Christian CALLEC

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VINUL.RO EXCELLENCE AWARDS 2011 – OFF-COMPETITION TASTINGS (5)

Posted by Christian Callec on zondag, december 11th, 2011

After the nice but a bit chaotic lunch at Restaurant GINGER, there was no much time left for tourism… We went back to the hotel and prepared ourselves for the next meal and tasting… For the ones who do follow a special diet to lose some weight, I am afraid this will not work during your stay in Romania. Only our charming British Master of Wine Caroline Gilby knew how to solve the problem… Every morning a nice early jogging in the park or in the surroundings of it before breakfast was her secret to stay fit and sharp. I am not so sure it would work with me too… I should have tried before, a long time ago… (grin).

Dinner time…

La-Union-logo

The dinner and tasting were planned at Restaurant LA UNION in Bucharest. This used to be actually the former house of a Romanian writer, journalist and political commentator (1852-1912†): Ion Luca Caragiale. The house was recently converted into a restaurant in a ‘Belle époque’ style… However it already existed as a restaurant some 12 years ago. Unfortunately, despite the flair and vision of the ex-owner, a Greek gentleman, it didn’t turn into the success story it should have been. Maybe too early?  Nowadays, the restaurant is still specialized in ‘Romanian’ food but they have also some non-Romanian dishes on the menu, mostly from Italian inspiration. I had a quick glimpse at some plates on the lower floors of the restaurant and it looked (and smelled!) really good… The prices didn’t seem to be very high, at least for western norms, especially considering the generous quantity of tasty food on the plates! The wines are of course mostly Romanian, but also some imported wines from France, Italy and Spain. From what I saw about the non-Romanian wines on the wine card and their price, they are not really worth it, you should better forget it and chose for ROMANIAN WINES… One exception for the sparkling wines: best quality/value for money is the beautiful PROSECCO DI VALDOBIADDENE VALDO ‘Cuvé di Boj’ for around € 23 the bottle (75 cl.)! Among the Romanian wines, the best quality/value for money offered the wines from SERVE winery: Terra Romana (white, rosé and red) and the beautiful red cuvée Charlotte. Also recommended among the red wines: VINARTE Soare Cabernet Sauvignon, CRAMELE HALEWOOD Private Reserve Feteasca Neagra, RECAS La Putere Feteasca Neagra-Merlot-(syrah) and Cocosul Syrah.

N.B.: I saw on some Romanian menu cards some quite a strange ‘denomination’… I saw it with different types of ‘home-made pasta’ dishes, mostly spaghetti, fettuccine or tagliatelle … As wine & gastronomy writer, I just was curious about these dishes which seemed to have a ‘protected appellation of origin’ or A.O.P. I had to ask… Quite a simple answer actually: A.O.P. means Aglio, Olio and Peperoncini! … al dente cooked pasta with garlic, olive oil and slightly hot peppers, just like in Italy! LOL…

Spaghetti-AOPSpaghetti A.O.P. ??? Aglio Olio Peperoncini…

CRAMELE RECAS Tasting

We took place on the top-floor, under the roof. Nice and cosy, but also well equipped for audio-visual presentations like the one we had that evening about our host, Cramele RECAS winery. The start of the presentation was so strange that I actually was looking for the candid camera… It couldn’t be true? A young guy in suit introduced himself as ‘sommelier’ and therefore started to put on his sommelier chain and sign… He confessed then that it was the first time he had to present wines to professionals like us and apologised in advance if he was telling us things we did know already. His begin phrases were not the most lucky ones: “typical Romanian grapes … like chardonnay, sauvignon blanc… syrah… “ and later on “chardonnay is a grape coming from France, well-known for wines like Chablis, Pouilly-Fuissé…”. When he noticed that we had some problems to stay tuned, he started to speak even louder and to walk from one side to the other of the long table where we were all sitting at. He was like a polar bear doing his desperate sentry-go on a too small floating ice-pack… However, everything went back to normal when the wines were poured in our glass…

Recas-logo-web

RECAS is a Romanian/English company located in the Romanian Far-West, not far from Timisoara. It is not exactly a ‘small’ company; they own around 700 ha of vineyards on the banks of the Bega river and near the piedmont of the Western Carpathian mountains. The soil is rich in iron oxide which gives it the typical red colour of the ‘Terra Rossa’. Was this maybe the reason why the Australian winemaker Hartley Smithers decided to settle down in the region? Who knows (grin)… He has been working very hard together with a team of Romanian winemakers to make from RECAS a modern, well-equipped company aiming for quality wines. RECAS is right to be very proud of their quality processes and likes to display their well-deserved ISO 2200, ISO 9001 and HACCP quality control certificates. Looking at the displayed bottles, they do have also a good marketing and design team! The COCOSUL (rooster, coq, gallo) range is absolutely a great acquisition for every good wine retail shop in the world. It is also an enticing eye-catcher on every restaurant table!

Recas-Cocosul-syrah-1

But, what about the taste? Unfortunately, we tasted only 4 wines… For such a company, that was quite disappointing, even avaricious. We would have liked to have a complete tasting… Why couldn’t we taste the award winning wines Cuvée Überland and La Putere Feteasca Neagra-Merlot-Syrah (both winners of a Gold medal at the Concours Mondial de Bruxelles 2008 in Bordeaux where I was one of the jurors)… What about Sole Chardonnay, Sole Sauvignon blanc, Cocosul Mustuoasa and Solo Quinta… What a missed chance!

Considering the wines we did taste before and during the meal (a nice, rich but not too heavy and above all very tasty buffet), the style of RECAS wines is very modern and international. All the tasted wines were clean and pure, with a tiny exception for the Sole Feteasca Regala 2009 which had a strange phenolic nuance in the finish. The wines were all fresh and well-balanced, with a big ‘plus’ for the beautiful, fresh, fruity and juicy La Putere Cabernet Sauvignon 2009. A great value and pleasure for money considering the European retail price between 12 and 15 Euro. My favourite of the evening, maybe not the ‘best’ wine but just my favourite one, was definitely the Cocosul 100% Syrah: quite a modern style, with a nice freshness, some surprising minerality tones and a round and full body. That last was the only ‘minus’ point for this wine, it was served too warm during the meal. The first glass during the tasting was the best one. I think that this kind of wine should never be served warmer than 16°C, otherwise you will have too quickly a warm wine soup in your glass instead of a fresh, fruity, juicy, mineral and well-balanced wine…

Recas-La-Putere-cabernet-sauvignon-1

The tasting let me ‘thirsty’ to know more about the other RECAS wines. I will surely try to taste them at an international wine fair. From here, a demand for the RECAS team to send me an invitation if they attend PROWEIN in 2012… I’d love to taste the whole RECAS range in one flight…

I think that it is very important for the image of Romania on the international wine scene that companies like RECAS are not only focussing on easy-selling international grape varieties like cabernet sauvignon, merlot, syrah, sauvignon blanc, chardonnay, pinot grigio etc. but also being conscious of the importance of bringing good wines from autochthonous quality grapes like feteasca regala, mustoasa, feteasca neagra and more of those. This is for me the key for the long term success. RECAS is surely on the good way, I am glad of that.

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