Romanian Wine Tasting: Finding Feteasca Neagra in Dracula Country

Romania Wine Tour

Our visit to Romania’s wine country began on a lovely, warm summer day with a scenic drive from bustling Bucharest to the serene hills that serve as the backdrop to many of the country’s wineries. We saved our Romanian wine tasting trip for the very end of our vacation, a relaxing end to what we knew would be a fast-paced trek through four countries in just 10 days. Wine tasting tours are often a cornerstone activity for us and something we actively seek to incorporate into our travels, and we were excited to have a full day to enjoy one before beginning our journey home.

As our Romanian wine tasting day trip wound down, we lingered over glasses of Fetească Neagră, Romania’s native grape, at a beautiful winery called Vinalia in the company of Emilia, the manager. As we looked out over the sun-soaked vines, I heard Emilia sigh contentedly as she drained the last of her wine from her glass.

“It’s a special grape,” she told us, motioning to the vineyard just beyond the porch where we sat. “With Fetească Neagră, you can taste the blood of the grape, the power of the land, and the eternity of the sky.” We pondered her observation in silence, considering how much truth there was in that piece of poetry. Winemaking is an artform, a labor of love and the reflection of hard work and patience. It’s also a tribute to the land and the conditions that nurture grapes as they grow. You can learn so much about a new place through the food and drink they consume, and wine is often a big part of a country’s history and tradition—and that is certainly the case in Romania.

“With Fetească Neagră, you can taste the blood of the grape, the power of the land, and the eternity of the sky”

-Emilia, Manager at Vinalia

If you are considering a trip to Romania, wine tourism is a wonderful way to experience the country. From the vineyards outside of Bucharest to the city’s wine bars and events, there are plenty of ways to taste the blood of the grape, the power of the land, and the eternity of the sky. Here are a few ideas for making the most of your experience!

Romanian Wine: History and Facts

Vineyards in Romanian Wine CountryWhen you think of European wine regions, there’s a good chance you’ll remember Italy’s chiantis, Spain’s Tempranillos, or any wine from France before you’ll think of a single Romanian wine. We were surprised to learn that Romania is the fifth largest wine producer in Europe; in fact, winemaking has been part of the country’s identity for more than 6,000 years. Geographically, Romania shares a latitude with famous wine producing regions including Bordeaux in France and Oregon’s Willamette Valley (famous for pinot noir!). Geologically, Romania enjoys an enormous benefit from the Carpathian Mountains, which contributes to soil diversity that in turn is well-suited for many types of grapes. The mountains also team up with the Black Sea to provide moderate growing conditions, and the growing season itself is often long as warm autumns provide the chance for fruit to ripen slowly and richly, which contributes to flavorful grapes.

Among the many varietals that flourish in Romania’s generous terrain is the native Fetească Neagră. Fetească Neagră is a red grape that produces deep, ruby-colored wines well suited to dry, semi-dry, and sweet wines. Translating to ‘black maiden,’ it’s not hard to find Romanian wine made from the grapes, especially because they often age quite well: Fetească Neagră tends to become both richer in flavor and smoother with time. No matter how you choose to try Romanian wine, there’s a good chance Fetească Neagră will be prominently featured on the tasting menu.

Where to Taste Romanian Wine

When it comes to settling down with a glass or two of Romanian wine, there are three great ways to make wine accessible during your trip: visit a winery, try some at a restaurant or wine bar, or seek out a wine event. During our visit to Romania we had the chance to sip wine in all three environments: here’s what you can expect from each!

Visit a Romanian Winery

Lacerta Wine Cellars in Romania
LacertA Wine Cellar
After thoroughly enjoying our wine tasting adventures throughout the Balkans (including North Macedonia, Bulgaria, and Croatia), we were excited to book a wine tasting day trip from Bucharest that took us out of the city and into the lush countryside, where we could tour the wineries themselves. Our tour took us to the Prahova Valley, the countryside that borders Transylvania and is home to numerous wineries as well as some unbeatable scenery that made the 90-minute-long ride pass quickly.

