I’ve just come back from a week out in Romania. It was a good thing that most of us on the trip were there with a relatively blank slates as far as the country goes. I’d sure never been before, and had only just started to try one or two of the wines being made there and filtering through onto UK supermarket shelves. So given that was my experience of Romanian wine, it was a pretty apt thing we got to spend time with a couple of the big boys during the week!
Over in the West, Phil Cox is an English guy who’s been in Romania since the late 80s. He and his wife now run Cramele Recas, which is easily the biggest wine production facility I’ve seen in a long time. Spread over nearly 600 hectares (that’s like what? about 1500 acres give or take?), these guys are producing nearly 10 million bottles of wine a year. Myself and the three seasoned wine writers I was with were genuinely impressed with the scale of production and of the EU funded facilities, including the most intricate bottling line going!
Over by Bucharest, is Cramele Halewood. Another operation that owes its existence to the English. Again producing millions of bottles of wine a year, they supply over 175 different labels to various buyers and outlets in over 65 countries, from entry level to premium lines. 175!! I mean, just the scale of those numbers is incredible, and the fact that I’d not given Romania much thought in terms of wine was starting to seem a bit naïve.
But if we’ve not heard that much of it before, who’s drinking it all? Well the Romanians for a start. Until the Chinese and Indians entered the fray more seriously a few years back, Romania was in the top 10 wine guzzling countries in the world. The local market is huge.
The UK too is a big deal for them. Head down to your local pub or chain restaurant, and knocking around somewhere will be a Romanian “house wine”. At the big production end of the scale it’s very well made and it’s (relatively) cheap. Doesn’t get much better for budget wine buyers than that!