Your Guide to Wines of Romania & Moldova - This Month's Novel Wines Explorer's Club
Welcome to this month's Novel Wines Explorer's Club, the UK's most exciting wine subscription for the curious drinker. Each month, we will introduce you to a new wine region as part of our promise to deliver no two wines the same for a whole year. Not a member yet? Subscribe here.
Looking for an older guide? See all the Explorer's Club guides here.
What's in this month's Explorer's Club?
This November, we're introducing our two most popular wineries from eastern Europe: Balla Geza in Romania and Chateau Purcari in Moldova. In the range of wines you're unboxing, you'll be enjoying a Cadarca fizz followed by these indigenous grapes: Kiralyeanyka (Feteasca Regala), Viorica, Feketeleanyka (Feteasca Neagra), and Rara Neagra.
That might sound like a lot of jargon if you've never tried these grapes before, but trust me - these wines are outstanding. Both wineries have their own fan clubs amongst our customers and we're sure you're going to love them!
Without further ado, here's our buyer Ben chatting you through this month's Club selection.
If you have any specific questions about the wine, you can get in touch with our team here. However, we've got lots of info on the wines below, so pull the cork and get stuck in!
Kicking off this month's Explorer's Club is a bottle of the newly-arrived Balla Geza Clarus Sparkling Rosé Brut (included in The Globetrotter only). On south-facing hills in the Minis DOC of western Romania, to the north of River Mures, a sun-kissed parcel of Cadarca fruit grows. This grape variety, revived here by winemaker and professor Dr Geza Balla, makes up all of the fruit in the Clarus Rosé. It is a little like eastern Europe's Pinot Noir - certainly as difficult to grow - giving a nose of berries and great affinity to lees character, The result is a fuller, fruitier and biscuity style of pink fizz perfect for any winter celebration. It'll pair nicely with smoked salmon, or sip it chilled with very ripe Brie.
Next is another entry from Dr Geza Balla, his Kolna Kiralyeanyka White (included in both The Rambler and The Globetrotter). While Balla grows wine in Romania, he is Hungarian heritage, and therefore uses the Hungarian name Kiralyeanyka for this wine, which in Romania is called Feteasca Regala - known to us in English as "Royal Maiden". This golden white grape variety loves the sunshine and ripens to develop white pear, peach and pink grapefruit notes. It's also got a lovely affinity to gentle oak-ageing, when done well. Add in a little stirring of the lees (yeast cells after fermentation) and you get a slight buttercream hue to the wine. Serve up with creamy dishes (risotto, chicken in white wine and cream sauce, pasta in cream sauce, and so on).
Next up is a wine that, in its first ever vintage, bagged a Decanter Platinum medal. No easy feat. Introducing you to Chateau Purcari 1827 Viorica (included in The Globetrotter only). This is a full-bodied, almost-tropical white wine aged purely in stainless steel and fresh as a daisy, despite being opulent and indulgent. Grapefruit, lychee, mango and guava are all fighting for space in this complex and moreish white wine. If you like Gewurz or Viognier wines, you're going to love this.
Pair it with Cornish Yarg cheese, a lightly spicy but generously soy-sauced (or miso-dolloped) ramen, or Greek spanakopita.
Now it's time for some red! Introducing one of our all-time best-sellers, Balla Geza Classic Feketeleanyka (included in both The Rambler and The Globetrotter). Wrapped up in a brown paper label and gift-ready (winemaker Geza Balla believes every bottle of wine is a gift), this pretty-looking red wine is no-less alluring to the eye when it's poured. Deeply ruby with a gorgeous fragrance of cherries and warming baking spice, leading into a savouriness in the aroma that reminds you of winter walks in the woods.
On the palate, this is textured and fruity but not too full-bodied. It has pleasant tannins, making it a nice partner with all sorts of grub. It will take on a steak, or lighter dishes like pizza. For me, if you're pairing it with food, think of it as Chianti in disguise and drink it with pasta or hard cow's cheese.
Next up is red wine! Here's the Domeniile de Cuza Rara Neagra & Cabernet Sauvignon (included in both The Rambler and The Globetrotter) from Moldova. Cuza is one of the brands owned by Purcari Estate and does the wonderful job of introducing newcomers to the indigenous grapes of Moldova by blending the fruit with international favourites, in this case the Cabernet Sauvignon variety.
