Sunday, 5 May 2019

Budureasca: A Massive and Modern Winery from Dealu Mare, Romania

In the wine industry, there is an endless pursuit to discover wines, new producers, or the latest style and experiment that will leave our hearts and palates aflutter.  We are eager to discover something new, or perhaps go back to where thing all began and evaluate how old wine producing countries are revitalizing themselves. And, when we think about the Old World, a good a place to start as any, is Romania.   

Romania has had a bit of a turbulent past, which made it difficult to be taken seriously as a quality wine region.  After phylloxera and military occupation, much of what was planted in the 1960’s and 70’s was selected for quantity and frost resistance, rather than wine quality.  Things have been moving progressively upwards the past thirty years thanks to an increasing number of privatized wineries and an effort in planting vines destined for qualitative wines. In 2016, Romania was ranked 5th in Europe in terms of wine production, with 3.3 million hectolitres, according to the OIV. 

With a rich history that dates back to 4000 years, interesting indigenous grape varieties, and new up and coming wineries, it seems that Romanian wine is only starting to showcase its future as a quality wine region.  Budureasca, one of the largest producers in Romania, recently promoted their wines with an elegant dinner at Bar George here in Montreal. Many wine professionals from around the city were hosted by Budureasca’s marketing director Olga Miloiu and winemaker Stephen Donnelly.

Budureasca is located in the Dealu Mare DOC , in the area of Muntenia.  Dealu Mare means ‘big hill’ and some of Budureasca’s vineyards indeed, reach up to 400 meters in elevation. This, along with a considerable amount of calcareous soil, make it suited to varieties such as cabernet sauvignon, merlot, syrah and indigenous varieties such as feteasca negra and the two white varieties; fetesca alba and feteasca regala. 

Budureasca only started exporting wine about 5 years ago, and has gradually increased its export, and are available here in Quebec.    17% of their business goes to export, with a goal of reaching 25% in the next 3 years.   The wines that are sold aren’t necessarily cheap and they are proud to say that they make mid to high end products. 

Budureasca has one of the best equipped wineries in the area, and definitely the most modern.  Their cellar covers 5200 square meters, annual production and storage capacity of 300 million litres of wine and has a bottling capacity of several thousand bottles per hour.  Impressive.

While the winery, production stats, and numerous awards are indeed notable, how would the wine stand up to the experienced palates of wine professionals, journalists and sommeliers here? 

I believe it was a general feeling, amongst our table at least, with the disappointment in the lack of wine representing indigenous varieties.  Of the 5 samples poured, 3 were native to Romania. The rest were international varieties that may or may not have had an indigenous grape in the blend. Some of wines we sampled were lacking character and excitement.  Over extraction, prominence of oak in the reds, and the aftertaste of the alcohol left a bitter taste on my palate. While I can understand and appreciate that there is a place in the market for consumers who enjoy these bolder styles of wine, I wonder if Budureasca would venture into being a little more experimental and take risks to stand out and set itself apart; to try and develop wines that do not taste like….well, everything else.  

Two of my personal favorites of the tasting were coincidentally, indigenous varieties to Romania, and both white.  The Tamâioasa Româneasca  Premium 2017,  which displayed a lot of vibrancy and grace, with nice flavours and acidity, making it versatile in the sense that they can be enjoyed nicely on their own for easy drinking or paired wonderfully with a variety of dishes.  The second - the sweet Tamâioasa Româneasca Bristena 2017, was very attractive given the balance of fruit intensity, acidity, and sweetness. 

Overall, I feel like Budureasca is playing it safe when it comes to their production.  With their modern winery, ideal climate and a talented wine making team, Budureasca has every opportunity to be making wines that express authenticity, complexity and energy; wines that express a taste of Romania. I am not suggesting that only indigenous varieties equate to quality,  it's simply to say that perhaps they should attempt making wines that are a little more honest and rustic, no matter what the varietal. 

I would like to point out, that Budureasca has a large range of wines in their portfolio, while I had the opportunity to sample 5.  I very much look forward to tasting more when they return for La Grande Degustation de Montreal this fall. 

A genuine thank you to Budureasca for the wonderful opportunity and evening at Bar George. If this post has peaked your curiosity, you can find Budureasca wines through private import via Aurelian Mantu from agency Maximpex, or visit Budureasca’s website at:

* All photos are credited to Budureasca 

Tasting Notes :

Tamâioasa Româneasca  Premium 2017

The nose is quite pleasant, having notes of lime, passionfruit and white flowers.  The palate cuts right through to citrus with intense lime, grapefruit with layers of lychee and with mouth-watering salinity.  The palate is round yet very refreshing leading to nice crisp and refreshing finish.  This is their most successful and popular wine internationally, and in Romania.

