Wojciech Bońkowski
Wine & tea writing

Petro Vaselo: promising Romania

Posted on 21 July 2012

If you visit this blog from time to time (which I hope you do), you’ll know that I’m very committed to the wines of (so-called) Central and Eastern Europe. Countries such Slovenia, Croatia or Hungary have some great terroirs and a long-standing tradition of making good wines. And they deserve to be better-known for what they do now.

Is Romania in that group? I summed up my ambiguous feelings about this large winemaking country in this post. A lot of bad wine is made in Romania, and very few outstanding wines. Now here comes a producer that promises to change the equation. The Petro Vaselo winery, under Italian ownership, was started in 2005 and currently has 42 ha under vine in Banat, Western Romania close to the border with Hungary and Serbia. Two samples I’ve been sent were really rather impressive.

Petro Vaselo Pinot Noir Otarnita

Good label design, too. © Printrevinuri.ro.

The 2010 Otarniţa Pinot Noir is a serious take on this quirky grape, although at this stage it is a very young and tight wine, still much under the influence of oak. With good body and concentration, the fruit is somewhat muted at the moment, but I tasted the wine just a few months after bottling. There is also a bit of unresolved green acids, likely from the fact that 2010 was a virgin harvest (vines planted in 2007). But this wine has more substance and style than most Pinot Noirs from Eastern Europe.

Petro Vaselo Ovaş 2009

Petro Vaselo 2009 Ovaş: exciting Merlot from Romania.

The 2009 Ovaş is a 70% Merlot–30% Cabernet Sauvignon blend. Courtesy of the extra year in bottle, it is more harmonious and interesting than the above. The concentration is striking – a totally black colour in the glass! Ripe forest berries nose with some earthy and animal notes. On the palate this is showing pretty massive oak at the moment that will take a very long time to integrate. But the quality of fruit is very impressive: ripe, round with balanced soft tannins, this does have has that extra touch of almost tactile excitement that sets a wine apart from its peers. And in my experience, this excels precisely where other Romanian wines fail: with inadequate farming they’re often unbalanced with rough tannins and uneven fruit ripeness. Here, the opposite. With airing the oak, paradoxically, becomes more obvious, but there’s no denying the seriousness of this wine. This is actually produced in 30K bottles, no mean number considering the quality and ambition.

I’ve only tasted two wines, the range is larger with also some white wines being made. I’m even more impressed given the fact that a) the vineyards here are still in the infant stage, and once they reach 10–15 years of age the wines will become a different story altogether; b) until 2011 no cellar existed here, and the wines were vinified off-site. With a new facility now operational there is immediate hope for improvement. Petro Vaselo is already exciting, and that’s just the beginning, apparently.


Source of wines: samples sent by the winery. Otarniţa Pinot Noir wine label reproduced from Printrevinuri.ro.

  • http://xkapelanski.wordpress.com xkapelanski

    Oh, good. Maybe I’ll get my local spirits store to replace that one lonely, standard bottle of Romanian wine with something more hopeful. By the way, I’m commenting as a fellow blogger now!

    • http://bonkowski.me/en/ Wojciech Bońkowski

      Congratulations in your blog! The adventure begins.

  • http://thewinegetter.wordpress.com the winegetter

    I have only had one Romanian wine. I asked a Romanian friend to bring something, because I was intrigued. It was delivered in an empty Vittel bottle….it tasted accordingly. Glad to hear there is hope!

    • http://bonkowski.me/en/ Wojciech Bońkowski

      @the winegetter: ah, homemade wine…! Romania still makes oceans of this.

  • http://www.printrevinuri.ro Bogdan Bocse

    source of the first photo?

    • http://bonkowski.me/en/ Wojciech Bońkowski

      Printrevinuri.ro, as signed on the photo. Hope you don’t mind! Cheers.

  • http://www.printrevinuri.ro Bogdan Bocse

    No problem. I’ll appreciate if you mention it at the end of the post. Thank you.

    • http://bonkowski.me/en/ Wojciech Bońkowski

      Done. Cheers.

  • Bogdan Bocse

    Wojciech, I’ve recently tasted the Feteasca Neagra “Melgis” 2011 from Petro Vaselo. It’s a very distinct wine from Feteasca Neagra in Romania, very different from all the other wines made from Feteasca Neagra. If you’ll have the chance to taste it, go for it!

    • http://www.bonkowski.me/ Wojciech Bońkowski

      I look forward to tasting it! I recently had a decent one from Wine Princess (though their Cadarca and Pinot Noir are better).

      • Bogdan Bocse

        I guess you’ve tasted the Feteasca Neagra 2011 and the Cadarca 2009 from Wine Princess (aka Balla Geza). I’ve wrote about them not so long ago. Cadarca was medium-light with a beautiful nose that reminded me of a hungarian cake named Zserbo. Feteasca Neagra was quite fruit-driven, frutty & juicy. http://printrevinuri.ro/2013/12/stonewine-hill-selection-cadarca-2009-si-feteasca-neagra-2011-balla-geza.html Maybe I’ll start to translate them :)

        • http://www.bonkowski.me/ Wojciech Bońkowski

          I thought that Cadarca was stunning. Will be written up soon. Cheers!