Romania: Vine varieties

Appears in

Oxford Companion to Wine

Oxford Companion to Wine

By Jancis Robinson

Published 2006

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Romania is notable for the number and scope of its grapevine collections, with 95 wine varieties recorded in 2013. It also has a significant proportion of hybrids. These hybrids are largely American direct producers (89,620 ha in 2011) and were due to be uprooted by 2014 under the terms of EU accession agreements, but this target will not be met. Industry data for 2013 showed that the most planted varieties by far are two white feteascăs, Fetească Albă (12,633 ha/31,217 acres) and Fetească Regală (12,933 ha/31,958 acres), both of which can produce fresh, perfumed, dry white wines, though may be vinified with varying degrees of perceptible sweetness for the domestic market. Fetească Regală has more body and can be successfully barrel fermented. The third most planted white wine variety is Riesling Italico, or welschriesling, grown on 7,671 ha but usually marketed locally simply as ‘Riesling’. Note that genuine riesling was only grown on 128 ha. Aligoté (6,325 ha), Sauvignon (5,459 ha) then Muscat Ottonel (4,330 ha) are next, with the latter two showing significant increases in plantings in the five years to 2013. Other white varieties that have shown significant increases by area include Chardonnay, Pinot Gris (usually marketed as Pinot Grigio), and tămâioasă Românească (the ‘frankincense grape’, a local clone of muscat blanc à petit grains). Merlot is the most planted red wine variety with 11,636 ha/28,741 acres, followed by cabernet sauvignon with much less vineyard, 5,308 ha. Local grapes Roşioară (Bulgaria’s pamid) planted on 2,852 ha and Băbească Neagră (‘grandmother’s grape’) (2,73 6ha) are both losing ground and typically make light, ordinary reds. Of much greater interest is Fetească Neagră (the ‘black maiden grape’) planted on 2,508 ha whose area is increasing rapidly because of its potential as Romania’s flagship red grape, although work still needs to be done on both viticulture, as it is prone to excessive yields, and winemaking to manage its combination of high acidity and high pH. Pinot Noir is viewed in certain export markets as Romania’s signature grape variety, and the area planted has increased from an estimated 500 ha in 2005 to 1,796 ha in 2013. The variety was imported into Romania around 1900, particularly for sparkling wine production. The variety long known as Burgund Mare (‘big Burgundian’) is Kékfrankos, or blaufränkisch.