(…) The potential tourist, attracted by the Wine Land project, would have many vineyards to see, many wineries to visit, many unique wine varieties to taste and, perhaps, to take home. For a tourist to form a somewhat adequate idea of the wines from Transylvania, it would be best that he spends at least a summer’s vacation here, for there is much to see. Not even we, who have been raised here, know all of them and we still come by many wonderful surprises. In the past 10 years, several new, extraordinarily tasteful wineries appeared, containing previously unknown or very little known wine varieties and blends that fill you with respect for the oenologists who had been inspired to produce them. Let us take some of these wine establishments one at a time and let us hope that the spirit of abstinence shall accompany our journey, so that we can visit as many wineries as possible.
We shall begin with the largest one, how else? The Jidvei vineyard from the Târnave Rivers region, owned by the Necșulescu family, is the largest one in Transylvania, with a surface of 2.500 acres, as well as the biggest winemaker in Romania. Moreover, it is the largest unique owner vineyard in Europe. The history of the local viticulture and winemaking probably begins in antiquity, if we were to think of Herodotus’ references that, 2600 years ago, noted the Daco-Getae’s skills in viticulture, as well as their unrelenting enthusiasm for the consumption of wine. The first written records come from the Middle Ages, from the 12th century, when the region started to be colonized by the Saxons. An important benchmark in the development of the area was represented by the construction of the Bethlen Haller castle between 1570-1580 by the Chancellor of Transylvania, Miklos Bethen and restored between 1615-1624 by Count Ștefan Bethlen. It was inspired by the Chambord Castel on the Loire Valley, in the French Renaissance style and it was probably designed by the famous Italian architect Domenico da Cortona. Historians do not dismiss the possibility that Leonardo da Vinci participated in the project.
After World War II, when the communist regime took over Romania and the private properties had been nationalized, the Jidvei vineyard became a State Agricultural Enterprise, and the Bethlen-Haller castle that thus became the property of the SAE was set up as a production line for champagne. The current owners of the vineyard, the Necșulescu family, bought the castle from the former owners, the heirs of the Haller family, who had obtained the castle after the Revolution from 1989 through the retrocession carried out by the Romanian state. After laborious restorations, the castle regained its elegance and the solemnity of its former style. SAE Jidvei was privatized in 1999, when S.C. Jidvei S.R.L. was born. The new owners developed a comprehensive plan for the modernization, tech and renewal of the vine varieties. There were massive investments in planting new vine surfaces, replanting in the areas in which the vine was degraded, thin or degenerated, modernizing the sustaining systems, modernizing the winemaking technologies, the wine storage and maturing conditions, in the renovation, expansion and construction of new wine cellars.
Today, the company has four wine cellars, namely the Jidvei wine cellar, built in 1974, with a storage capacity of 21,5 million liters and a bottling capacity of 12.000 bottles per hour; the Tăuni gravitational wine cellar, built in 2014, with a storage capacity of 4,95 million liters; the Blaj wine cellar, built in 1989, with a storage capacity of 3,95 million liters. The oldest wines of the Castel variety, 200.000 collectable bottles, are stored in the Blaj wine cellar; the Bălcaciu wine cellar, built in 1958, with a storage capacity of 2,4 million liters, that contains the sparkling wines and the wine distillates. At the present time, Jidvei owns the largest gravitational wine cellar (that uses the principle of vessels connected at the drain and decantation of the mash) in Europe, the first computerized winemaking system and the first planting machine equipped with GPS. Furthermore, in Jidvei, the first private school of grapevines in Romania was established; it produces cuttings and grafts of different varieties for the new plantations on a surface of 17 acres.
Many factors contribute to the quality of the Jidvei wines, the first of which being the quality of the grapevine varieties, the quality of the brown forest soil and the environmental conditions – a continental climate typical for a plateau, moderate autumn temperatures with no sudden oscillations, with fog and sun that favor the slow ripening, the accumulation of sugar and aromas, the balance of the acidity. Moreover, the skills of the cultivators and processors, the quality of the winemaking technologies, the skills of the oenologists and tasters, who actually decide the final tastes of the brands made available on the market. The immense Jidvei wine-growing area is located at an altitude between 200 and 500 meters, on south-facing cliffs where the heat of the sun spread throughout the summer months and the atmospheric currents contribute to the quality of the grapes. The varieties that occupy the largest surfaces are: Fetească Regală (824 ha), Sauvignon Blanc (467 ha), Muscat Ottonel (427 ha), Italian Riesling (247 ha) and pink Traminer (163 ha). 100 acres out of the total rod surface are occupied by black grapes of the Pinot Noir, Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, Fetească Neagră and Syrah varieties.
Among the winemakers of Romania, Jidvei has the widest selection of products, the largest production of white wines and wines with Registered Designation of Origin. The brands produced and marketed are: from the Tradițional selection, the Fetească Albă and Riesling dry white wines, the Traminer, Muscat Ottonel, Chardonnayand Rosé medium sweet wines and a medium dry wine, Feteasca Regală; from the Jidvei Clasic selection, Fetească Regală, Chardonnay and Sauvignon Blanc; the Premiat selection contains the most widespread varieties: Riesling and Sauvignon Blanc; the Grigorescu selection contains Dry Muscat, Gewurztraminer, Sauvignon Blanc, Pinot Grigio and Rosé; from the Nec Plus Ultra selection, the Sauvignon Blanc, Chardonnay and Rosé varieties; the Tezaur selection contains some of the first blends made in Romania – Muscat Ottonel with Fetească Regală, Sauvignon Blanc with Fetească Regală –, and the Sauvignon Blanc and Riesling wines; the Castel selection contains the Sauvignon Blanc, Fetească Albă, Gewurztraminer and Muscat Ottonel wines. They are kept for six months in oak barrels in the cellars of the castle from Cetatea de Baltă, after which they are bottled and they are left to age for three years or more.
The exclusivist Mysterium wine collection contains blends of two or three wines, obtained from the varieties Rhein Riesling with Sauvignon Blanc, Traminer with Sauvignon Blanc, Fetească Regală with Muscat Ottonel and with Sauvignon Blanc; the Owner’s Choice selection contains the best wines from the best production, selected and recommended by the owners thus: the Ana collection (Sauvignon Blanc, Chardonnay) and the Maria collection (Fetească Albă, Pinot Gris). We must note that the wines from the Ana and Maria collections were awarded gold medals in the Vinvest 2012, AWC Wienna 2012, Vinvest 2014, Concours Mondial du Sauvignon 2015 competitions, as well as silver and bronze medals at many other national, regional and international competitions.
The sparkling wine category contains the Mărgăritar brands, medium dry and medium dry Rosé, and Spumant Jidvei, the options being Extra Brut, Extra Dry and Rosé. The brandy category contains the Vinars Jidvei VSOP brands, distilled from noble wines and aged in wooden barrels for five years, and Vatra Jidvei VS, aged in barrels for three years. Beginning with 2015, Jidvei offers to those who wish to make homemade wine the possibility of buying mash from the company, from the Sauvignon Blanc, Fetească Regală and Muscat Ottonel varieties.
(From the special edition of TB 86 – „ENJOY TRANSYLVANIA!” – May/June 2019)