MOVIES & BOOZE: Have you ever tried Romanian wine?

Jean Smullen reviews 2016 Louis Latour Chablis and 2017 Incanta Pinot Noir

Here on Movies & Booze we get a lot of enquiries about wines from Romania, well today we are featuring a lovely Pinot Noir from Timiș one of the largest counties in western Romania situated close to the Hungarian and Serbian border.  We are also looking at a classic white wine, perfect for summer drinking a Chablis from the famous house of Louis Latour.

2016 Louis Latour Chablis €26.00

Stockists:  Carry Out Nationwide, O’Briens;  Rowans Rathfarnham; World Wide Wines Waterford; Ice Box Balbriggan; Fine Wines Limerick; O’Sullivans Tralee Kerry

Founded in 1797 and directed today by the seventh Louis Latour, the company has remained a family-owned business and is one of the most highly-respected négociant-éléveurs in Burgundy.

One of the great stories told by the wine trade about the customers who announce, "I hate Chardonnay, but I love Chablis" is purely urban myth.  I hear it trotted out continuously as a way of showing ones superiority in terms of wine knowledge.  Don' t be put off!    The home of Chardonnay is Burgundy.  This very versatile white grape verities, now planted all over the world, so much so that is it almost a brand name in its own right.   Lets make it clear Chardonnay is simply  a white grape variety which originated in this Burgundy region in North West France.

There are a few Burgundy wine regions,  Chablis, Macon, Cote Challonais Cote d'Or and they all produce wines made from Chardonnay.   In the south of the region the style tends to be riper more and more opulent.  They age the grape in wooden barrels to get the spicy, buttery, creamy tones, in the north (Chablis) they tend not to.

The Chablis, is nearer to Paris than Lyon and therefore the climate, is cooler and the soil is chalk.  This means that Chardonnay grown in this region tends to be much more acidic,  is usually not aged in wood, and quite frankly usually does not to taste like Chardonnay at all.  It is to all intents and purposes "Chardonnay light".. that is, Chardonnay without the wood.  So the customer is buying a different style of Chardonnay.

 

In Chablis, the Chardonnay tends to have more acidity; the fruit flavours are more of apples and pears rather than ripe melons.  This is simply because there is less sunshine hours in Chablis than there is in the Macon region of Burgundy which is further south and therefore warmer.  The fact that they vinify the wine in a slightly different way gives you a lighter, crisper style of Chardonnay.

So when you buy it is crisper, leaner and better suited to light dish such as grilled fish, or smoked salmon, or chicken cooked in a delicate cream sauce or just as a glass to be enjoyed on its own  with friends,  on a Friday!!

Chablis as a wine style was enormously popular in the 1980's particularly in the United Kingdom where it was a very much sought after style, drunk by professional working in the city.  In the days before our own boom it was an aspirational wine, which is why perhaps many people have heard of it and seek it out.  Today, Chablis is a good choice for wine lovers who prefer a crisper style of Chardonnay.  

2017 Incanta Pinot Noir €9.99 - €10.99

Stockists: Carry Out Stores Nationwide, O’Donovan’s Cork, DrinkStore.ie Smithfield; Martins Fairview; Higgins Clonskeogh; Vintry Rathgar; Mortons Ranelagh & Salthill Galway.

My memory of Romanian wine were a few decent Pinot Noir’s from the Dealu Mare region tasted back in the 1990’s when wines from central Europe had more distribution in this part of the world.   Romanian wine then fell off the radar, rendered invisible by the rise and rise of wines from the new world especially during the 1990’s and into the noughties.

This wine is made by an Englishman,  Philip Cox at his Cramele Recas winery.  Philip, originally from Bristol together with his Romania wife Elvira started their business in 1996, they saw the potential for Romanian wine and initially rented the winery at Recas with a view to producing varietal wines. 

With money from a group of investors they dug up vineyards, replanted and upgraded the winery.  In order to keep the cash flow moving they had to sell a hell of a lot of wine, which Philip, with his energy and inherent sales ability was able to achieve.  Philip who has a strong commercial head on his shoulders re-invested all the income to re-plant a range of French varietals that he knew would have appeal on the export market. He also started to plant some of the local varieties for the Romanian market.

Today Cramele Recas is the biggest selling Romanian wine company. Their wines feature strongly in all over Europe, they are the biggest Romanian producer in value terms and the best known for local grape varieties.  In 2014 the company had sales of 10 million bottles annually with 4.8 million of those heading for the export market

This is a good quality commercial Pinot Noir.  It has all the lovely summer fruit you would expect from the Pinot Noir grape.  As the lighter red wine styles become more and more popular, especially during summer, this is a great value well-made wine.  

Romania has enormous potential, I was there in November 2015 and attended a wine fair in Timișoara and saw the potential of the emerging Romanian wine industry.  Many of the producers at the Fair, were small boutique wineries but the quality was very much in evidence. 

Many of the wineries are not yet available here but look out in the future for Prince Stirby www.stirby.com Roy & Damboviceanu Cordova www.corcova.ro Lilac - the Wines of Transylvania www.liliac.com SERVE www.clubulcavalerilor.ro and Vinarte www.vinarte.ro

Wine Diary:  https://jeansmullen.com/

Lots of consumer events in June, including a tasting of Loire wines in Terroirs in Donnybrook tomorrow, June 9th, Taste of Dublin from 14th – 17th June and Valpolicella versus Chianti in Blackrock Cellar on June 29th.