I got called out by Phil Cox from Cramele Recas during a tasting we did at his place. I’ve always been of the school of thought that to make a difference as an up and coming wine region it’s important to promote your local varieties. I didn’t tell him that was my view, but he got it out there as something daft that wine bloggers seem to write, without looking at the bigger picture. I sheepishly apologised after he pointed out why I’m talking out my arse.
It’s not as simple as that for many reasons. Firstly the winemakers are still working out which grape grows better and where. As I said earlier in the week, the communists tore up most of the old vines and stuck in the mass producing ones to feed the masses as cheap as they could. Now back the land is back in private hands, 10-20 years is not enough to know 100% what grows best and where.
The local market is so important to Romanian winemakers that you can’t ignore the difference in local tastes. Pinot Noir and Chardonnay was introduced to Romania by winemakers from Champagne. They were introduced into areas that were way too hot for them, so the grapes produced lots of sugar, which led to sweet styles of wine. Off dry to medium-dry wine was all the rage in most parts of Romania for years because of it, and as we all know, old-habits die hard.
And finally, and especially for the big producers, it’s all about who’s heard of it in the first place. A lovely red local variety that could do big things going forward, Feteasca Neagra, is tough enough to spell, let alone read on a wine shelf. It’s no wonder that the wine buyers from Sainsbury’s and Asda and the rest of them are after cheap, but well made, Cabernet Sauvignon or Chardonnay.
So as Phil pointed out, it’s not as easy as just having a couple of outstanding local grapes. Wine’s a business, and if it doesn’t pay the bills, it doesn’t last very long!