I spent a weekend in Bucharest in search of awesome Romanian wines & wine hotspots. Here’s what I found.
I have a soft spot for quirky grapes and obscure wine regions. My boyfriend’s business trip to Bucharest was the the best excuse to jump on the plane and go explore Romanian wines in this country’s capital. I wonder, have you ever had Romanian wine?
Eh, Romanian wine?
Romania is one of the oldest wine producing regions in the world with a 6.000 year winemaking tradition. It belongs to an unofficial group of countries called the ‘new Old World’ together with Georgia, Armenia, Turkey, Bulgaria and other Eastern European and Middle Eastern countries. These regions are basically the places where wine started, but because of a regime change (either religious, cultural or political) at some point in their history, wine production plummeted. Along with most of the other Eastern European countries, Romania is currently re-discovering its wine past and trying to re-define what Romanian wine is today. I was really excited about that prospect, so I hoped a quick trip would enlighten me.
Crowdsourcing travel tips
Thanks to the ever helpful Rotterdam Wine Lovers community, I got some insider’s tips on where to eat and drink in Bucharest. My list had more than 30 culinary hotspots — including coffee shops and other non-wine-related spots. I did my best, but managed to visit only 13 of all the places :( I could have done better, but the Bucharest heat was truly wearing me down.
FYI here is my 33 hotspot list of Bucharest on Foursquare. I hope you find it useful when you visit the city.
Here is what we drank, where we drank it and what we thought about it.
Wine tasting at Abel’s Wine Bar (Old Town)
Run by two Italians from Puglia, Abel’s Wine Bar was recommended to us as a place to go if we wanted to do wine tasting of Romanian wines. Indeed no other place we went to offered a wine tasting option. It’s a cozy wine bar in the old city center. We tasted 5 Romanian wines (2 whites, 1 rose and 2 reds) accompanied by a small cheese platter.
What we drank
SERAFIM Feteasca Alba
A light white wine with subtle citrus and green apple aromas, high acidity and medium finish. Easy, but not exciting. Not my cup of tea.
Riesling Italico (can’t find the label photo and producer of this one :-/Golden yellow color with subtle tropical fruit aromas (mango and peach). Full body wine lacking the minerality and complexity of a typical German Riesling.
LILIAC Rose Pinot Noir
Salmon pink color with beautiful aromas of nectarine, roses and strawberry. High acidity. This is food wine. Dries your mouth a bit. Less friendly than their Young Light Rose made of Feteasca Neagra (see below).
DOMENIUL VLADOI PIVNITA BASARABILOR 1er cuvee — Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot and Feteasca Neagra
Black fruit and chocolate aromas, medium body, high acidity and strong tannins. Long chocolaty finish.
VIILE METAMORPHOSIS Via Marchizului Negru de Dragasani
Deep red color, opaque with violet hues, giving aromas of blackberries with notes of figs and chocolate marked out by a vanilla character. Fresh, juicy and flavorful as it enters the mouth with round tannins and long, lingering finish.
A quick wine at the cozy terrace of Corks
Perhaps the most extensive wine list I encountered in Bucharest and you can drink everything by the glass! Their terrace was cute and the person who served us was knowledgeable and friendly enough. We arrived right when they opened at 15.00 and had only one hour available. Probably not the best time of the day to judge the atmosphere of the place. I was told by a local that he does not prefer it because most of the staff they know nothing about the wine.
LILIAC Fetească Regală
A fresh light white wine from the indigenous Feteasca Regala grapePale yellow golden color, a bit shy on the nose with subtle lemon aromas. On the palate, light body, with crisp acidity, green apple, citrus flavors and pronounced minerality.
MOSIA DE LA TOHANI Pinot Noir Special Reserve
A really yummy medium-full bodied Pinot Noir. Ruby red color, more opaque than typical French Pinots from Burgundy. On the nose: sweet spice and ripe red fruits. Light tannins and medium acidity. Very friendly and easy to drink on its own. Long fruity and lightly sweet finish.
