At once a museum, a space for sensory discovery and a social space, the Cité du Vin seeks to promote wine as a living cultural heritage. Towards this end, it organises themed terroir weekends, four times per year, in order to highlight techniques or countries whose viticulture may not be well-known. These events allow visitors to discover a society and its relationship to wine culture. This year the France-Romania Season, which is taking place through July 2019, offers a wander through the Carpathians, a forgotten wine-growing land that contains a rich, ancestral history full of delicious gems.
Ancient Tradition, Contemporary Renewal
In Romania, winemaking has been practised for millennia. The first vines arrived in ancient times, imported by the Greeks to the Carpathians. The wine produced in Roman “Dacia” even gained a positive reputation that would survive hundreds of years of successive invasions by the Carpi people and the Goths.
The phylloxera epidemic in 1884, the two world wars and finally the rise of the dictatorship in the 1960s put a stop to production: wine-fields were seized, local expertise dwindled and quality was abandoned in favour of assembly-line wine production.
It was not until the early 1990s and the arrival of foreign specialists attracted by low land prices and the unique characteristics of the terroir that Romanian wine reconnected with its briefly-interrupted illustrious history. Corsican winemaker Guy Tyrel de Poix Peraldi invested heavily in local vineyards in 1994.
This was thanks to the fact that Romanian soil remains an excellent place for vine-growing. Located on the notorious 45th parallel (where most major wines are grown, from Bordeaux to Châteauneuf-du-Pape and Italian Valpolicella), the country enjoys a climate that is sufficiently varied to produce structured and varied aromas, but also to produce large volumes. In 2017, Romania generated 4.3 million hectolitres over an area of around 200,000 hectares, making it the fifth largest European producer (source: International Organisation of Vine and Wine).
A Reflection of the Romanian soul
However, this regional particularity does not fully explain the relationship between Romania and the vine. To understand Romanian wine, we first must note the passion of this people and the expertise they have developed around the work of wine-growing. In a region like Dealu Mare, a hundred kilometres north of Bucharest at the foot of the Carpathians, it is not uncommon to find inhabitants who have a few feet of vines in their garden or on a parcel of land, however small.
In addition to their mastery of wine-making techniques there is the Romanian sense of hospitality, which inspires them to invite visitors to share a drink. This warm, round character can be found in the main grape varieties indigenous to Romania such as Fetească Neagră (also known as “swallowtail”), which produces wines with flavours of red fruit and smooth tannins, or the Grasă which is found in the liqueurs of Cotnari. There are also the main international grape varieties (Chardonnay, Pinot gris, etc.) to which the Romanian soil gives a certain playfulness.
All of this has given rise to wines which are beginning to take their place on the international scene. Although exports remain low, with just over 100,000 hectolitres flowing mainly to the neighbouring markets of Germany, the United Kingdom and Russia, regions such as the Dobroudja, where the famous Murfatlar "Lacrima-il-Ovidiu" is produced (literally "tears of Ovid", a reference to the Latin poet who spend his final years in Dacia) or Tarnave, the land of the Jidvei, famous white wines which regularly win awards at competitions, are now very familiar to global experts.
A weekend of gastronomic excellence
In 2019, the first terroir weekend at the Cité du vin is thus devoted to Romania. Around the traditional tastings, conferences and debates, a unique operation makes its first appearance: the Grande Carriole project, proposed and designed by the Grandes Tables, a network of restaurants based in the cultural venues of Marseille and Calais. This original initiative, launched during the 2013 Marseille Capitale de la Culture, involves bringing the kitchen to the streets thanks to a unique cart (“carriole”), designed and built by a master chef and a team of designers. Christophe Dufau and Armand Arnal, both Michelin-starred chefs, have already joined in the game.
The Romanian Grande Carriole with its homespun look, carefully crafted from wicker and white canvas, welcomes Alex Petricean, a young cook elected "Romanian chef of the Year 2018" by the critics Gault & Millau. With the cart’s simple tools (a griddle and a grill) installed opposite the Cité du vin on the Pontac esplanade, the so-called “D’Artagnan” will offer delicious local bites. In residence at the site’s two restaurants, from Friday to Sunday he will also whip up menus with a Romanian twist, in collaboration with chefs Djordje Ercevic (Le 7) and Frédéric Coiffé (Latitude 20). The Romanian Grande Carriole will then continue its journey down the roads of France, with various chefs at its helm.
Finally, the excellence of this event will continue in the glass thanks to Iulia Scavo, a double bronze medallist (2013 and 2017) at the European Sommelier Championships and winner of the 2017 Master of Port . The sommelier will be responsible for helping participants discover the best vintages from her home terroir. One way of demonstrating that, when it comes to wine, Romania also sets the bar for tasting.
This weekend in Romania at the Cité du vin in Bordeaux is organised as part of the France-Romania 2019 Season.
The France-Romania 2019 Season (November 2018-July 2019) is implemented by the Institut français and, in Romania, by the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, the Ministry of Culture and National Identity and the Romanian Cultural Institute, with the support of the French and Romanian embassies, the Alliances Françaises and other ministries in both countries.
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