“There’s much more to Romanian wine than cheap Pinot,” writes wine columnist Henry Jeffreys in Food & Wine. “ The country has a wealth of indigenous grapes such as Fetească Regală and Crâmpoşie for whites, and for reds Fetească Neagră, Novac and the wonderfully named Negru de Drăgăşani (it’s pronounced something like Drer-ger-sharn which sounds like a character from Game of Thrones).”
A trip to visit Romanian wineries took him to the historical city of Timișoara in Western Romania and the nearby Balla Géza Winery:
Timișoara has the feel of a miniature Vienna or Budapest. The west of Romania used to be part of the Austro-Hungarian empire and there’s still a strong Hungarian influence. Balla Géza, owner of another vineyard near the city, Princess Winery (they do love a Princess in Romania) is Hungarian. Alongside the Romanian and international varieties he grows Hungarian grapes such as the white Furmint (famous for Tokaji) and the reds Kadarka and Kekfrankos (Blaufrankisch in Austria) He was manager for the state wine company and when Communism collapsed managed to buy up the best land at very reasonable prices, he told me with a glint in his eye.
Tourism is very important for him too. He has a guest house on site and an extremely good cook. On my visit we feasted on roast duck with quinces, stuffed cabbage leaves and roast loin of pork in a cream sauce.
Balla Géza is our first producer from Romania and Fetească Neagră is our first native Romanian red grape variety. Fetească Neagră means the “black girl” and originates from the Eastern part of Transylvania. The wine is deliciously fruity, spicy with round tannins and makes an excellent accompaniment for savory stuffed cabbage leaves.