Our guide for the day, Dan, took us to two wineries. We began at LacertA, named for the lizards often seen dashing about the property. We started with an informative, interactive tour that not only uncovered how the winemaker approaches and innovates the winemaking process, we sampled wine directly from one of the stainless-steel tanks! While we have been fortunate enough to try a few barrel tastings, where we sip unfinished wine directly from the barrel where it ages, we had never done so from a stainless tank before. Even before its aging was complete the wine was easy to drink and flavorful, which made us look forward to our full tasting—which, coincidentally, was our next stop.

As we waited for our wine we took in the views from the tasting room, which overlooked a vast expanse of bright green, softly rolling hills punctuated by vines. Puffy white clouds lazily floated above, making the whole region appear almost dreamlike. It was the sound of cold wine splashing into our glasses that broke the spell, and our focus returned to the task at hand: Romanian wine tasting.

While we enjoyed each of the LacertA wines we tried, two stood out as truly memorable. The Blanc de Noir was one of the first wines poured for us, and for a white wine it boasted notes of dark fruits like blackberries and plums instead of the lighter, more citrusy flavors commonly found in white wines. Blanc de Noir is produced with Pinot Noir grapes, which are small but robust red grapes, but it’s rare to find a white wine that drinks like a red wine. We weren’t surprised when LacertA’s Fetească Neagră stole the show. Our first sips of the grape we looked forward to trying connected us to a bold, fruit-forward wine with hints of smoke and spice that didn’t overwhelm the bright red fruits that shone through. The wine was more mellow than expected, smooth with the promise to level out even more with time in the bottle.

Vinalia Vineyards in Romania
Vinalia Vineyards
Our second and final winery of the day was Vinalia, whose name is a nod to the historic festivals held biannually to try wine from the previous harvest and both pray for continued blessings and celebrate the fortune and harvest they had. Vinalia is about wine from the social perspective; it’s about how wine can unite us and why great conversation over a bottle on any day can bring people together.

We started with a brief tour of the beautiful mansion the winery calls home as well as a look inside the barrel room, where many of the wines age. When it came time to try the wine, we were guided to a table on the front porch overlooking the lush vineyards that rolled away from us in all directions, and we were offered generous pours of three wines as we munched on bread soaked in fresh olive oil and a terrific charcuterie board.

Our wine tasting focused on the local varietals, and we started with the Fetească Regala, a white wine that ages in Romanian oak for just six months. It reminded me a bit of a sauvignon blanc; the wine was fresh, just a bit acidic, and surprisingly complex for a white wine. The true star was the Fetească Neagră, which was so good we sipped it slowly in appreciative silence until Emilia’s almost nonchalant description of the wine brought us back into the moment. To think of a wine that tastes of the blood of the grape, the power of the land, and the eternity of the sky is precisely what Fetească Neagră offers: to sip it just a few yards away from where its journey began felt almost humbling.

If you have the flexibility to add a full day wine tasting tour to your Romanian vacation, it’s a phenomenal way to learn about, try, and appreciate Romanian wine. The countryside just beyond Bucharest is the perfect backdrop for a relaxing day, and in addition to wine tasting you may find a few other spots to visit to round out your day. Our guide gave us some time to explore the Ghighiu Monastery, a 16th century Orthodox monastery that was a beautiful and peaceful place to stretch our legs before our trip back into the city.

More Information: LacertaWinery.ro

More Information: Booking.com/Vinalia

Visit a Romanian Wine Bar or Restaurant

If a day trip into Romanian wine country doesn’t work within your itinerary, finding a glass of local wine is often as easy as opening a restaurant menu.

Dianei 4 in Bucharest, Romania
Dianei 4
Bucharest has a number of wine bars within the city limits that are convenient to some of the more touristy areas of the city, which can make it easy to try wine from a few different wineries in a single evening. Many wine bars feature walls lined with local and international bottles, but one of our favorite discoveries came during a walking tour of Bucharest and a stop for coffee. Dianei 4 once housed the Foreign Intelligence Service, where people were questioned and tortured during the Communist era. Today, the owners encourage patrons to create a more cheerful chapter in the building, which is now a full restaurant. Dianei 4 offers a nice selection of Romanian wines, and they host wine tasting events that may be as informative as a trip to the vineyards themselves.