I wanted to eat and drink the whole menu at Pâine și Vin
By far my favorite place to drink and eat in Bucharest. Interior, service, wine list, hospitality, food, neighborhood: Top notch! We had a couple of wines and a small bite there. I wish I had time to go back again and again to try every single thing on their menu.
What we drank
DAVINO Iacob white Sauvignon blanc — Feteasca alba
A lovely aromatic white wine with floral and stone fruit aromas, medium body and nice crisp acidity. Fresh, fruity, well balanced, and easy to drink. Great for aperitif.
BASILESCU — Chardonnay & Muscat Ottonel
Interesting wine. Not sure if I like it. I was a bit confused. This combination of smokiness (oaked Chardonnay) and aromatic Muscat Ottonel, does not sit well with me. I’m glad I tried it though, it was something else.
Dinner & Wine at a Bucharest classic: Shift Pub & Alt Shift
The two sister all-day bistros, one in the very center (Old Town), the other closer to Piata Romana (10 min cab drive from the Old Town). Similar aesthetic and same menu. Great pasta and meat dishes, cocktails and good wine list. Big plus: Shift Pub’s garden.
LILIAC Young Rose Light — Feteasca Neagra
Made by indigenous red grape Feteasca Neagra. Inviting aromas of peach, banana & strawberry bubblegum. • medium-full body, medium-high acidity with long finish. Drink with light summer dishes or drink on its own as an aperitif on a hot summer afternoon.
DAVINO — Iacob Cabernet — Feteasca Neagra
I found the fruit aromas a bit too ripe and jammy for my taste. My boyfriend, who loves his reds as full and bold as possible, loved it. It was appetizing and went well with the meats dishes.
CORCOVA — Cabernet Sauvignon & Merlot
Preferred this one. The fruit was more clean in taste and smell. Definitely more elegant. Paired better with my pork dish than the previous one.
Fine Dining & wine-ing at The Artist (Piata Victoriei)
Located a little bit outside the city center, around Piata Victoriei in a beautiful Art Nouveau villa with its own garden, the Artist is where you go for a gourmet experience. The Dutch chef and owner, relocated to Bucharest for love. He is know creating perhaps the most sought after fine dining cuisine in Bucharest.
ROTENBERG Primus Septura Merlot perhaps my favorite Romanian wine. An elegant, well-balanced red with velvety tannins, clean red fruit aromas with vanilla and chocolate finish.
Romanian wine is good. Certain varietals could be an acquired taste for some. I bet most will like the reds more than the whites. International grapes (mostly French) are good and perhaps a good way to ease in to local varietals. Styles vary a lot and they seem to depend a lot on the producer. You do not really see the consistency that you encounter in wine styles of the Old World. But again, we are talking about a modern wine making tradition of barely three decades. It will be really interesting to see how the style will evolve over time. Finally, I’m also well aware that this is the impression I got from trying a few wines from various producers and regions in only one weekend. I’d love to try soon Romanian wines from more producers, more varietals and more regions in order to get a proper understanding of the region.
Pâine și Vin — Strada Actor Ion Brezoianu 4, București 050023
Abel’s wine bar — Strada Nicolae Tonitza 10, București 030113
Corks — Strada Băcani 1, București 030167
Shift Pub — Strada General Eremia Grigorescu 17, București 030167,
Alt Shift — Strada Constantin Mille 4, București 010142
The Artist — Calea Victoriei 147, București 010073
Winemakers to look for
Liliac, Vinarte, Basilescu, Recaş, Davino, Halewood, Lacerta, Oprişor, Aurelia Vişinescu, S.E.R.V.E., Drăgăşan, Rotenberg, Villa Vinea
whites — Fetească Albă, Fetească Regală, Tămâioasă Românească, Crâmpoşie; red s— Fetească Neagră, Negru de Drăgăşani, Novac, Cadarcă.
Find what they taste like here.
Where to buy Romanian wine
Can you help fill in the list?
What’s another exciting alternative wine region to check out? Let me know in the comments!
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