With so many wines to taste, so many producers to shift through, we are all looking for shortcuts to find the wineries that are most likely to be able to serve our buying and sourcing needs. Which potentially makes the Premium Wines of Romania organisation a very useful body to know if you are looking to get a head start on the diversity and quality of wine now being produced in the country. Local Romanian wine consultant, Rob Marshall, explains how it works.
Generic wine bodies that can bring together similar, quality focused wineries from the same country can do wonders for busy wine buyers trying to quickly understand what a country overall can offer. Which is good news for Premium Wines of Romania as that is what it has been set up to achieve, says its UK consultant, Rob Marshall.
Can you explain what the Premium Wines of Romania is and how it works?
Premium Wines of Romania was founded by Rodica Căpăţînă in June 2015 and consists of like-minded small-to-medium wineries from across 10 different wine making regions of Romania, they share a common goal to show the international wine world the sheer quality and finesse of the wines. There activities involve promoting Romania at international wine fairs and hosting tasting events to increase the profile of a much underrated wine producing country.
How many members do you have and how do you choose who becomes a member?
At present the group has 16 members but the number continues to increase as more and more wineries emerge and come on stream. Producers must focus on quality and generally have an area of below 200ha of vine, which is considered small to medium in Romania. It is important that producers show quality and consistency in their wines for several years before they are asked to join the group and show an understanding of commercial wine producing whilst maintaining a personality.
What is the primary objective of the group?
Our objective is to promote the best wine producers from Romania highlighting the countries diversity and talent for making great wines. Ultimately we not only hope to export higher quality Romanian wines, but also establish a good reputation for value and diversity.
(To get a sense of the personality and passion of the Premium Wines of Romania then watch this video…with a very familiar opening)
How would you describe the big changes in Romanian wine over the last five years?
Romania is a country that always seems to be in a state of flux – historically and politically. Whilst the vineyard area has decreased dramatically since communist times this is not a bad thing as there has been a greater focus on quality, with modern and innovative technology being installed in many wineries.
Since joining the EU in 2007 more funds have been available to producers as well as for promotional organisations such as ours. This factor has also encouraged an array of foreign investors, often passionate wine lovers, who would find it difficult to afford the land prices in established wine making countries such as France, Germany or Italy. Romania is still discovering itself so we are also privileged to have young and ambitious wine makers from countries including France, Italy and even England who have decided to make Romania their home
Why do you think Romanian wines deserve more attention by wine buyers now?
Romania is such 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. In particular Romania has a huge advantage over its neighbours – it has more hectares under vines (at present the sixth biggest producer in Europe and the most important player in the region) and also has many historical and ethnic influences as well as some striking and interesting native grape varieties
Which styles of Romanian wine do you think are best suited to UK wine buyers/ UK restaurants and bars?
The current trend for wine buyers appears to be a move towards diversity. More experienced wine buyers have had their fill of affordable aromatic, generic Sauvignon Blanc or over-oaked Chardonnay and are looking to try something new. Often this means unknown grape varieties and Romania has many including Feteasca Neagra which is a native, iconic, red wine grape in Romania that makes excellent unoaked fruity, youthful wines with ripe damson and plum flavours through to ageworthy examples that are often blended with more classic grape varieties such as Cabernet Sauvignon
What are the best price points for Romanian wine?
Production costs in Romania are lower than in other European countries and this is advantageous when it comes to export. Whilst it has taken some time to convince some producers to embrace screw cap and a fresher approach to packaging and labeling, there are some great value entry level wines made in international styles. However there are also wines with greater complexity that develop with age, and are worth paying more the 10 GBP for.
Where are your main export markets?
Romania’s main exports are the UK, Germany and rapidly growing markets like China focused on supermarket and large volume sales. However it is important to point out that consumers in countries, especially the UK, are not always aware that the generic bottle of Chardonnay for example is from Romania. Overall most wine made in Romania is consumed domestically.
The aim of Premium Wines of Romania is to establish Romania as a name that is synonymous with good quality wines. Great results have already been established in Germany and the group has been present for the last few years at ProWwein with a growing number of wineries as well as growing interest from buyers.
How important is the UK to your export strategy and why is it important to have your wines in the UK?
The UK is the wine market that every wine producer wants to be in. It is a large market, but can also be a tough market to crack. Many countries have tried and failed to make an impact on a highly diverse but competitive market. Romanian wine producers would love to see their labels alongside other countries on the shelves of wine shops and in the menus of restaurants out of a sense of pride.
At the same time Romania has the volumes to satisfy the UK market across all price points. Each producer within the group will have a different strategy regarding the UK depending on their portfolio and volumes available to export. However the consensus is that all the wineries are looking for knowledgeable and dedicated importers, buyers or agencies to represent them in the UK.
What activities are you doing in the UK to support the Premium Wines of Romania?
Nine producers from the group will attend the London Wine Fair in May. All of them have different approaches towards winemaking and a large selection of wine styled from full bodied oak aged reds; fresh, vibrant whites and roses through to luscious dessert wines made from indigenous grapes.
The stand will be located in the main hall ( D20) and we are pleased to host two master classes at the stand (May 21 and May 22 at 11am) and one master class at the walk up tasting area, presented by Darrel Joseph, an expert in wines from central and southern Europe, on May 23 at 10:30am. Each master class will showcase the best expressions of Romanian native grape varieties but also some more familiar wine styles that will let visitors know that Romania can compete at a high international level.
This will be Premium Wines of Romania’s first visit to the London Wine Fair. We not only hope to create a buzz about Romanian wines, but also meet with buyers and importers that are interested in working with wineries within our portfolio – all of whom have a broad range of wine styles, different price points and export strategies. The team will be on hand to introduce and guide you through a selection of superb wines and hear Romania’s story- an experience that is sure to linger on the palate and remain fixed in the minds of visitors to our stand.
Do you have any figures on how well Romania is doing in its key export markets?
The latest figure are for 2016 and they show that Germany is still our number one market, followed by the UK, the Netherlands, Spain and Italy. In value terms the UK is actually the biggest worth €6.9m, compared to Germany’s €6.4m, but Germans volumes are at 45THL versus the UK”s 44THL. Overall Romania is exporting 129THL worth €20.5m.
Feteasca Neagra makes up 33% of Romania’s production, with Merlot second at 22%.