I first visited Cramele Recas in Romania in 2015 and was impressed then that the winery was able to produce 10 million bottles of well-made wines at very keen prices. In the last six years the company, owned by English man Phillip Cox, his Romanian wife Elvira and their viticulturist, has expanded to an amazing 30 million bottles a year. “We could make more if we could find the grapes,” Cox says.
Cramele Recas owns 1,200 hectares of vines (five times the size of Côte Rôtie in the Rhône) planted with 21 different grape varieties, the latest addition being Cabernet Franc. It also buys in grapes and wine and produces no less than 60 different wines. They tend to be made from a single variety and are usually inexpensive.
“Our philosophy from the start has been to give our customers the wine and the labels they wanted.” Cox says. He bridles at the idea that a large-scale company cannot make interesting wines. Cramele Recas makes organic wine, alcohol-free wine and ruffled a few feathers by producing an orange wine (once stocked by Aldi). All of the wines are vegan and they are now making low-intervention wines.
“Making natural wines has changed the way we make all of our wines,” says Cox. “I am not a crazy tree-hugger though. Many people, including my winemaker, don’t think natural wines are very good. I am not judgmental. We are always trying to do something new. If it is important to wine drinkers to have no sulphur dioxide, then we’ll do it; but I don’t honestly think the wine is any better though.” Winemaking is run by Australian Hartley Smithers (ex-Yellow Tail) and Nora Iriate from Spain. The couple met at Cramele Recas.
The company is working to improve its carbon footprint, using lighter bottles and bag-in-box where possible. Cox believes that bottles will double in price and may soon cost more than the wine in some cases. It recycles all of its water and installed solar panels that now provide 60 per cent of its electricity needs.
In addition to exporting around the world (they have three Irish importers, plus one in Northern Ireland), they receive 30,000 tourists a year to the winery; when I visited, they were working on a new building to host weddings. Cremale Recas also runs 150 franchise shops throughout Romania.
In my experience the wines show very well against wines at a similar price from Chile, France, Italy and other better-known producer countries.
Wildflower Pinot Grigio 2020, Cramele Recas, Romania
12%, €9 down from €13.95
Light, refreshing with succulent melons and pears; certainly a match for most Italian Pinot Grigio at this price and a real bargain at €9. Drink solo or with light pasta dishes with cream or fresh tomato.
From O'Briens, obrienswine.ie
Incanta Pinot Noir 2020
This is a very moreish well-priced Pinot, with plenty of ripe juicy red cherry fruits and a mouth-watering freshness throughout. Drink it with cold meats, roast chicken or grilled pork chops.
From 64wine, Glasthule, 64wine.ie; Higgins, Clonskeagh, Higginsfflicence.ie; The Vintry, D6, vintry.ie; Martin's Off Licence, D3, martinsofflicence.ie; McEntee's, Kells; Firecastle, Kildare, firecastle.ie; Clontarf Wines, D3, Clontarfwines.ie; 1601 Off-licence, Kinsale; Lotts & Co. D4, Lottsandco.ie; Morton's, D6, mortons.ie; Mortons of Galway, Mortonsofgalway.ie; Drinkstore, D7, drinkstore.ie; Shiel's Londis, Malahide.
Paparuda Chardonnay 2020, Romania
Classic Chardonnay with ripe textured tropical fruits, papaya and mango, and subtle spice. Drink alongside creamy chicken or mushroom dishes.
From Ardkeen Quality Foodstore, Waterford, Ardkeen.com; Fresh Outlets, freshthegoodfoodmarket.ie; O'Donovan's, Cork, Odonovansofflicence.com; Linane Spar, Ballyvaughan; Fine Wines, Limerick; Barnhill Stores, Dalkey, Barnhillstores.ie; Wineonline.ie; The Baths at Clontarf, Thebaths.ie.
Legendary Feteasca Neagra 2015, Romania
From an indigenous grape variety, a mature wine with rich, rounded dark plum fruits, and a spicy, lightly tannic finish. Try this with lasagne (vegetarian or meat) or red meat casseroles.
From Barnhill Stores, Dalkey, Barnhillstores.ie; Wineonline.ie; The Baths at Clontarf, Thebaths.ie.