02 April 2016

The secrets of Romania-Rovinhud Salon

Just a while ago, I was lucky enough to attend a rather unconventional wine event in Timisoara, Romania, the ROVINHUD Salon . The brainchild of Szövérdfi Zoltán or Zoli as commonly known, a caring and kind person who has devoted his life in coaching a group of people with unique abilities from “Ceva de Spus” Association (translated as Something to Say, please check www.cevadespus.ro/en). 

Zoli has created a lovely team of volunteers and has participated in putting together a group of people with special abilities. A noble cause with a double of benefit, helping people in need while promoting the best of what Romanian wineries have to offer. Zoli is actually extremely picky with the wineries that are admitted to participate in the event.  As he explains ' 'We won’t accept pity for the disabled, similarly we want to offer a selective wine event for wine lovers and producers''

In 2014 was the first time for Jancis Robinson to participate as the special guest of ROVINHUD; a solid success for Zoli who finally managed to purchase the accessible minibus for wheelchair users. And in 2015 Zoli saved his invites for two fine ladies of the wine industry, Julia Harding MW and Caroline Gilby MW which left me with no other option than accepting his invitation as well as the third Master of Wine in the team. 

Each of us held a masterclass. Starting with Julia  who talked about the Oxford Companion to Wine linking new entries. The “wine list” had some excellent wines like Sandhi Chardonnay from Santa Barbara, Khareba Qvevri Mtsvane from Georgia (orange wine), Shaw + Smith Shiraz from Adelaide Hills and a fascinating En Rama Sherry from Sanchez Romate.

Caroline Gilby MW then followed with the Blue Danube Masterclass. A showcase of wines from all countries across Danube, the highlights being the Chateau Bela Riesling 2012 from Egon Muller's venture in Slovacia and the Negru de Dragasani 2013 from Vitis Metamorfosis.

The Prephylloxera Masterclass: The Great Escape

When first discussing my Masterclass idea with Zoli I was delighted to hear that I could choose any topic that I liked and was really passionate about it. I still remember asking him, ''Can I really choose any topic? '' with a glorified YES as an answer. So here we go Pre-phylloxera wines!

In my heart these wines are not just different from the post-phylloxera ones but perhaps even superior. Great examples can be tried out in the Naoussa region where the very very old vines offer more flesh and phenolic ripeness to the wines.

For me these wines are classic, rare, elegant, with tons of personality and this is where Batman comes along. Why? Well, this is not a straight answer. It might be the fact that the depth of the roots have access to more mineral elements and that lower yields usually associate with better ripeness and concentration. Quoting Michael Broadbent about these wines ''They are different, more intense with long lingering finish!''

Originally 6 wines were to be presented but unfortunately ''E Iss'' Tintore Prephylloxera did not arrive on time. 

We started with Ozkar Maurer Kadarka 1880 from 2013 vintage from vines 130 years old planted in 1880 and 1912. Kadarka or Gamza is supposed to be Pinot Noir like with gentle fresh red fruit and bright acidity. This one delivered extra layers expressing a spicy and floral character along the textbook red cherry fruit. Richly flavoured, structured and to the elegant side this was a very promising beginning (90/100).

La Tour Melas Old Roots 2013 from Nemea, Greece comes form a pre-phylloxera Agiorgitiko vineyard of just 0.45 is matured in Stockinger 400 lts oak. A perfect example, showing fantastic concentration, phenolic maturity and long finish. An abundant of violets, chocolate and black fruit on the nose with a fine velvety texture (92/100). The second Greek wine was from Alpha Estate Estate and the 2004 vintage with a large part of the Xinomavro grapes coming from a very old parcel close to a hundred years old. That was over mature for my taste but still delivered a lot of complexity especially on the palate (88/100).  

Then came the French and the Italian; Plouzeau Ante Phylloxera 2012 west of Chinon from 150 years old Cabernet Franc vines is produced in just 1200 bottles and is a splendid example of a complex, deep, meaty and vegetal wine with many layers of flavours on the palate and a lingering finish. Very fine indeed (92+/100). 

And for the italian part there was the heart and soul of the volcanic terroir of Etna with Terre Nere Prephylloxera 2013. This amazing wine is produced from 130 years old Nerelo Mascalese vines from tiny yields that do not exceed 30hl/ha in just 3.000 bottles. For me this is the essence of a pre-phylloxera wine uniquely combining elegance with power, perfume with a solid back bone, delicacy with lasting finish (93/100).

The Pre-Phylloxera line up

While there, I also had the chance to visit 3 wineries (Petro Vaselo, Cramele Recas and Balla Geza), taste a great lot of wines, discover some gems and above all meet some very interesting people. My memories will be soon shared with you!

Until then I wish that ROVINHUD becomes bigger every year retaining the authentic heart and soul of the volcano.

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