Discover Romanian Sparkling Wine

10th March 2023

grapes from Champagne harvest 2020

It took some time, but Romanian wines are getting more and more known ánd popular outside Romania. Not only the reds and whites, but also the sparkling wines, that can be found all over the country and in a wide range of styles.

Quantity or Quality

Wine production in Romania dates back more than 6.000 years and is therefore actually one of the oldest wine producing countries in the world. Romanian wines were of a good quality until the communist regime started. This period (1947-1989) put a big mark on the lives of the Romanian inhabitants and with that, also on the wine industry. Wine production was being nationalized and farmers were obligated to join state- owned cooperatives and were only allowed to use a very small vineyard for their own purposes. At that time the focus in the wine industry was more on quantity than on quality. This lowered the quality and, consequently, the image of Romanian wines. The good wines were kept for export in order to obtain foreign currency. Some wines were only available at the cellar door to privileged ones with a recommendation from the party secretary, or to those who had an acquaintance in the winery. Most of the wines were semi-sweet and destined for export to the USSR.

The Wine Metamorphosis

Starting in the 1990s, this all changed when properties were returned to the original owners and, hence, reinvigoration and renewal of the wine industry had a slow start. It was difficult to verify the original ownerships of the different properties that had merged in the communist era, and the new owners often lacked the means to replant and rebuild. Change came quickly in 2007 when Romania joined the European Union and the winemakers had access to EU funds. From then on, foreigners as well as Romanians were allowed to own properties in Romania, which in turn attracted investors from abroad.
Romanian sparkling wines

As for sparkling wines, Romania has an ideal climate. The climate in the north and west is continental, with strong winters, warm summers and mild autumns. To the east the climate becomes milder, with the influence of the Black sea. This diversity makes it possible to produce a wide range of wines from a even wide range of grape varieties. In particular the cool climate in Transylvania makes this region suitable for the production of sparkling wine.

Romanian sparkling wines can be produced in a wide range of styles. Many of them are produced with the traditional method (the second fermentation in the bottle) or with the Charmat method (second fermentation in a tank). But you can even find wines produced with the Asti method (the first fermentation is stopped earlier to keep some of the CO2).

Oldest Sparkling Wine Producer

It is said that the first Romanian sparkling wine was produced in 1841, in Iasi, by professor Ion Ionescu de la Brad, who had studied in France. One of the oldest sparkling wine producers is Rhein & Cie 1892 Azuga Cellars, that started in in 1892. The history of this winery is famous due to the connection with the Royal House of Romania ever since 1904 when it became the official supplier of the Royal House of Romania. Their Rhein Extra range is made by the traditional method with the Champagne grape varieties chardonnay and pinot noir.

Methode Traditional and Asti

A Transylvanian winery like the Carastelec Winery produces its traditional sparkling wines, like the Rhein Extra, with the traditional Champagne grape varieties chardonnay, pinot noir and meunier. But they also produce a fun, friendly and approachable light sparkling ‘frizzante’ that is made by the Asti method and sold under the name FRIZA. These wines are produced with the indigenous variety feteasca neagra and the more known pinot noir.

Indigenous Varieties From West To East

Another Transylvanian producer worth mentioning is Podgoria Silvania. In the northern part of Transylvania they produce sparkling wines by the traditional method of a wider range of varieties: feteasca regala, feteasca alba, muscat ottonel, pinot noir, chardonnay and traminer. Not in Transylvania, but a producer of sparkling wines from mainly Romanian varieties is Cramele Cotnari in Iasi, the east of the country. They are famous for their dry and (semi-)sweet wines of indigenous varieties feteasca neagra, tamaiosa romaneasca, feteasca alba, grasa de cotnari and the aromatic variety busuioaca.

There are way more producers, wine styles and varieties to mention. I will keep you posted!

Anne-Wies van Oosten, DipWSET

Dutch wine journalist, currently living in Transylvania, Romania, from where she travels the world and publishes articles about Wine, Food & Travel on her platform www.anne-wies.nl