If you visit this blog from time to time (which I hope you do), you’ll know that I’m very committed to the wines of (so-called) Central and Eastern Europe. Countries such Slovenia, Croatia or Hungary have some great terroirs and a long-standing tradition of making good wines. And they deserve to be better-known for what they do now.
Is Romania in that group? I summed up my ambiguous feelings about this large winemaking country in this post. A lot of bad wine is made in Romania, and very few outstanding wines. Now here comes a producer that promises to change the equation. The Petro Vaselo winery, under Italian ownership, was started in 2005 and currently has 42 ha under vine in Banat, Western Romania close to the border with Hungary and Serbia. Two samples I’ve been sent were really rather impressive.
The 2010 Otarniţa Pinot Noir is a serious take on this quirky grape, although at this stage it is a very young and tight wine, still much under the influence of oak. With good body and concentration, the fruit is somewhat muted at the moment, but I tasted the wine just a few months after bottling. There is also a bit of unresolved green acids, likely from the fact that 2010 was a virgin harvest (vines planted in 2007). But this wine has more substance and style than most Pinot Noirs from Eastern Europe.
The 2009 Ovaş is a 70% Merlot–30% Cabernet Sauvignon blend. Courtesy of the extra year in bottle, it is more harmonious and interesting than the above. The concentration is striking – a totally black colour in the glass! Ripe forest berries nose with some earthy and animal notes. On the palate this is showing pretty massive oak at the moment that will take a very long time to integrate. But the quality of fruit is very impressive: ripe, round with balanced soft tannins, this does have has that extra touch of almost tactile excitement that sets a wine apart from its peers. And in my experience, this excels precisely where other Romanian wines fail: with inadequate farming they’re often unbalanced with rough tannins and uneven fruit ripeness. Here, the opposite. With airing the oak, paradoxically, becomes more obvious, but there’s no denying the seriousness of this wine. This is actually produced in 30K bottles, no mean number considering the quality and ambition.
I’ve only tasted two wines, the range is larger with also some white wines being made. I’m even more impressed given the fact that a) the vineyards here are still in the infant stage, and once they reach 10–15 years of age the wines will become a different story altogether; b) until 2011 no cellar existed here, and the wines were vinified off-site. With a new facility now operational there is immediate hope for improvement. Petro Vaselo is already exciting, and that’s just the beginning, apparently.
Source of wines: samples sent by the winery. Otarniţa Pinot Noir wine label reproduced from Printrevinuri.ro.