The Inmost Oltenia   Crama Oprisor

A stone throw's away from the Bend of the Danube lies the Drâncei Hollow, an area towards which several roads converge, but which had drawn no visitors until recently, as if a jinx had tried to keep away the life, the laughter and the youth from this land, where the blessings had always seemed laced with a tinge of curse.  Writers like Păstorel Teodoreanu, Duiliu Zamfirescu or Horia Furtună, or others like them have failed to succeed in convincing the later generations that this land could be a source of joy. Derelict vegetable plots, wise-cracking or ghostly old men, runaway young men, gone to seek their lost dreams on the roads of the Roman Empire, a wall of earth which had once guarded the borders of Trajan's Empire from the savages, the ruins of a fortress, age-old documents gathering dust in the archives of a village mayor's office, a still verdant desert, whose Tuaregs did not wear blue clothes.  That is what Oprişor looked like a decade ago, before the grape vines were planted on the deserving soil. The revival of the culture of wine on this land did not bring empty promises of prosperity, nor did it pave the streets with gold. But it has planted a small flag on the spot where the map had been blank. It has stopped the exodus towards other horizons of yet another generation. And, moreover, it has bestowed on the Romanians the most beautiful son of the Sun, The Wine.


The rebirth of the place is named  «Măiastru », a reverence to the Sun and its Phoenix bird, always ready to offer itself again to the world, more beautiful and more resplendent than before. But the same symbol is also the ageless messenger of the Măiastra Bird, with its one thousand colours and unparalleled song. The story goes that a pious emperor had laid the foundation stone of the House of the Lord, but the church could not be completed despite all the efforts, because its bell tower was collapsing over night. One night, he dreamed that the nest of the Măiastra bird had to be placed inside the tower, to protect it. His youngest son, who accomplished his wish, was much tested by fate, which eventually gave him everything that a man could wish for. His brothers, who had opposed him, were doomed.  Not in the least, Măiastru is a tribute to the land, to manual work, to the precious fabrics which wrap the local legends, written with a resilient yarn. And the Măiastru is telling us that the sky and the flight belong to those who know their land and their history, their place and their work. All the treasures of the world are kept in store for them.         Măiastru is a play on words in the Romanian language, derived from the famous Măiastra series of Bird in Space sculptures by the internationally renowned Romanian sculptor Constantin Brancusi. In Romanian folklore the Măiastra is a beautiful golden bird who foretells the future and cures the blind.

It is quite difficult not to make a good Merlot in Romania. It is, most probably, the international wine grape which has best adapted to the conditions here. The one from Oprişor is an intense, nearly meaty wine, with a sharp aroma of red berries, with mellow sensations and a lingering, friendly aftertaste, imbued with notes of almonds and dried herbs. Everything settles down in a perfect balance, with an expressive roundness and fine, well integrated tannins. You can drink it heartily, but above all, you can drink it anytime, because its liveliness protects it from the tiring sensation of the heavy red wines.

A spring morning inside a bottle. White flowers, grape vine blossoms, specific Sauvignon Blanc aromas, full citrus nuances, from lime to lemon skin, everything wrapped into a mineral, flinty air. The clean, refreshing and comforting finish leaves lingering traces of fresh grasses and ripe fruits. Perfect for those fond of acid wines, for any hot summer day, for any moment of chilling out.

This is such an expressive and well textured wine that you can almost eat it, rather than drink it. With the characteristic roundness of a masculine, solid wine, it quickly reveals itself as a mature and playful wine in fact, with nuances reminding of childhood – red currants, dark chocolate, cocoa, and sour cherries stolen from the neighbours (always more juicy and more yummy than those you bought or those coming from your own orchard). A lingering mineral trace increases its depth and, together with the well integrated tannins, it turns it into a friendly and open wine.

As a type of wine grape, the Black Fetească has gone through several attitudes and interpretations at the time when everybody insisted that it should be consecrated as the representative of the Romanian wine. The Black Fetească from Oprişor is distinct from the others, owing to its complexity and finesse. It has a silky texture, a seductive flow, it is friendly, talkative, but not tiring. It starts its discourse with distinct notes of cherries, which blend almost immediately with pleasant nuances of cinnamon, cloves, rosemary and Oriental spices, to finish with sensations of smoked plums and overripe sour cherries, completed with fine tannins, which remind of cocoa powder.

