Frédéric Vigroux: Romanian Wines – an International Perspective

Being the 13th producer of wine in the world on its estimated 160.000 ha planted (for comparison, there are 120.000 ha in Bordeaux), Romania is not a small player when we refer to the volume of wine produced with its 5,1 million hl produced in 2017 .

Author: Frédéric Vigroux
© Hélène Viaplana

© Alina Iancu

The golden age of the sovietic volume with fermenting vats of the size of a swimming pool is now over, however Romania did not yet show to the world the potential of its wines. Fortunately, things are changing these days and this is wonderful news! 

Before producing the off-dry Pinot Noir for the export market that you could have found on the bottom shelves of the supermarkets of England, Romania was producing wonderful sweet wines as prestigious as Tokaji wines, and I was actually surprised to discover a bottle of Grasă de Cotnari from 1969 in the distinguished Restaurant of Paul Bocuse in the village of Collonges-au-Mont-d’Or. 

However, the future of Romanian wines does not lie in sweet wines anymore. Today, thanks to foreign pioneers who invested after the revolution, to EU funds which proved to be very efficient, and to talented Romanian winemakers who referred to wine beyond the country’s borders, Romania is now a modern wine producing country with up-to-date equipment. In terms of style, Romania finally joined the trend of making wines with less oak influence, with few wineries going organic, with some making parcellar vinification, with some going into the natural trend. New books are being published on Romanian wines, everything seems ready to see this country sitting next to the great wine-producing countries. 

So far, Romanian palate seems to appreciate this evolution with less and less people preferring off-dry and/or demisec wines. White wines still remain at a higher level of consumption than in most countries, mainly very aromatic varieties, and like everywhere in the world, rosé is getting more and more important all along the year. However, Romanians still prefer opulent red wines when we observe a tendency to reduce the alcohol in most producing regions. It is also interesting to observe that the Romanian consumers are more open to imported wines than Italians or French are, preferring different styles of wine: white with low alcohol level and very aromatic (wines Romanian terroir can hardly produce), and prestigious reds from famous regions, mainly from Italy. Of course, Romanians did not reject the global trends of drinking Prosecco and Pinot Grigio! 

If you are interested in Romanian wines, I invite you to taste what are, for me, the 2 key grapes of Romania: Negru de Drăgășani and Fetească Neagră. Even if Romanian terroir can ripe beautiful grapes of Cabernet Sauvignon and Merlot, it seems to me that the identity of Romania lies in its indigenous grapes, the only way to emerge in a competitive world of wines. As for the whites, I often have the impression that Romanian climate is slightly too warm to produce premium wines, therefore, I always propose white wines from cooler spots rather than a specific grape which would not express itself wonderfully in a non-appropriate terroir. Now, if you want to know which wines more precisely, you just have to turn the next pages…



Frédéric is a French sommelier consultant, holder of the WSET Diploma since September 2017, and a Certified Wine Educator for WSET Levels 1 to 3. He works as Wine Teacher for WSET in Paris & Bucharest (Wine Craft), while also offering wine consultancy and is the founder of the wine import company NumberWine.