In focus: Romanian wine

The name game

Another option is to remove the name of the grape altogether. Cox says that in countries including Germany and Russia, a Romanian wine made from indigenous varieties sells better when the grape doesn’t appear on the label.

He says: “In Germany we sell these wines by not mentioning the variety on the label at all. We just put things on the label that sound nice to Germans. They try the wine because it has a fun label, they like it, and they buy it again. The name of the grape actually puts them off. I’ve had the same in Russia and other countries. They love the wine but don’t like how it sounds.”

Romanian wine is now exported to around 40 markets, and volumes are growing. While exports are increasing, why is only a small proportion of production sent overseas?

The majority of Romanian wineries are on a much smaller scale than Recas, and lack the volume and money to compete. While living costs in the country are low, wine production costs are high. Romania has no domestic glass bottle production facilities, meaning that wine bottles, labels, corks and other packaging must all be imported. Poor internal infrastructure also increases the cost of transporting wine. Romania has one of the shortest motorway networks in the EU, with just 806km in the whole country. Gilby describes how driving through the country is best experienced “with eyes firmly closed”.

Strong domestic market

This, coupled with a strong domestic market, means that exporting is often financially unfeasible. Per capita, Romanians consume around 20.5 litres of wine annually, and a considerable amount of homemade wine is sold via the grey market. The country lacks an overarching export body, akin to Wine Australia or Wines of Chile, to lobby the government and support the industry overseas. It has two wine organisations: APEV, which represents 70% of producers by export value, and breakaway group Premium Wines of Romania, comprising 16 smaller, quality-focused producers. There is no comprehensive export plan, travel overseas is sporadic, and buyer and press trips are organised by few wineries.

Things are changing however. Although disrupted by coronavirus, Premium Wines of Romania had prepared to target the UK and German markets this year. PR manager Marina Samoila said there’s also a growing trend for ecommerce among Romanian wineries.

Recas is pushing its premium wines, even in the UK, where consumer perception is that Romanian wine is always cheap. “It’s not the same in every country,” says Cox. “It’s just this weird British thing. In other countries, such as Hungary, we sell mostly premium wine.”

Patience is also key. Fox notes how establishing export channels takes time. “Building relations is not about one-off orders, it’s about building long-term relationships,” he says.

Recas, Romania’s largest exporter, was founded in 1992, early on in the rebirth of Romanian wine. Many wineries were established much more recently, using grants from the European Union. Romania’s diminutive wine exports may in part be down to youth and inexperience. But if coronavirus has taught producers anything, it’s the importance of not having all your eggs in one basket. The domestic market might be more lucrative, but having other revenue streams can support a business even in the darkest of times.

One Response to “In focus: Romanian wine”

  1. Charles Crawfurd says:

    I was a bit surprised to see Denmark listed as among the countries Romania is compared to in production terms. How much Danish wine is there?

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