A dizzying nose of ripe raspberries, strawberries, dried rose petals, yellow cherries and geraniums. The soil has its word to say again, adding a mineral touch and a nuance of fat grass to the whole. With an acidity close to that of a white wine, the Măiastru rosé is both a wine to quench the thirst and one for the appetite, for romantic nights and for meetings with friends, a companion for fancy dishes and for appetizers, for the connoisseurs and for the less initiated in the world of wines…It is maybe the most friendly and the most accessible wine from the whole range, speaking in the tongue of whoever is tasting it. In the proper, as well as in the figurative sense of the word.


A pre-Christian ritual invoking the rain, the Caloian is at least five thousand years old, having its sublime part compensated, as in any ritual, by a dark side.   Caloiene, Iene, Go to heaven and ask For the floodgates to open, For the rains to fall, For the ponds to flow, By day and by night, For the grains to grow!  The Caloian reveals all the despair which pushes the community to sacrifice, by sending a soul to beg the gods for rain, but it also says everything about the serenity of the man who accepts his sacrifice in order to help his fellow human beings.  The sacrifice ceased to be active and became symbolic even before the dawn of the new, Christian era. The writings of Diodorus Siculus bear witness to this, as he describes the scene of the ritual funeral of Attys, the equivalent of Orpheus in the Dacian lands: Yet, as such a long time had passed, nothing had been left from the body of Attys, so the Phrygians carved the image of the young man, which they buried then, with laments, also fulfilling the funeral rites as befitted his fate, and they are constantly repeating this ritual even to this day. Nowadays, five- or six-year-old village girls are flocking together, on the third Tuesday after Easter, and they each make a clay doll which they dress up, putting an egg shell painted in red on its head (a reflection of Orpheus's beheading) and set it sailing on the river or on the lake in a small, carefully glued, coffin.  Iene, Scaloiene! We buried you young, For your soul we gave alms, So The Almighty God might Give us water and wine galore, Lots of rain to water our fruits And make them grow plentiful!               In the summer, at Oprişor, when the air simmers at 40 degrees Celsius, the earth is sweltering with heat, with temperatures hitting 60 degrees Celsius. One can easily understand the despair of so many generations, riven by a land without any shade, without elevations and abrupt banks, where all the trees were standing scorched as soon as they started to grow. Imagine the bliss of this land as it was converted into a vineyard, into the home of the grape vine for which the draught is, more often than not, a blessing! Caloiene, Ene, Your mother's looking for you       Through the thick of the woods, Her heart broken and seared, Through the thin of the woods, Her heart broken with sorrow!

The star of the Caloian line of wines, which has quickly won many admirers. It reminds of the erotic and postmodern surprise of the lady who is majestically climbing down the marble stairs at a black-and-white ball, wearing a flamenco red dress. It is a totally conversational wine, which cannot be ignored and which lingers on for a long time in the memory. Although it is easy to drink, it is not an easy wine, its friendly roudness, dominated by dried plums, red and black cherries being only a context for sensations of truffles, cocoa, and even a drop of fresh blood, together with seductive aromas of wood.

A sprightly and buoyant playmate, like a child running tirelessly over the hills, from morning till night. Acid and full of vivacity, perfumed and revigorating, like a fresh bunch of grape vine and  elderberry blossoms, of wild flowers and thin grass. A brief and unpretentious, undemanding escape,  the perfect reminder of how important the moments reserved for small pleasures are

Strong and self-assured, rich, with a firm and heavy step, the Cabernet opens more difficultly, keeping its own pace, but only to disclose itself in its full majesty. A Laokoon whose maturity has not weakened its body, but has only given it thicker and firmer touches. Refinements of dark chocolate, dried fruits and aromas which remind of the fresh furrow of fertile earth, with herby tinges, everything woven into a solid and satinated texture.

If there were an official wine to dance the hora, it should be this one. Brimming with life, rhythm and music, tireless, always fresh, perfectly calibrated for any taste, the Caloian Merlot seems to be a reason for celebration in itself. With a fruity foretaste, of black cherries and red currants, with a body which has extracted the most seductive vanilla nuances from wood, and with its perfectly integrated tannins, which complete its harmonious, slightly glyceric whole, it is a wine whose flow should never be interrupted.