Rara Neagra is a dark, richly fruity variety that brings plumminess but not a huge amount of skin tannin as it's fairly thin skinned. That gives you lots of plushness of fruit while being velvet smooth and a really easy drinker. The Cabernet Sauvignon adds all the nods of complexity you need. Enjoy this wine by the fire or with your favourite Cheddar and some crackers.
Last up in your case is this Chateau Purcari Limited Edition Freedom Blend Now Sold Out, Sorry! See Below... (included in The Globetrotter only), a deliciously full-bodied blend of Rara Neagra, Saperavi and Bastardo. The wine celebrates the independence of Moldova (home to the Rara Neagra grape), Ukraine (home to the Bastardo grape), and Georgia (home to the Saperavi grape). It has been matured in oak gently, and it's a nice, smooth red that sits somewhere between the structure of the old world and the jamminess of the new.
Please note, this wine has been replaced with Chateau Purcari's Limited Edition Maluri De Prut, a blend of Rara Neagra and Feteasca Neagra. This is my favourite full-bodied red wine from Chateau Purcari. While it doesn't have the same wonderful story of celebrating the independence of Moldova and its neighbours, it does have all the spirit and love of the Freedom Blend. Hand-harvested from vineyards bordering the River Prut, this red shows just how superb Moldovan wine can be. It's a stunner. Rara Neagra brings, again, all that dark and plummy fruit, while the Feteasca Neagra adds spice and brings out more nuances of complexity with licks of oak and blackcurrants.
Drink a wine like this with something special - Sunday Roast, a Wellington, or a stew that's been bubbling away for hours.
DOC Minis, Romania
Minis is a fairly undiscovered region of Romania, a prolific and historical producer of many great wines. The vineyard site of Miniş-Măderat where Dr Géza Balla has his vines, is an undiscovered gem - and he is responsible for reviving the traditional varieties of the region, both Mustoasă of Măderat and Cadarcă (the latter in the rosé fizz in this month's Club box, the former is in Balla's white bubbly).
Minis is located to the east of the town of Arad. A hillside area making up the beginnings of the Zarand Mountains, these vineyards sit to the north of the River Mures and enjoy a continental climate with cooling dry winds from the Danubian plain. Autumns are long and dry, offering great ripening conditions, and the aspect is south-facing, so Balla can ripen his fruit reliably, year-on-year.
IGP Stefan Voda, Moldova
This region, located in southeast Moldova, is prime territory for the multi-award-winning Purcari estate. The administrative area is home to 1107 hectares of PGI accredited vines, with a slight preference for red wines. Over half of the production is from Cabernet Sauvignon and Chardonnay, but the really exciting grapes grown here are the indigenous ones like Rara Neagra, Feteasca Neagra and Viorica.
The land here fluctuates between flat and broad, rolling hills, and sweeping valleys. However, it's never more than 190m above sea level. The soils are iron rich and topped by soft and sandy clays that help with water retention. The wines are thus always ripe, sun-soaked and delicious tasting.
Eating with Romanian and Moldovan wines
We had a go at creating something called Sarmale, a traditional Romanian/Moldovan dishes (in fact it's made widely in eastern Europe, it's called 'golabki' in Polish). The dish is stuffed cabbage rolls, usually with rice and pork or chicken. The meat is minced and cooked with onions and diced carrots before being stuffed in the cabbage and served with sourcream. This is a dish that works with some the whites here, Balla's Kiralyeanyka especially, or the Viorica if you want something fruitier.
Eating "local" with your wine is not a new phenomenon, but it's often a reliable way to go when food and wine matching. Having said that, the reds from the likes of Purcari and Balla are big, fruit-driven wines so you don't have to stick to dishes like goulash. Try these wines with a roasted top side of beef and all the trimmings, or a meaty and rich Cottage Pie.
Where can I find out more?
If you're not subscribed to the Club, crack on and get your subscription online by clicking here and join from only £49. If you'd rather just stock up on wines from Romania click here, or for Moldova click here.