With black clouds moving east, I pack up my motorcycle and head west. It was just two years ago when I last rode this bike through Romania. That fall, I rode to the Transylvanian capital, Cluj Napoca, from Budapest. Dining in a leafy courtyard on a balmy fall evening as I listened to a nearby table speak Romanian, I enjoyed my first glass of Romanian wine. The black-red Feteasca Negra tickled my palate with dark fruits, smooth tannins, and a long finish. As I swirled my glass and lifted it to my nose, taking in the fruit and spice aromas, I thought to myself. “Wow, Romanian wine is excellent.”
Weeks later, in the Bulgarian capital city of Sofia, I had a similar experience with a Gamza, another red grape, also known as Kadarka in Hungary. Both experiences inspired me and primed my curiosity about wine and food from Eastern Europe. My few days in Romania and even less in Bulgaria prompted my promise to return.
So after more than three weeks exploring Bulgaria, and now on my second day in Romania, I embrace the journey of discovery. Militza from Villa Melnik in Bulgaria connected me with Razvan, a prominent Romanian wine-blogger. Additionally, at the suggestion Caroline Gilby, Master of Wine and author of “The Wines of Bulgaria, Romania, and Moldova,” I reached out to APEV Romania, the Wine Exporters and Producers’ Association of Romania. As with any research project, it’s essential to follow through with connections and referrals.
Next, I connected with Romania’s National Office of Vine and Wine Products. Soon, with all of these initial contacts, I received more great connections to bloggers, winemakers, and journalists. The export director for Jidvei, one of Romania’s largest producers, contacted me. Another winery introduced me to Alina Iancu, the photographer and entrepreneur behind The Wines of Romania, perhaps the most comprehensive online resource about Romanian wine, wine tourism, and geography.
Alina started this project in 2013 and since visited more than 70 Romanian wineries. According to her website, she did this to “know this wonderful land and its people, and we’ve made maps of wine-growing zones to help those interested in finding out more about these areas. Our objective is to develop wine tourism and to expand travelers’ curiosity and appreciation for Romanian wines, wineries and vineyards. In 2015, she started the ReVino.ro Project, a website that offers wine lovers and drinkers all the information they need to discover wine routes and visit wineries. Finally, in 2016 she organized the first ReVino Bucharest Wine Fair, where wine lovers and experts came to taste premium wines and discover how to visit a winery directly from the winery’s representatives. I also hope to connect with her personally when I’m in Bucharest later this week.
As I made these connections and followed through with others, I had a great start to my Romanian wine discovery. I plotted out my journey. My first stop will be in Romania’s Dobrogea region to Crama Rasova, a new winery in the Murfatlar DOC (Denumire de Origine Controlată), which is like the designation controlled denomination of origin (D.O.C.) used in Europe. It means that wine labeled as such must come from grapes of a specific geographical location. Additional standards related to this can include grape variety, color, acidity, yield, and a period of aging before release.
I’ve been in touch with Zoe Ghiuri, one of Rasova’s founders. They are working in the vineyards this morning but will meet with me over lunch at the winery. So, I’ll go to Rasova today.
On the banks of the Danube just thirty minutes from Constanta, Rasova Winery tomorrow will host a wine, food, and music event featuring one of Romania’s top pop singers. I’ve got an open invitation, but pending weather, I may need to move west. I also must find time to go to a motorcycle shop and fix this rattling exhaust. We shall see.