Halloween is fast approaching and what says ‘ghouls in a glass’ better than wine from the headquarters of Count Dracula himself, Transylvania, or at least the surrounding area in its parent country Romania.
The wines produced here offer sensational value for money and are swiftly appearing on savvy London wine lists; particularly the Pinot Noir. Nicknamed by winemakers ‘the heartbreak grape’, Pinot Noir is notoriously tricky to grow, relatively expensive to buy and coveted by prestigious regions such as Burgundy. But perversely it thrives where it is not wanted, in the climate and terroir of Romania.
“Romanians can’t stand Pinot Noir” says Phillip Cox of Romania’s Cramele Recas Estate “They don’t want it. They want a deep, dark red, which Pinot Noir isn’t”. Thank goodness for that, as it means more for us. It may be a nightmare for the winemaker, but it is a blessing for any foodie. A lighter style of red with fewer tannins, but still beautifully complex, it is incredibly versatile for pairing with meat, fish or vegetable dishes.
Cramele Recas is Romanian wine’s success story. Bought in 1999 by Bristol born Cox, it started with no vines and no money but by 2015 was producing 11m bottles.
This year it will produce 30m, with 14.5m bottles to be exported, although according to Cox “Romanians drink more wine than they make” so a large amount stays in the domestic market. Cramele Recas is an enormous undertaking with 1,250 hectares, two break-out wineries it has financed, and 130 wine shops. The company is now responsible for over 20 per cent of the wine within the country.
“People want consistency, and our wines are consistent” says Cox “We are quite competitive and that’s why we are growing”. He is also at pains to stress Cramele Recas is “not just a corporation”.
“We are family owned with our own vineyards. Just because you make wine on a large scale, doesn’t mean it has to be bad wine. There is no need to sacrifice quality. This is why we are also making an orange wine now, to show we can craft great wine”.
Cramele Recas could be seen as the pioneers of Romanian wine in the UK, and it is not just the classic Pinot Noir or trendy Orange wine either. It is worth hunting out the indigenous varietals of any region, and I was absolutely blown away by the fantastically aromatic and fresh Feteasca Regala and the richly persuasive Feteasca Neagra.