As a people, we have always refrained from granting our mythological figures the power of  acting both at the extreme of good and at that of evil. Our mysterious Sânziene, a family of fairies, are endowed with both the power to bring good luck, to heal and to bless the starry water (the morning dew of the Midsummer Night) and with that to steal the wits of the poor mortals who see them dancing in the air, above the lakes and the buried treasures. Consequently, when the Midsummer festival was adopted by the Romans (when the ancient name was changed into Sancta Diana, or Sânziana in Romanian), the mythology gave birth to the Drăgaica (from drag, dear in Romanian), a fairy who casts away evil and who predicts love on the same Midsummer Night. In time, the two have almost merged, and their celebrations have become similar everywhere, from the flowers laid under the pillow, to the wreaths of Lady's Bedstraws (sânziene in Romanian), which bloom around the Midsummer Night, thrown into the cattle herd of the village, in order to reveal the age of the future beloved. If the villagers keep their promise to the fairies and do not draw water from the wells at night, so as not to disturb the spirits, and if they have not sinned in any some such way, the Drăgaica will take care of their crops and will also protect from sickness the children carried in the arms of the maids who are dancing the Hora of the Drăgaica.

From one minute to another, from one hour to another, this wine blending is worth a thousand words. The best things happen to those who know how to wait, so goes the saying. And this wine is the proof that work and patience never go unrewarded. The Drăgaica does not rush in, it waits patiently until it finds its ideal partner. Carefully decanted and served in the best glasses, it will offer an incredible line of notes and aromas, telling a very, very long story. It is a graceful intellectual who, instead of contradicting you, takes you by the hand and leads you there, where you can find certainties. It is friendly, not authoritative, noble, strong and special.

The Rusalka was the female ghost scaring the children and threatening the virgin boys, the chastity belt clasping the minds of the lads as they started to throw sideways glances at the young girls: an evil mermaid, a wicked fish-woman, who also had the power to assume the body of a woman, wandering through the woods in search for young men, and who would lure them to the river or to the lake, in order to drown them. Today, we no longer fear the Rusalka, but we can restore it to its deserved place, inspired by Sergey Yesenin's genius:  Near a bale of dried up cockspur The Rusalka will sow your tinsel And put on you horseshoes for eyes That she'll trace in a sharp pencil.  Tell her you're a tired wanderer Away from this world's worries Remove and lose your waistcoat And plunge into Rusalka's stories.  (…) The village never dies.

Complicated to the atypical, stratified, it should be studied just as much as it should be consumed. Quietly, eventually. With a solid body from the Chardonnay, with discreet aromas from the Sauvignon Blanc, brimming with life (from the Riesling) and with a fine balance between acidity, alcohol and body,  tuned by the Pinot Gris, the Rusalka is a wine which can be understood by everyone, from the colour and the warmth of the moment in which it is presented. It is a wine to talk or to be silent about, a wine to look at, as best suits the one whose glass is being filled.

Two wines can tell more about Oprişor than any story we might try to concoct over night. Beyond its traditions and its past, this place is trying to reinvent itself today, to be in synch with the times. Its links to the rest of the country and to the rest of the Old Continent it has recently reintegrated work both ways, through the wines it sends out to the world, as well as through the prosaic implants of technology and know-how that benefit it. Elsewhere, this process might be painful – there are awful stories about peoples that have been totally torn from their own traditions, culture and past. As a compensation, some are bragging that they are giving back to the community. This is not the case with Oprişor, where life has preserved its smooth and slow flow, as always. The leap towards tomorrow is non-invasive, by assuming the place, with everything that it entails. To give back means, in this case, to revive.  The Rusalka and the Drăgaica, two fundamental elements of the mythology and of the rituals of Oltenia, which had been brought to the brink of extinction by half a century of darkness from which we have emerged with cold and impoverished souls, are gaining new life in the blendings of these two wines, such as have never been made in this part of the world, fully expressing the resetting of the myths in their context, from the perspective of the present-day individual. The Rusalka becomes a guide into the world of tales, while the Drăgaica, freed from the shady intentions of the family of female-demons, only prowls at night through the homes of virgin maidens in order to help them find their twin-soul.

