with an intense ruby color with garnet reflections and a bouquet in which you can feel notes of overripe black fruits. The body is robust, with smooth tannins and a juicy texture.
In which notes of plum and morello cherry jam and black pepper can be felt. The aftertaste is long with final notes of cedar, vanilla and eucalyptus. It is recommended to decant the wine for at least an hour and a half before consumption.
The ideal serving temperature is 18-19°C (64-66°F) and can go very well with mutton chops with mint sauce, beefsteak with Lyonnaise potatoes or lava cake.
10. Crama Oprişor, Smerenie (Shiraz, Pinot Noir and Dornfelder)
Vineyard: Crama Oprişor;
Region: Dealurile Olteniei;
From a list of red wines, under no circumstances can forget to mention one of the reference assemblages in Romania and the favorite of many collectors for its aging potential.
Created from Shiraz, Pinot Noir and Dornfelder, the wine is an example of ‘smerenie’ (in English, ‘humbleness’) and homage dedicated to the terroir of the region of origin: Profound Oltenia. In the glass, the wine stands out with a dark ruby red color and an impressive nose of red fruits, in which the black currants and blueberries stand out.
In taste, the wine is dry, unfiltered and has a full, complex body, with an excellent structure and a sensational balance between texture, tannins and acidity. It shows off with a long aftertaste and very pleasant final notes of cloves and vanilla. Because it has been matured in wood barrels, a period spent in the decanter of at least one hour is recommended. Consumed at a temperature of 16-18°C (60-64°F), it paires very well with game, pasta in red sauce or matured cheeses.
The most recent chapter in the history of Romanian red wines is simply ‘explosive’ through the diversity of winemaking styles, flavors, textures, and final impressions that change almost radically the way we tasted them before.
Thus, with a glass of red wine beside us we can reach the conclusion that never in the 2.000 years of Romanian history of wine, things didn’t evolve so fast, and for sure the future will reserve new surprises with each new vintage.