Reserve Cuvée Origini 2015

The best grapes go into this blend of cabernet sauvignon, merlot, and shiraz. The nose is  attractive displaying sweet black cherries, and blackberries with whiffs of cocao nibs and soft spices.  The full bodied palate has soft tannins, intense blackberry, black cherry fruit merging with notes of chocolate and earth.  Slightly unbalanced as the wine lacks some restraint and acidity, finishing with the taste of oak and alcohol.  It’s a big wine, needing a meal with bold flavours.

Noble 5 2016

Great fruit intensity showing blackberries, and notes of chocolate covered cherries and cranberries with spiciness and raspy tannins for added texture and complexity.  The oak is very evident and takes away  from the wine as does that little tinge of alcohol on the palate.  The finish is quite nice, with an endearing tarty flavour of red current.  The wine has seen a mixture of French, American and Romanian oak.  Everything is fermented separately then one year in barrel before blending. 

Feteasca Neagra Premium 2016

This grape has comparison to shiraz, but the DNA testing shows they are unsure about where this grape actually comes from.  It can be a bit of a fussy grape to grow and very unpredictable with colour on any given year, and does not do well with heat.  This particular grape achieves better phenolic ripeness in cooler vintages. 

Aromas of cherries, raspberries, strawberries with bits of fried fig and raisins in the mix.  The medium palate has flavours much the same, with added notes of earth and an overwhelming taste of oak.  The wine had high grained  tannin and medium acidity.  The wine finishes on intense black fruit and vanilla. 

Tamâioasa Româneasca Bristena 2017

Beautiful sweet flavours of lychee, candied lemon, and ripe pear with white flowers and bits of ginger.  Lots of body, intense fruit flavours and subtle saltiness on a very long and pleasant finish.  A very vibrant, and delicious wine. 

Sunday, 3 February 2019

Christophe Pacalet Beaujolais Blanc 2017

Most people are very familiar with red wines coming from the Beaujolais.  The splendour behind the gamay grape is it's juicy fruit forwardness, appetizing acidity, and its amazing drinkability. It has some sort of superpower that can win over the palate of anyone who tastes it.

Many producers are doing an outstanding job in this region, some even making wines from all ten appellations, which can have incredible variances in appellation comparisons.  But can we just step back  for a second to recognize the beauty and equally enchanting Beaujolais blanc, especially coming from renowned producer Christophe Pacalet?

The wine gene is running strong in Christophe as he is the cousin of Burgundy producer Philippe Pacalet, and was the nephew of renowned Beaujolais producer Marcel Lapierre, and therefore cousins with Mathieu Lapierre.  He started his wine business in 1999, and since then has been successfully making wine from all ten appellations of the Beaujolais, and one that has especially rocked my world - the Beaujolais Blanc 2017.

Christophe has a relatively small scale production, and artisanal in nature.  He wants his wine to express their terroir, and makes his wine with minimal intervention.  Although he refrains from doing so as much as possible, he is not entirely against things like dilution or additions of sulfur, when he feels it is needed.

Christophe Pacalet Beaujolais Blanc 2017
SAQ: 13112870  $29.95

Coming from granite soils, this is a wine made with 100% chardonnay grapes.  Aged in neutral Burgundy barrels, there is no filtration, with a minimal amount of sulphur used, roughly around 20mg/l.

Medium gold in colour, this wine has notes of baked apples, candied lemon and pear.  There is a nice sharp, refreshing acidity counterbalanced with a plump mouthfeel.  The luminous finish is fine in length, carrying the fruit along with very attractive saline and floral characteristics.  This wine is ready to drink, but can keep nicely for another 2-3 years.


You can find a bottle at any of the following SAQ shops near you:

Version Française

La plupart des gens connaissent bien les Beaujolais rouges.  La beauté derrière le cépage gamay, c'est son avant-goût de fruit juteux, son acidité appétissante et son incroyable facilité à boire.  Il possède une sorte de superpuissance qui peut conquérir le palais de quiconque le goûte.

De nombreux producteurs effectuent un travail remarquable dans cette région, certains fabriquent même les dix appellations, ce qui entraîne des écarts incroyables lorsqu'on les compare.  Mais pouvons-nous simplement marquer une pause pour reconnaître l'élégance et le charme équivalent du Beaujolais blanc, de Christophe Pacalet?

