Tuesday, January 20, 2009

New Grape of the Month: Fetească Neagră

As regular readers know, I love getting acquainted with new grape varieties.

So when a dear friend gave me a bottle of Romanian wine made with Fetească Neagră grapes I was doubly thrilled. I've never had a Romanian wine, and never even heard of Fetească Neagră.

I hit the books to learn more.

Romania is at the crossroads of Europe, and they've been growing grapes there for more than 6000 years. As you might expect from a place with that much wine-making and grape-growing history, wine plays an important part in the area's culture. Romanian wine production went through a major transformation in the 1990s when it was privatized following decades of communist control. Western investment poured in, because Romanian wine regions--which are at the same latitude as the vineyards of France--have enormous potential thanks to the combination of mountain and maritime influences.

Romanian wine lovers prefer white wines to red wines, but among the reds there are all kinds of varietal discoveries to be made like Roşioară, Babească, and the variety I tried--Fetească Neagră. According to the Oxford Companion to Wine, only 1300 ha of the grape are planted, and the wines produced from it are considered to be age-worthy.

Book learning is great, but when it comes to wine there's a better way to get to know a grape--so I popped the cork.

The 2005 Cramele Halewood Blue Danube was a glorious bottle that reminded me of a red wine poised between a silky Pinot Noir and a rich French Cabernet Sauvignon. The grapes were grown on the south-facing slopes of the Carpathian mountains in the Dealu Mare region which is known for its high-quality red wines. There were shy aromas of pure cassis and some thyme with a whisp of woodsmoke. In the flavors, I tasted cherry, cassis, and a slightly smoky aftertaste. The sparkling acidity at the core of this wine is in terrific balance with the fruit, and made it disappear all too quickly at our house along with a Sunday meal of roasted meat and vegetables. Excellent QPR for a wine that costs less than $12.

There may not be a lot of Romanian wine on your local wine shelves, but if you're curious you can find a bottle of this wine for between $10 and $12 from these retailers. And of course, you might want to ask your favorite store to get some in stock and expand their wine horizons, too. If you like it as much as I did, I'm confident this won't be the last bottle of Romanian wine you try!


Joe Roberts said...

I don't think that I could even pronounce that!

Amy Atwood said...

I love that your thirst for knowledge equals your thirst for wine.
Thanks for the info.

Richard Auffrey said...

Hi De Debs!
I have awarded you a One Lovely Blog Award. You can check it out here http://tinyurl.com/a9argg
and feel free to award some other deserving people if you wish,

Anonymous said...

wow, thanks for the lesson. I haven't heard of that grape either!
I'll have to seek it out.


Anonymous said...

Wow... I really appreciate the heads on up what sounds like a really interesting grape variety. I'm also thrilled to see that you're as interested in learning about the new wines you try and where they come from as you are in tasting them. I wish more wine enthusiasts paid that kind of attention to the vintages and varietals they sampled.

I'm in the business of researching, sampling, and reviewing wine clubs, so I've tried my share of little-known wines in my day, but I have yet to hear of this particular one. However, you've really intrigued me with this post. It sounds really interesting, and at a price that's actually under $20? I think it's certainly worth a try -- particularly with a nice roast or winter stew of some sort. I'll definitely hunt it down, and maybe research some other similar little-known wines to try from the region as well.

Anonymous said...

I stumbled upon your blog while researching featesca neagra online... Great write-up -- definitely spot on!

I just discovered feteasca neagra myself while in Romania last week, and spent my entire stay sampling every bottle I could get my hands on. It's definitely a delicious varietal and is fast making it to the top of my list next to grenache. There's a lot of character and depth in the grape, based on the wines I've had.

If you come across it, I highly recommend the Private Reserve Feteasca Neagra from Halewood, a popular producer in Romania.

P.S. for those who are wondering about the pronunciation, it's "feh-tes-cah neh-gr'ah".

MJW said...

I've just discovered your site through looking up Feateasca Neagra online. I live in Romania, and am thinking of getting into the wine business. I am very flattered that you've said something so nice about Romanian wines, as many people give them bad press without ever having tasted. Feteasca Neagra is common here, and is not only an excellent varietal but is also great value. Here, in-country I can pick up a decent FN (and other varietals too: Cabernets, Pinot Noirs and Merlots) for about 4 euro (just over $5), and I can get a really superb one for less than $10. Regions to watch out for are Dealu Mare, Vrancea and Terasa Danubiane (Mehedinti) in reds, and Jidvei (Tarnave) in Transylvania and Cotnari (Iasi) in whites, including Feteasca Regala, Dry Muscats and Gewurztraminers all at around $3. Those prices are local, but expect about double in US and western Europe. I will certainly be a regular visitor to this site from now on, and will hopefully have some info on Romanian wines.
- Mike

Dr. Debs said...

Welcome Mike! Romanian wines are wonderful--I've had a few so far, including a slightly sweet Merlot. Good luck with your wine venture!

dubfire said...

he-he.....Feteasca Neagra grows only in Romania so that's why you didn't hear about it...on the other hand my countrymen are too stupid and lazy to bother advertise on new markets....if you are still in touch with that friend, ask if he/she can bring you some Feteasca Neagra from Budureasca, the regular one, and they have a vintage collection called "Origini" ....and since Romanians drink a lot of white wine you can try Sauvignon Blanc from Domeniile Coroanei - Segarcea