A blog devoted to exploring wines made from unusual grape varieties and/or grown in unfamiliar regions all over the world. All wines are purchased by me from shops in the Boston metro area or directly from wineries that I have visited. If a reviewed bottle is a free sample, that fact is acknowledged prior to the bottle's review. I do not receive any compensation from any of the wineries, wine shops or companies that I mention on the blog.

Tuesday, January 18, 2011

Dealul Cătălina - Cotnari, Romania

Romania is a country, much like Georgia, with a long vinous history that has been obscured by recent political struggles. Like Georgia, Romania was occupied and controlled by the Soviets early in the cold war, but unlike Georgia, Romania was able to shake free of Soviet influence, to some extent, in the 1960's. The man responsible for Romanian dissent against the Soviets, unfortunately, was Nicolae Ceausescu. Early in his reign, Ceausescu was open towards the United States and other Western European nations, unlike many of the Soviet Bloc countries. Later on, though, Ceausescu created a cult of personality as his reign became more dictatorial and his relationships with other countries began to break down. Ceausescu brought the country to the brink of total financial ruin before being overthrown in 1989.

As we've discussed with the nation of Georgia, a country's ability to have any presence in overseas markets generally owes a lot to it's recent geopolitical history. Being behind the Iron Curtain is not only deleterious to a country's wine making image because of trade restrictions, but communist governments typically are not focused on making quality wine so much as they are concerned with bulk wine production. Quantity is sought after rather than quality and the infrastructure within the country is set up to create ordinary bulk wine rather than fine wine. When international markets finally open up after the dissolution of Communist governments, there is no external market for this ordinary wine and the country, if it wishes to compete on the world marketplace, must begin to make significant investments in upgrading vineyards as well as winery equipment. Romania seems to be on the right track with these things, as they are currently 12th in world production. There is also currently an influx of outside investors eager to take advantage of the reasonable land costs within the country.

The Greeks brought the vine to Romania between 3,000 and 4,000 years ago (I've read some sources that say 3,000 years and some that go as high as 6,000). There is a legend that says that the Thracian god of wine was born in Romania in the Danube delta. Romania has a few viticultural areas, most of which are near the Moldovan border in Eastern Romania in what's known as Moldovan Romania. Perhaps the most famous Romanian wine producing region is Cotnari, which is located in eastern Romania very near the Moldovan border. Cotnari, at one time, was world-renowned for a sweet dessert wine somewhat like Tokaji in Hungary. Wine from this region was the favorite of Stephen the Great who ruled Moldavia in the late 15th century. The wine in question today hails from Cotnari.

Many Romanian vineyards were replanted with the common European vinifera vines after the devastating phylloxera outbreak in the 1880's but there are still a number of native Romanian/Moldovan grapes being grown throughout the country. Fetească Albă is the most widely grown and perhaps best known. The wine I tasted contained Fetească Albă as well as Frâncuşă and Tămâiosă, which, as far as I can tell, is just another name for Muscat. The wine was non-vintage and cost about $12.

In the glass, it was very pale and silvery. At first, the nose was very reserved with only some ripe pear aromas present. As the wine came to temperature and opened up a bit, there was much more peachy stone fruit aromas. On the palate the wine was off-dry with a medium body with medium acid. There were flavors of candied pear, green apple, candied orange peel, white peach and apricot. This is somewhere between a restrained muscat and a kabinett level riesling. There was kind of an odd chemical taste on the back end, but overall, this was pretty enjoyable. The wine was balanced so that the sugar wasn't overwhelming and this tasted more like a wine to serve with spicy food rather than a dessert wine.

1 comment:

George Mitea said...

I think i said it in the feteasca alba post, francusa is only to be found in Cotnari wine region. Tamaioasa(full name: tamaioasa romaneasca) is a distinct grape variety (from the muscat family, that's true). I would say, from my experience, the difference between tamaioasa and muscat ottonel is that the first has better acidity and depth. Cheers!