Like many wine enthusiasts I’m always looking forward to a bottle that will knock my socks off and have me raving about it to anyone that will listen. Thanks to my Twitter timeline I can calculate that one such example happened to me two years ago last month; an epiphany that lay dormant in my taste memory, only to be re-awoken by a recent bottle tasting.
As someone who likes to taste widely, when Romanian wines were really starting to hit the market some years ago I gravitated to the indigenous grapes of Feteasca Regala and Feteasca Neagra. My interest peaked when I tried the Paris Street Pinot Noir 2012 (via Laithwaites), and I subsequently got chatting to their wine buyer about it, such was my enthusiasm for this Romanian interpretation of an international variety.
When the opportunity arose recently to try a couple of Pinots (Noir and Grigio) from Romania, I naturally jumped at the chance.
Just east of Timisoara in western Romania, the Cramele Recas winery has been producing wine continuously since the 15th century, but it’s in the years since 2010 that the modern story begins. Completely uprooting and replanting all of the existing vines, further investment has come through the installation of a state of the art winery to really bring things up to date.
The brand name Paparuda comes from a Romanian rain ritual performed by a dancing girl wearing a grass skirt of knitted vines. In the springtime, or in times of drought, she will be accompanied through the town by the locals, singing and shouting their intent of securing fertility for the season ahead. Interesting stuff, even if it does sound like something from The Wicker Man!
With one eye on this tradition and heritage, the wine-making team from Australia and Spain have come together with the intention of creating modern, fruit-driven wines.
Paparuda Pinot Noir Estate Selection 2015, Romania, 12.5%, ~£6.00
In the glass this is a vibrant youthful purple in colour. The nose is full of violet fragrance which marries in to the core fruit elements of rich and ripe red berry and cherry. There’s also a rustic earthy wildness about this nose which pulls the darker notes of black/blue fruit (plum) and the tertiary characters of tobacco and just a whiff of smoke/diesel. No doubt this is due to a portion of the Pinot grapes undergoing carbonic maceration to keep things fruity, with the rest of the grapes getting exposure to oak.
The body of this wine is light to medium as you would expect from a Pinot Noir, and there is just a touch of detectable grippy, grainy tannin in the mix. The red fruit berry compote palate is fresh and inviting, as is the acidity which runs throughout, pulling together the fruitiness and the pepper spices in to a juicy whole.
For me, the herbaceous smoky tones of this wine meant that the mid-palate was just a touch drying, but it was this sense memory that had me recalling the Pinot I had tried years before. Digging out my original tasting note I had noted that I hadn’t tried it with food and that it was a style deserving of a match. As such, I tried the wine with some ribs in a BBQ sauce which did the trick just nicely, adding a touch of weight to the mouthfeel, accentuating the ripe fresh fruits and giving the acidity something to work against.
Incredibly well made for the price, this is a Pinot Noir that has all of the lightness of body and flavour profile that you would expect of the grape, with enough distinction to give it a sense of origin.
Paparuda Estate Selection Pinot Grigio, Romania, 12%, ~£6.00
To ensure freshness, grapes are harvested early in the morning at cooler temperatures and are then fermented in stainless steel tanks away from any wood or barrel taint.
In colour this is a medium yellow with golden tints. The nose is intense and delicious with literally tons going on. Amongst the things I can detect are lime, green apple flesh and cream, grapefruit, honey and the tropical fruits of pineapple and peach.
The palate is nicely rich and weighty with a mouth-filling gloopy quality. Packed full of fresh juicy fruit which balances well with the medium acidity, there is both lemon and lime citrus and the green fruits of apple flesh and pear. On the end palate you also gain the lighter fragrant flavours of peach and grapefruit, and these stay with you a good while after putting your glass down.
This is a really good example of a generous fruit driven, well composed and refreshing wine that is both great for the price, and also good for the reputation of what is achievable in Romania, a country which many wine lovers have yet to discover.
Exceptionally easy to drink on its own, it will also compliment a number of lighter food dishes and is ripe for (what’s left of) the summer.
With thanks to Clementine Communications and Cramele Recas for the bottles used in this tasting.