When visiting a wine bar or restaurant, don’t be shy about asking for a recommendation. Some of our favorite wines have been discovered by asking for guidance from a bartender or server; local perspectives and experiences can lead to some great suggestions when it comes to selecting a wine or two to try!

More Information: Dianei4.translucid.ro

Attend a Local Wine Event

Romanian Wine Festival at the Palace of Parliament in Bucharest
Romanian Wine Festival at the Palace of Parliament
Bucharest has plenty of local events dedicated to wine, and with a little bit of research you may find your vacation coincides with an event where you can try Romanian wine. Thanks to a great tip from our tour guide on our visit to Bran Castle (on our Dracula castle tour day), we attended the 2019 Wine and Street Food Festival at the Palace of the Parliament. The second largest government building in the world transformed into an enormous tasting room for a weekend as dozens of wineries provided tastings for just 35 leu (8 USD) per person—an exceptional value. With our friend Kim, we set out to educate ourselves on Romanian wine as we wound our way through the hundreds of people on a similar quest.

Like many countries, Romanian wineries are often located off the beaten path in regions that are difficult to find without a car and some local knowledge, and the Wine and Street Food Festival helped us to discover Romanian wines we would never have otherwise tried. The biggest surprise of the night was that our favorite wine turned out to be a rosé. Despite its global popularity, Adam and I usually avoid wines that are classified as rosés, which never seem to strike our palate in the right way. On a whim, we wandered into Domeniile Averesti’s booth, where we asked for a pour of the owner’s favorite wine. He quickly selected a rosé, which we accepted with gratitude and just a twinge of disappointment (I was sure he would recommend their Fetească Neagră!). In just one sip, though, all three of us forgot about red wines entirely. The rosé, Busuioaca de Averesti, tasted like roses, pears, and cotton candy; it was lightly sweet and easy to drink. Ironically, hours later as we packed our suitcase before our flight back to the USA, we termed it the rosé that got away—months later, we still remember how it tasted and wish we had purchased a bottle!

More Information: Domeniile-Averesti.ro

Wine events and festivals are a fun way to learn about Romanian wine and try a few different styles from winemakers you might not otherwise encounter. It’s a fun way to spend an evening as well; sipping wine inside of the Palace of the Parliament became a memorable experience that we still talk about when thinking about our time in Bucharest.

Where to Stay in Bucharest

Our visit to Romanian wine country was a day trip from Bucharest. There are plenty of lodging options outside of the city, and some wineries (including Vinalia!) double as bed and breakfasts that can help you immerse yourself in a true wine vacation. During our trip, we decided to base ourselves within the Bucharest city limits while visiting Romania. We absolutely loved the Hilton Garden Inn Bucharest Old Town, where we were incredibly comfortable in a spacious room and fueled every morning by one of the best hotel breakfasts we have encountered in our travels. Located right on the outskirts of the historic old town, the hotel was a quick walk to shopping, dining, and sightseeing when we weren’t seeking Romanian wine outside of the city.

More Information: Booking.com/hilton-garden-inn-bucharest-romania

More Information: Booking.com/Vinalia

We found the Hilton Garden Inn Bucharest Old Town on Booking.com, which we use for all of our planning—in addition to great rates, we love finding hotels rooms that we can change or even cancel as our plans evolve. If you are planning a visit to Bucharest or Romanian wine country, you may find just the hotel you’re looking for on Booking.com as well!



Booking.com

Enjoy Romanian Wine!

Of all of the wines we have tried around the world, there’s a reason Fetească Neagră often feels like it has one of the most compelling stories to tell. The richness of the fruit and the complexity of the wine reflect the land, the people, and the conditions that combine to produce it; it’s truly part of the culture and traditions that are decidedly Romanian. A visit to Romanian wine country is a great way to experience the country, meet the people, and enjoy an educational and relaxing experience. Whether you have a day or two to experience the wineries in person or find your tastings set in the bars, tasting rooms, and events within Bucharest, we know you will have as much fun sampling Romanian wine as we did!




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