I was delighted to be asked by our buyer for Eastern European wine, Freddy Bulmer, to accompany him on a trip to Romania this summer courtesy of Prince Stirbey winery. Professionally, as the Regional Merchandiser for Eastern Europe, I jumped at the chance of gaining greater insight into the country whose wines are still relatively new for us. I wanted to find out more about Romania's indigenous grape varieties, and conditions within the country, both for grapes and people! And personally, I thought it would be fun and interesting, and if truth be told, I was fascinated to find out a little more about owners, Ileana and Jakob Kripp, The Princess and The Baron!
We made it! Freddy and I taking a breather after our long journey east
Tamâioasa Româneasca grapes
So, the first thing I will say is that door to door from our offices in Stevenage to the vineyards in Drăgăsani where we were staying took 11 hours. A lot longer than I was expecting, although it did include a two-hour stop for dinner in Pitesti (halfway between Bucharest and Drăgăsani).
Here we enjoyed a Prince Stirbey sparkling rosé made from the novac grape with the starter, and a Stirbey sweet tămâioasă românească with a lovely apple strudel as Jakob treated us to a delightful meal, and helped me celebrate my birthday. Both wines were new to me and both utterly delicious with the sweet a real delight.
On the way to Drăgăsani we stopped off at Măldăresti renowned for its cule or fortified 16th-century manor houses built in defence against the marauding Turks
Ileana, a direct descendant of the Romanian royal family had to stay in Austria as her daughter and grandchildren were there visiting. So Freddy and I had the company of Richard Fox UK agent for Prince Stirbey and Baron Jakob Kripp for the duration of our stay. Over dinner as we chatted I started to get a feel for the country and its people. Jakob told us that despite the fact that the country has significant oil and gas industries and a fast-growing economy, the wealth has not filtered down to the general population, even after the regime change. Dacia cars, now owned by Renault, are the most popular car on the road, but horse and cart still rank in the top 10!
A Romanian classic: Dacia cars are the most popular on the road but horse and cart still figure in the top 10!
Homebrew by the side of the road
Agriculture and farming are huge and there were swathes of sunflowers standing proud along the roadside as we travelled on our way. The people were friendly and charming and quick to smile and the language and culture has an Italian/Latin heritage as opposed to Slavic. Food was wholesome and healthy, simple but very generously proportioned and most definitely seasonal and locally produced.
Having left a scorched UK behind us it was quite refreshing to be surrounded by pleasant green vistas but the weather whilst we were there was either humid and hot with intense sunshine or stormy with lightning and thunder prickling the senses.
Wonderfully green Romanian landscape – a nice break from our hot summer!
A visit to the nearby majestic Carpathian mountains and iconic Transylvania would have been wonderful, but unfortunately we just did not have the time.
Homegrown grapes for breakfast – simple and delicious
Where to go next?