Regional profile: Romania
Romanian wine is still a well guarded secret to everyone but the Romanians themselves. Not only are they blessed with the greatest area under vine. More importantly, Romanians differ in regards to their enthusiasm for wine. What makes Romania different from its neighbours in Eastern Europe is that it has a large domestic wine market, with over 19 million citizens and a strong wine drinking culture. The per capita consumption is around 20 litres per year. Regional economic factors in the 1990s lead to a steep production decline, and since entering the EU in 2007 improving wine quality has been first on the agenda.
Most of its success in export markets has so far been in the off-trade. The country has built up a reputation for cheap and palatable varietal wine. The variety of wines coming from Romania is forecasted to explode. How couldn’t it, with over 170 new producers in the last eleven years. In 2018 we saw a successful launch of a £5.99 Romanian Orange wine at ALDI in UK, we view this as a preview of the interesting times ahead for Romanian wine.
Romania lies on the same latitude as France, but its climate is significantly more continental. The country is home to more than 250 wine producers, about 140 of these bottle their own wine with in-house brands. According to the statistical directories there was 69.219 hectares of vineyards cultivated in 1915. Forward 100 years and the area under vines have exploded to 178,151 hectares, the most resent figure is just above that, about 182,363 hectares. There are more vines than this, but they are generally small plantations for private use, it’s still common to make your own wine in Romania. At its current rate, Romanian wine production is slightly above New Zealand’s.
Grapevines are grown throughout most of the surface of the country, from the Danube River in the south to the northern regions just neighbouring Ukraine and Moldova. Noble wine varieties accounts for 54% of the total cultivated area. The concentration is largest in the southeast of the country, about 40% of the vineyards are located there. Romania ranks 5th in the EU in terms of surface planted with vines.
Over 25,000 hectares of vineyards have been replanted with quality vines since 2010, as these vines get older we can anticipate an improvement in wine quality. We are presenting some of the main grape growing regions below, not as a complete compendium, but as a means to show the diversity of growing conditions:
Arad: bordering to Hungary in the west, Arad is the home region of DOC Miniş, a smaller hillside area in the western part of the Zarand Mountains.
Bohotin: a wine producing commune mainly known for its Busuioacă de Bohotin, a sweet rosé wine.
The Transylvanian Plateau: a vast area in central Romania. One of the most famous vineyard areas is the Lechinţa DOC, formed from several villages at altitudes up to 500 meters. Transylvania is the source of some particularly good white wines, most notably those from the DOC Târnave.
Dobrogea: A touristic region by the Danube Delta. Its proximity to the Black Sea gives a cooling effect to the grapes, winters out here are dramatically less harsh. The wines of DOC Oltina comes from Dobrogea.
Southern Carpathian hills: area in he south east encompassing winemaking regions such as the DOC Dealu Mare. Positioned on the parallel 45°, in the select company of Bordeaux and Tuscany.
Muntenia and Oltenia: Another large plateau in the south-west, sometimes referred to as the Geltic plateau. Here we can find more general appellations such as the IG Dealurile Olteniei, a geographical indication that refers to the entire wine-producing area of Oltenia. Of the DOCs, the most famed would be `Drăgăşani´, one of the oldest vineyards in Oltenia.
The top ten most important varieties of grapes include four local varieties and six foreign varieties. Fetească Regală (12,661 hectares) is the most widely planted variety, it produces fresh, aromatic wines of varying sweetness. Fetească Alba (12,383 ha) is a 1930s crossing of Fetească Regală. Together with Merlot (11,368 ha) these three varieties are the only ones with an area of over 10,000 hectares. Philip Cox at leading exporter Cramele Recas said that Sauvignon Blanc, Pinot Noir and Pinot Grigio still are the main grapes in export markets.
There are also several native Romanian varieties, which deserve a particular mention. Babeasca for red wine, and Francusa, Grasa, Galbena, Busuioaca and Tamaioasa for white wines. Eurostat reports that in 2015, only one-third of Romanian vineyards were planted with grapes for high-quality wine, which is the lowest in Europe.
During the communist period (1948-1989), three types of wine-producing organisations developed: research institutes, wine estates, and co-operatives. The emphasis was strongly on quantity rather than quality. Opposite to other large wine producing countries, Romania is a net importer rather than exporter. There are however, producers that would happily export bulk wine.
– the price for bulk is about 10-20% higher than similar wines from Republic of Moldova, said Vasile Hincu, our Regional Manager in Romania.
The wines of Romania are largely unknown to the rest of the world, a mere 5 to 10% of the production is exported. The main markets are UK and Germany, the opportunity seems to be with competitive and developed markets that value ultra-low prices. Other consistent importers are China, Netherlands, Italy, Spain, USA, Slovakia, Estonia and Canada. These countries buy 88% of Romania's exported wine.
The Romanian Wine Promotion Association, also called Premium Wines of Romania, is an interregional organisation which brings together a collection of export interested producers. Organisations such as these has received EU funding to promote their products. But so does Wines of Romania, the two organisations do not cooperate at present.
In global figures, Romania is ranked 37 in the exporting countries with 12.6 million litres exported in 2017 for a total of 21.5 million USD. The very large domestic demand leads the Romanian producers to focus their efforts on Romania and not on exports. Moreover, the export price is lower than on the local market, a fact that explains why most producers are not focusing on exports.
Cramele Recas: The founders Philip Cox and his Romanian wife Elvira has made Cramele Recas the leading exporter of premium wine in Romania. Last year the winery celebrated its 20th anniversary. Cox’s winery is now one of the largest in Romania, and stands for some 40% of the Romanian wine industry’s exports.
Murfatlar: used to be the biggest producer, company that had its origins in the communist era – went into insolvency recently due to alleged tax fraud. Owns vineyards over an area of approximately 2,600 hectares.
Prince Stirbey: since more than 300 years, the family of Prince Stirbey has owned vineyards in the Dragasani wine region. Owned by Baroness Ileana Kripp-Costinescu and Baron Jakob Kripp since 1999.
Jidvei winery: was established as an industrial winemaking center in the 1950s, and privatised in 1999. The winery developed tremendously, now exporting much of its production. With an area of 2,500 hectares, Jidvei has the largest vineyard plantation in Romania , in fact they are claimed to be Europe’s largest vineyard with a unique owner.
Cotnari: The Cotnari company is in the heart of the Cotnari vineyard since 1948, being located in the wine-growing region of Moldova’s Plateau. The planted area of vineyards is over 1700 ha. The first historical mentions of the Cotnari vineyard date back to the 13th century.
As far as wine tourism is concerned, Romania is at the beginning. Of the 160 vineyards that produce bottled wine, 70 have wine tourism practices in place, but only 14 offer accommodation.
The communist government of the 1980s grew the wine industry with the aims of producing cheep wine for all. At its high point Romania had 300,000 hectares of vines. Since joining the European Union in 2007 EU funds are made available for local and foreign investors. Money that has been well spent on vineyard replacements and technical machinery. World Bank’s Ease of Doing Business Survey for 2018 ranked Romania at 45th out of 190 economies. The attractiveness of Romania's business environment is reflected in positive rankings such as those.
Exports amount to 5 to 10% of the production.
The Bachus Festival is held yearly in Vrancea.
The wine fair in Timisoara is held every November, called Rovinhud.
Premium Wines of Romania was founded by Rodica Căpăţînă in June 2015 and consists of small-to-medium wineries from across 10 different wine making regions.
For more information, contact your VINEX Regional Manager here