Event

The Expert Team for the 2019 Guide to Romanian Wines

Five experts were part of the evaluation team, each having his/her well defined role. The two local experts involved in this project are Sergiu Nedelea (sommelier) and Robert Marshall (consultant, WSET), and the three international experts who tasted and judged the wines are: Ana Săpungiu (Master of Wine), Caroline Gilby (Master of Wine) and Isa Bal (Master Sommelier).

Left to right: ISA BAL, Master Sommelier; ANA SĂPUNGIU, Master of Wine; CAROLINE GILBY, Master of Wine; ȘTEFAN MORTICI, co-CEO Gault&Millau România


Left to right: ROBERT MARSHALL, Consultant, WSET; ȘTEFAN MORTICI, co-CEO Gault&Millau România; ISA BAL, Master Sommelier; CAROLINE GILBY, Master of Wine; ANA SĂPUNGIU, Master of Wine; SERGIU NEDELEA, Founder Winetaste School, Sommelier


Left to right: ISA BAL, Master Sommelier; ANA SĂPUNGIU, Master of Wine; CAROLINE GILBY, Master of Wine


ANA SĂPUNGIU, Master of Wine


CAROLINE GILBY, Master of Wine


CAROLINE GILBY, Master of Wine


ISA BAL, Master Sommelier

Credit for all fotos: Cătălin Olteanu



In Romania, the objective of the Guide is to present, to a wide local and international audience, a selection of the best Romanian wines, placed in an international context. 


Five experts were part of the wine evaluation team. The two local experts involved in this project are Sergiu Nedelea (Sommelier) and Robert Marshall (consultant, WSET), and the three international experts who tasted and judged the wines are: Ana Săpungiu (Master of Wine), Caroline Gilby (Master of Wine) and Isa Bal (Master Sommelier).


The titles of Master of Wine and Master Sommelier are the highest distinctions that can be achievied by wine experts (there are only 380 MW and 273 MS in the world), thus ensuring the highest available level of experience and work ethics. Additionally to the technical knowledge, another important criterion in choosing the wine judges was the lack of commercial ties to local wine makers. To judge the wines, the team of international experts applied the international Gault&Millau methodology, hence assigning scores to each of the wine labels after tasting during multiple rounds and over multiple days. The tastings were ’semi-blind’, the judges did not know the wine labels, while having access though to information referring to grape varieties and to the vintage.


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THE TWO LOCAL CONSULTANTS - Robert and Sergiu



1. ROBERT MARSHALL – Consultant, WSET


Robert was part of the team of local experts, being involved in defining the database of Romanian wines as well as the short list of wines to be evaluated, contributing also to centralizing and summarizing the evaluation sheets of the 3 wine judges.


Robert Marshall is a British born wine and spirits consultant with over 15 years experience in the restaurant and service industry. He moved to Romania in 2007 and began working for a local wine producer in 2010 and during this time also studied for his WSET diploma in London. Since 2016 he has worked as a freelance consultant for importers of premium drinks. As well as evaluating and writing about wine and food, he has presented a travel documentary on Romanian wine. He helps to promote Romania on foreign markets, while continuing to offer consulting services for restaurants throughout the country


2. SERGIU NEDELEA – Founder Winetaste School, Sommelier 


Sergiu was part of the team of local experts, being involved in defining the database of Romanian wines as well as the short list of wines to be evaluated, contributing to the set-up of the tasting, to the description of the wineries included in the guide, as well as to ensuring the accuracy of the wine review texts. 


With a professional experience spanning over 20 years, Sergiu is well known as Founder of Winetaste School, CEO Sommelier Agency, as well as an outstanding member of the European Knighthood of the Wine – O.E.V.E., where he acts as Cupbearer and President of the Oenological Commission – Romanian Consulate. In 2017 he was named “The best Sommelier in Romania” by HoReCa Insight. Member in international juries for Concours Mondial de Bruxelles and International Enologic Contest Vinitaly, as well as in local ones, Sergiu is also known as an author of books and articles published in relevant specialty publications. Additionally, he is a member of the Association of Tourism Journalists and Writers of Romania.


