It can be tough for someone from my generation to grasp recent history. I was born in the early 80s, so I do remember communism, but didn’t really know what it was or what it did. The worst thing I realized it had done was give David Hasselhoff another excuse for an out-of-tune sing song. Getting to talk to the winemakers in Romania was a pretty eye opening experience.
When communism took hold, the state took everything. Families who had run vineyards for years had the land taken off them, old vines producing great wine were pulled up and replanted with vines varieties that produced lots more fruit, but ultimately, let’s be fair, shitter wine.
The modern Romanian wine industry started after the fall of communism in 1989. The state found the old slips of paper and worked out which families had owned what land and gave it back to them. They could then replant the vines they wanted to, and the world was a better place. If only it was that easy.
Incredible corruption in the political classes meant that some land was given back, but some was sold to other people to line some pockets. Original owners then had to go to the European Courts to get their land back, leaving people who paid for the land locked in a battle to get their money back from corrupt politicians. The land remained in limbo. All good fun eh?
The other side of it is what happens to those families who got the land back and had no knowledge or inclination to do anything to do with wine? It’s a funny site to see acres and acres of previous vineyards on terraced hills that are now just scrub land going to rack and ruin. Great for the wildlife, mind!
As fast as Romanian wine is moving forward these days, the dubious legacy of the hated communist period still lingers.