Two estates, one vision, and a wine for every palate
Wednesday 15 September 2021
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Vinarte was established 22 years ago by a small group of Romanian, French and Italian wine makers, led by Sergio Faleschini, whose family migrated from Friuli, Italy in 1936. This small, passionate group shared a vision for how Romanian wine could and should be and, since then, has played a leading role not only in driving up standards, but advocating on behalf of the entire industry.
Setting out with a bold plan, Vinarte started by acquiring two estates: Bolovanu (Olt county) and Stârmina (Mehedinți county). Despite their excellent terroir, developing these lands was a standing start for the young business. It had to completely reconstruct the vineyards on approximately 400 hectares by clearing and replanting noble vines, selected specifically for the terroir of each area. The existing vinification centres, almost in ruin, also had to be completely gutted, and refitted with modern winemaking equipment.
Bolovanu is renowned for red wines (especially for the Cabernet Sauvignon), with a mineral structure that is typical for alluvial soils and provides a distinct character to the wines. The terraces face south-west, on a downward slope towards the Olt river, acting like a thermal regulator and allowing an undisturbed development of the grapes. This ideal micro-climate, specific to these lands ensures equilibrium between sugars, acidity and polyphenols, creating well balanced wines.
Stârmina is well known for the maritime climate and Mediterranean influences, which confer a unique vibe to the grapes cultivated here. Located on a medium height of 270 m above the sea level, very close to the Danube river, this wine region has always produced remarkable wines, being ideal for both whites and reds.
Vinarte’s breakthrough came several years later, when its Prince Matei, Prince Mircea and Soare wines started garnering praise internationally, and crucially winning over a sceptical domestic audience.
These were not just excellent wines, of course. Vinarte has always been highly focused on showcasing the world-class terroir of its vineyards; it may sound like a truism, but these are very much wines ‘of their place’, with unique growing conditions and distinctive native varietals that were (and remain) unfamiliar to many. In combination, the characteristics of these two very different vineyards have allowed Vinarte to assemble a broad portfolio of styles.
“Romania is becoming known internationally for its terroir, with extraordinary potential to cultivate local and international varieties,” says winemaker Iustin Urucu. “In terms of productivity, according to OIV [Organisation Internationale de la Vigne et du vin] statistics, Romania officially produces approximately 5.5 million hectolitres per year, ranking seventh in Europe and 13th in the world. Despite all of these facts, Romania is still an unknown entity for many wine buyers. Often Balkan and former Soviet Bloc countries are lumped together in the consciousness of wine buyers as being quirky, but not serious contenders in making quality wines.”
Vinate’s values as a business are also noteworthy, placing great emphasis on proactive environmental responsibility and dealing ethically with employees and suppliers at all times. It has also evolved into something of a standard-bearer for wider Romanian culture, using its international success to promote tourism and greater appreciation.
“To understand Romania, you should taste its wine,” continues Iustin. “It is not just drinking wine, it is sensory experience, taking in Romanian culture and tradition and fascinating insights into the world of Romanian wine production. The experience is deliciously enjoyable and educational at the same time.”
While Iustin acknowledges Romania’s quality, modern winemakers, they have considerable work to do in overcoming the impression left by the communist years; he makes a compelling argument that the nation is ready to take its place on the world wine stage, and that it’s the rest of us who need to catch up.
“Quality winemaking in Romania is more than just a work in progress,” he says, with clear passion. “The symbiosis between intriguing grape varieties, local wine-growing talent and wine specialists from abroad has fermented into a thriving sector that both captures the zeitgeist and forges ahead with innovation and daring. The world is gradually taking notice of the essence of Romanian wine.”
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