Le gène du vin est fort présent chez Christophe; il l'est aussi chez son cousin Mathieu Lapierre et son oncle Marcel Lapierre.  C'est avec ce dernier qu'il a débuté la viticulture en 1999 et depuis, il élabore avec succès des vins issus des dix appellations du Beaujolais, dont ce Beaujolais blanc 2017 qui a récemment ébranlé mon monde!

Christophe a une production relativement petite et de nature artisanale.  Il souhaite que ses vins expriment leur terroir et les élabore en minimisant les interventions.  Il limite les intrants et l'ajout de soufre (excluant ceux qui sont naturellement présents dans le vin) qu'il réserve à de seules fins de stabilité pour l'exportation de ses produits.

Christophe Pacalet Beaujolais Blanc 2017
SAQ: 13112870  $29,95

Issue de sols granitiques, c'est un vin 100% chardonnay.  Vieilli en fûts de Bourgogne neutre, il est légèrement filtré, avec une quantité de souffre minimale, environ 20 mg/l.

De couleur dorée, ce chardonnay dégage des notes de pomme cuites, de citron et de poire confits. Il y a une belle acidité vive et rafraichissante contrebalancée par une sensation charnue en bouche.  La finale limpide est fine et porte le fruit longtemps avec des caractéristiques salines et florales très attrayantes.  Ce vin est prêt à boire, mais peut se conserver encore 2-3 ans.


Ce vin est disponible dans un magasin SAQ près de chez vous:

Tuesday, 8 January 2019

Oka Valley Quebec: Skip the Cheese, You Want the Wine.

Last year, Rivière de Chêne celebrated it’s 20th year of winemaking in Quebec. In 1998, with a desire and belief in the potential of his family’s land in St-Eustache, Daniel Lalande planted the first hybrid vines, on his family’s 7 hectares of land. 

“We have come a long way”, says Lalande. “We have made a lot of mistakes, lots of removal and exchanges of vines. We have learned so much in the past twenty years that has helped us create great quality wines.”

Rivière du Chêne is making wine from both hybrid and viniferous varieties, and have recently expanded their vineyards and portfolio by gaining land in the Oka, west of Montreal. “We purchased this property a few years back and we decided to name it La Cantina in honour of my grandmother who was from Italy.”  Of the 23 hectares of land at the Oka site, Chardonnay, Pinot Noir and Riesling are planted.  The site has excellent exposure, and excellent proximity to the lake, helping it keep away from Spring frosts which can be a very stressful time in our Canadian climate.”

Lalande is very excited about the results of the wine he has been making at his Oka vineyards.  He believes that it is truly a special place and has amazing potential for future winemaking in Quebec.  “We have the same degree days in this location as they do in Burgundy and New Zealand.  This, along with the protection of vines with our geotextiles, we have every opportunity to make wines that are expressive of terroir.” 

Lalande is not the only one who believes in the potential of Oka.  Hugo Grenon , a geologist - turned vigneron has recently purchased 7 hectares of land in Oka, and will see his first  bottlings in the next few years.  “It took me 5 years to find the land that I believe is a perfect site for growing vines.”

The land he purchased in Oka showed not only favorable factors for quality wine, like exposure, drainage, and degree days, but it also had to have a special characteristic: alkaline intrusion.  He believes this specific type of subsoil would be ideal for the viniferous grape varieties like Pinot Noir, Chardonnay, and Gamay.

“Alkaline intrusion is very rare and unique.  In an alkaline environment, the organic soil is more capable of storage where these metals and elements can be redeposited in the soil with water.  The vines have the ability to convey these characteristics into the fruit. “

Grenon said he had could not just plant his vineyard anywhere, as it had to be a very specific site that he believed could express a terroir for Quebec. It took him 5 years to find the site he was looking for.  “I have a clear vision of what I want my wines to be like; fruit forward with freshness and elegance, simply allowing the grapes to show their character and unique expression of Quebec terroir…..and yes we have terroir.”  The name of the winery is still yet to be determined, but Hugo and his team are working tirelessly to stay on track and do things right. In the mean time, they are making some delicious cider as a side project. 

 Both Grenon and Lalande have been working closely with CRAM, le Centre de Recherche Agroalimentaire de Mirabel, where a special experimental vineyard in Oka is being closely studied.  “They know the land, the soil, the micro climate”, says Lalande.  “We work together to create some of the best wine that is coming out of Oka. We know we have something really special here, we just have to keep developing it. It takes time”.

There are some exciting wines being made in Quebec, and Oka is starting to gain some buzz and attention.  With the support of CRAM, lessons of the past, and keen, passionate winemakers like Hugo Grenon and Daniel Lalande, there is endless potential here.  

For more info and where to purchase La Cantina products, head to :

Hugo’s Project:

Instagram : hugo.grenon