One of the world's oldest wine producing countries is massively underrepresented in the UK, and Romania is a nation that I keep hearing great things about so I was eager to try them. With history going back thousands of years, their indigenous vines were wiped out by phylloxera in the 1880s and were replaced with vines imported from other European nations. Not seeing wines made with the wonderfully named grapes such as Ferasca Neagra (meaning 'The Black Maiden'), I thought I'd give a bunch of western European varieties a go from the producer Umbrele.
Pear drops come out of the glass immediately with some green banana and a touch of peach stone. The palate has more of the green banana, with a creamier texture than I'd expected. Some nice pear comes out of the palate with a touch high acid, but not unpleasantly so. There is a little grapefruit on the finish, but more of the pear finishes this wine off. OK at best. 76pts
2011 Umbrele Sauvignon Blanc
Strangely, this smells like the Pinot Grigio but with a little bit of grass. You get more yellow bananas, over ripe pears and just a touch of grass coming off. The palate has a bit of heat to it, very light elderflower, but pretty much more of the same - banana and pear, but just a bit worse. 74pts
2011 Umbrele Chardonnay
Oh dear. Firstly, you are getting cheap wood off this. It reminds me of going into B&Q and standing in one of their garden sheds. Beyond that there is some nice peach trying to escape and then some lemon sherbet sprinkled on top. The palate is yeasty, with some more of that sodding banana - is banana a flavour for Romanian whites? This is actually quite unpleasant, acidic alcoholic and flabby. 64pts
2011 Umbrele Calusari Pinot Noir
Very sweet strawberries and cream with some liqueur soaked cherries put on top. It isn't even real cream, it is sweetened squirty cream. The palate has a lot of sugar with an angry herby note hitting you. The palate starts off with confected fruit that becomes diluted leaving you with a tobacco and some vanilla infused tea coming off. Really not nice. 66pts
2011 Umbrele Merlot
Big, juicy sweet earthy and sweet, and then you get a menthol like cherry aroma that is like you are being punished for putting your nose in the glass. A meaty element comes through again, almost like raw mince. The palate is like a cheap Merlot from Chile, some agressive savoury notes and a bit of liquorice with some flabby fruit. The finish is bitter, dry and savoury. 69pts
Some of the best wines I've tried from lesser seen countries have been native grapes that give the wine drinker something different and interesting to try and allows a winemaker to establish their own identity and style. Making a Pinot Noir is going to get you compared to every other country on earth and, on the basis of these wines, Umbrele fail miserably.