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Blog: Jennifer Ah-Kin ventures to the National Romanian Wine Exhibition

Published:  08 November, 2011

It's a cold sunny day, and Romanian folk music blares out from hidden speakers as we pass a stall selling plastic pint glasses of unfermented local grape juice and enter the exhibition hall, a former aeroplane hanger, from the look of the airfield next door.

Gathering together around twenty producers - mostly Romanian with the odd Bulgarian thrown in - this is the first incarnation of Vintest to be held in the Romanian capital Bucharest. The crowd is fairly relaxed this morning, and judging by the presence of a random furniture stall, a handful of charcuterie producers (pastrami originated in Romania), a stall selling tourism guides and the inexplicable number of chefs wandering around, presumably part of the advertised 'gastro show', the event has ample scope to grown in future years.

The wine labels (and sales team costumes) range from Medieval to cutting twenty-first century, and illustrate the producers' target market split between traditional retail consumers and the upmarket Bucharest restaurant trade.

Local varieties abound: Domeniile Nicore?ti's B?beasc? Neagr? is a pleasant example of the light red-fruit-dominated variety, while over at Aurelia Vi?inescu, the eponymous owner and winemaker is pouring samples of her White Artisan Feteasc? Alb? 2008, aged in Romanian oak and food-friendly with notes of pear and ripe melon. On the international side, her Anima Merlot 2008, with a firm tannin structure and dark berry aromas, is a far cry from the semi-sweet light reds favoured by the traditional Romanian palate.

A foray into Romanian sparkling wines is somewhat less successful, with Jidvei's Extra Brut proving rather overly tart and lacking in much autolytic character, despite its traditional Champagne method. Also unconvincing, at least to UK tastes, are the host of 'demidulce' whites such as the Domeniile Boieru's Chardonnay and Episcopal white blend (Traminer, Pinot Gris, Sauvignon), where residual sugar leaves the wines tending more towards confection than refreshement.

Thank goodness then for Budureasca's Origini T?mâioas? Româneasc? 2009, proof that Romania's semi-sweet whites can indeed flourish in the right hands. With a stunning aromatic nose of lychee and elderflower, this varietal wine from the Dealu Mare region north of Bucharest, an area more known for its reds, showcases the potential for this local grape to be billed as 'the Gewürztraminer of Romania'. As for the reds, their Origini Reserve 2006, oak-aged for 36 months, is smooth and concentrated blend of Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot and Pinot Noir in equal parts, with sumptuous black fruit and a hint of prunes.