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Romanian Wines Start to Appear in US


Date: 03/30/11

Marketing campaign underway, trade tasting in New York April 14
by Lisa Shara Hall

Wines from Romania are beginning to appear in the U.S. market—slowly, though, as a marketing campaign has just begun, funded by generous European Union and Romanian matching grants.

The campaign is called Select Wines From Romania and includes only the following six wineries: Cramele Recas, Carl Reh/Crama Oprisor, Domeniull Coroanei Segarcea, Halewood, Murfatlar and
Senator.

In the UK, wines from eight wineries are imported, with wines from Cramele Recas and Halewood both imported to each country. A number of wines are imported to the UK, which deserve to be brought into the U.S. as well.

The wineries that come into the U.S. produce a large variety of wines, including all of the international varietals (Chardonnay, Sauvignon Blanc, Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot and Pinot Noir), and a number of indigenous varieties, including Feteasca Neagra, Feteasca Regala, Feteasca Alba, Babeasca Neagra, Sarba and others. The indigenous varietals are the most interesting and the ones that are most likely to be of interest in the U.S. as American wine drinkers are seeking more adventure and unusual wines as they become more knowledgeable. One of the nice things about these grapes is that they are all easy to drink, great food wines and friendly to the American palate.

There appears to be increasing interest in the U.S. market. These six wineries are being assisted in distribution by matching funds from the Romanian government and EU. It's likely that additional wineries would have to apply to enter the program but it is hoped this U.S. success increases winery interest in programs such as this.

Sales in the U.S. are growing from a very low base. Most wineries in Romania have only been privatized for 10 to 12 years (since the Communist regime fell), so private investment in the vineyards and production facilities is relatively recent.

At the moment, these wines are not well distributed but that's the goal of the marketing campaign. Most of the wineries are in need of importers. There will be an open tasting for the wine trade on April 14 in New York for that purpose.

Up to now, Romanian wines have been most widely sold in ethnic areas in the U.S. where Romanian immigrants have settled. However, most of those wines were sweet wines that have been popular in Romania for many years. The wines being brought to the U.S. by these six wineries are not sweet wines but are meant to compete with all other foreign and domestic producers for the U.S. market.

Last week, two tastings were held in New York with 16 top wine writers, sommeliers, Masters of Wine and retailers. The wines that were of greatest interest to both groups and most highly rated were the indigenous varieties. The international varietals showed a style that is typical of lighter European wines that are made to go with food. Feteasca Neagra was compared with Beaujolais, Zweigelt and Blaufrankisch.

One thing that shouldn't escape anybody's notice is the international influence on Romanian wineries. The winemakers at Cramele Recas are from Australia and Chile; Carl Reh/Crama Oprisor is owned by the German company Reh Kendermann; Domeniul Coroanei Segarcea has a consulting winemaker from Montpelier, France; and Halewood is British-owned and has a joint venture with Italy's Antinori. All of these are signs of an undiscovered wine region that's ready to emerge onto the scene. Once they get importation and distribution—not necessarily an easy thing—they'll be on their way.

Romania has had very little presence in the US. market so the numbers are very low. Several of the group has importers, and the others are looking for them. They'll have the benefit of a large EU-funded marketing campaign behind them for the next three to five years and that will help build business.

There is no wine association in Romania, but there is a government organization which makes membership voluntary: APEV ROMANIA. Obviously, many of the wineries do not belong.

For an outlook on the Romanian wine industry, click here.

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