Romania, a mid-sized country between Hungary and the Black Sea, finds itself at the geographical crossroads between Central Europe and South-eastern Europe. With Ukraine to the north and Bulgaria to the south, there is little doubt that Romania is a country with Slavic influences, yet the very name Romania (sometimes spelled Roumania or Rumania) betrays a significant Roman element in the country's history. This Latin tint dates back to the first century AD, when Emperor Trajan annexed this area to the Roman Empire, then at its peak. Even the Romanian language, like French, Spanish, Italian and Portuguese, is of Latin derivation.
Given the strong Southern European influence in Romania's past, it is no surprise that wine has played a significant part in Romanian culture at various points. It remains the favorite of the nation's alcoholic beverages, despite thriving local beer and plum brandy (Tuica) industries. But wine and vine pre-date even the Romans here in Romania; there is archaeological evidence that viticulture has continued here almost uninterrupted for almost 6000 years. Similar timeframes are attributed to the dawn of viticulture in Georgia, across the Black Sea, and the eastern Mediterranean lands now occupied by Syria, Lebanon and Israel.
If Romania's history doesn't automatically suggest it as a likely wine-producing nation, its location does. It occupies much the same latitudes as France's key wine regions. Northern Romania spans the 47th parallel, which it shares with the Loire Valley, southern Alsace and northern Burgundy. Southern Romania, straddling the 43rd and 44th parallels, lies perfectly due east of France's Mediterranean coast around Montpellier, aligning it with perfectly with Provence and Languedoc-Roussillon. Naturally, such latitudinal comparisons are not entirely watertight when comparing regional climates, as topography (both relief and altitude) and proximity to water must be taken into account. Romania's position many hundreds of miles inland from France means that it does not benefit from the moderating climatic influences of the Atlantic Ocean, and has instead a more continental climate drawn from the vast landmass (the Middle East and Russia) to the east. This makes for hot, dry summers and cold, harsh winters, with regular snowfalls. The Black Sea coastal region enjoys some respite from these extremes.
Like Italy, Romania makes use of a broad portfolio of wine grape varieties, both light- and dark-skinned. Both vinifera and American vine species are present here, as are a number of hybrids, chosen for their resilience in variable climates. The Feteasca grapes (both Alba and Regala variants) are Romania's most widely planted and account for a substantial proportion of the country's white-wine production. Romanian 'Riesling' is more likely to be Welschriesling than true Rhine Riesling, although Gewurztraminer, Pinot Gris, Muscat (Ottonel) and Sauvignon Blanc are reliably identifiable. As for the red wines, Bordeaux stalwarts Cabernet Sauvignon and Merlot are planted in large numbers in Romanian vineyards and account for roughly 50,000 acres (20,250ha) between them. Other well-known reds used here are Pinot Noir and Blaufrankisch (Kekfrankos/Lemberger).
Romania joined the European Union in 2007, and spent five years reviewing and organizing its wine industry as part of the preparations for this. New wine laws covering production standards and labeling have been in force for more than a decade now and have continued to evolve steadily. The three quality categories in force are Vin de Masa (Table Wine) Vin cu Indicatie Geografica (IGP) and Denumire de Origine Controlata (AOP/DOC equivalent).