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THE THREE INTERNATIONAL JUDGED WHO TASTED AND EVALUATED THE WINES - Ana, Caroline & Isa



1. ANA SĂPUNGIU – Master of Wine


Ana was part of the team of wine judges, tasting and assessing each of the 219 selected wines (filling-in extensive assessment sheets, scoring from 0 to 100, aligning with the team on the final scores and ranking).


Ana is the Head Wine Buyer for Oddbins Wine Merchants. She has an innovative approach to buying, exploring less familiar categories whilst challenging the classic regions for value. Ana came to London from her native Romania to study for an mba degree, completed with a wine project. During her studies, she worked in different wine agencies in London, including Liberty Wines. Currently, she is one of the judges at Decanter and International Wine Challenge plus other international wine competitions


Ana's view on the evaluated wines: 

"The quality of the reds is high and particularly for the indigenous grape varieties – Feteasca Neagră/ Negru de Drăgășani. The style is improving towards a less extracted and more balanced, fresher style of wines as required for the international markets and it is great to notice this evolution. The one grape that did not show very well on the red side was Pinot Noir – it seems to get planted in sites that are too warm for the grape and results in wines that do not show its true characteristics. The quality of the whites was more mixed and atypical for the grape variety in some cases. However, there were some very good examples of indigenous varieties – Fetească Regală/Albă that showed well. I would discourage Sauvignon Blanc as it is atypical for international standards (already firmly established due to its popularity) and therefore not understood; the quality is also varied."


2. CAROLINE GILBY – Master of Wine


Caroline was part of the team of wine judges, tasting and assessing each of the 219 selected wines (filling-in extensive assessment sheets, scoring from 0 to 100, aligning with the team on the final scores and ranking). 


Caroline Gilby (an MW since 1992) has a passion for the wines of Eastern Europe. She started her career when this region was very important in the UK in late 1980s and has followed Romanian wine since the beginning of the new era. She has seen a complete revolution in winemaking since then. Since 1995, she has been freelance: panel chair at Decanter World Wine Awards and writing for books like Oxford Companion to Wine, Hugh Johnson’s Pocket Wine Book and magazines including Decanter, Meininger’s Wine Business Int’l and Harpers. In July 2018, her own book “The Wines of Bulgaria, Romania and Moldova” was published


Caroline's view on the evaluated wines:

"One of the most impressive features of this tasting was that Romanian wine producers were showing real strength in depth. There were very good and even excellent wines in most categories across a range of grapes including both local and international varieties. I think the two categories that underperformed were Sauvignon Blanc and Pinot Noir. For Sauvignon, wines rarely match up to the global excellence for this grape. Pinot Noir did not offer the finesse and excitement the judges might have hoped for at this more premium level. Overall, where wines disappointed, it was often due to poor handling, bottling faults or excessive oak use, though over-extraction was thankfully rarely a problem. Altogether, I came away from this tasting feeling that I have tried some genuinely exciting and truly excellent wines" 


3. ISA BAL – Master Sommelier


Isa was part of the team of wine judges, tasting and assessing each of the 219 selected wines (filling-in extensive assessment sheets, scoring from 0 to 100, aligning with the team on the final scores and ranking). 


Isa is a Master Sommelier and a member of the board for The Court of Master Sommeliers Worldwide. He was the winner of Best Sommelier of Europe in 2008 and he was awarded the Dom Perignon award of Excellence by UK Academy of Food and Wine Service. He has worked for top establishments in UK for over twenty years. Currently he runs his own wine & gastronomy consulting company focusing on restaurants, hotels (including staff training), as well as wineries (various topics)


Isa's view on the evaluated wines: 

"Generally, the quality of the wines was very high and there were many different styles that show a sophisticated wine industry and appreciation of wine. It is encouraging that the price points of these wines are often quite competitive in comparison to the rest of the world markets. I found the quality of Cabernet Sauvignon based wines particularly good as far as the international grapes are concerned. I was somewhat dissatisfied by the Pinot Noir, which lacked the finer, complex aromas and flavors one expects from this grape variety. Sauvignon Blanc and Chardonnay both showed some good examples, though some varying in quality. I also enjoyed wines made by Fetească Neagră, which displayed a good fruity structure without being too light or too heavy, while also blending well with other varieties. Overall I was impressed by the quality of Romanian wines"