More often than not, even the most complicated things are expressed by a single word, a colour, a gesture, a step, a smile, an omission. The third fundamental element of Oprişor is the most simple and the most difficult to express: the land. Seen day after day, laboured sometimes to exhaustion, scorching to the limit of the unbearable and frozen until no shovel can dig into it, the receptacle of the neverending tribute of sweat, the land becomes such an integral part of everyday life, that it imperceptibly becomes invisible. And yet, this land has a lot to give back. You only need to see, to have eyes that see how incommensurably much comes back from the land. The king of the vineyard, the king of wines, the Cabernet is the milestone of Oprişor, its exceptional produce, like Braşov has the Black Church and Paris – the Eiffel Tower. Among the three complex wines, with their profound appeal to the mind and to the spirit, there is, naturally, also a Cabernet Sauvignon. Annoyingly simple, as one might say disapprovingly. And yet, there is nothing simple in it. There are actually six wines, with different times of ageing, stored in different, older or newer, barrels, made from grapes harvested in various areas of the vineyards, each wine being processed to its utmost expression. Their assembly into the same wine, similar with the most complicated blendings, means alchemy, talent, love, work and above all, the understanding of the place. The Cabernet  Sauvignon from Oprişor tells more about this place than words might say. It brings together the days of curse – blizzards and sweltering heat – with the days when no man in his right mind would leave Oprişor for anything in the world. Tumultuous, fiery, rich, intelligent, convincing, embracing, perfumed like a corner of Heaven and satiating just to the extent which befits any « wisdom wine, » this is a Cabernet whose aura of « authorial » wine does not remove at all from the reality that it is a  « terroir » wine. This is the coat that Oprişor is wearing when it goes out into the world.

There is nothing in Oltenia which is not linked in some way or another to faith, to Orthodoxy, to God. The churches and the monasteries have stood for centuries at the highest point (geographically speaking) of the community, in order to physically underscore the spiritual place of the religious practices. It is obvious that the people of Oltenia could not have weathered their stormy history without keeping the flame of their faith alive. To this day, their traditional dress and the beautifully carved and painted wooden crosses placed at the crossroads are emanating an atmosphere of meekness - not that of the defeated, but that of those whose soul and future have been placed at the mercy of The Lord. There is still a scent of oil from the incense-burner, of frankincense and of old church walls floating over the profound Oltenia even today. 
The Meekness wine is the first in Romania which crossed the road backwards, from the name and the idea, to the liquid enclosed in a bottle. It was meant as a tribute to the undying spirit and the unwavering faith, to the nun in her solitary cell, reading the Holy Book, sometimes glancing out through the tiny window, who is spending most of her life praying for every man she has met or heard of. Liviu Grigorică's alchemy and the purity of the types of wine grapes worked by Veronica Gheorgiu have been exploited to the maximum, in order to obtain a wine which embodies all this atmosphere. The worn-out asperities of the monk's robe are captured in the velvety tannins, with pleasant astringencies. The coolness of the cell is reflected by nearly imperceptible traces of mint and eucalyptus. Daily life – in the perfume of quince stored in the window and of overripe cherries. The unwavering faith – in the great ageing power of this wine.

On the 21st of July 1718, under the Treaty of Passarowitz, Oltenia switched over to the administration of the Hapsburg Empire. The concept of  clash of civilizations had not been invented yet, but the German rigour, the legendary laissez-faire of the people of Oltenia and the lazy bien-vivre of the Ottomans made up almost palpable collision factors. As such, 20 years later, the Empire shrank away, after failed attempts at census-taking, a relative success at mapping the region, and the building of the first landmarks – monasteries and stately mansions – meant to last over the centuries. Today, the spirit of the place, which made the Germans to abandon the project, still preserves sparks of their rigour and precision. When you are sure that the whole village is enjoying its siesta, and you know for sure that today's work cannot be finished, a divine jolt sets the things into motion at an incredible speed. And the conclusion of the work – on time! – is made amid jokes and songs, which best encapsulate the spirit of the place. The siesta will resume, of course…
The wine totally resembles the story of the short-lived German administration of Oltenia. The five wine grape types it consists of – Cabernet Sauvignon, Shiraz, Merlot, Pinot Noir and Dornfelder – are hard to blend and might seem almost contradictory to the unwitting eye. With patience, long hours after the bottle has been opened (some say that the next day might be even better!), the aromas start to work, unveiling an unexpected beauty, hard to anticipate at the first nose. Discreet, almost subliminal, notes appear and disappear through the richness of nuances, leaving the reader startled and confused, with a feeling of I know, but I don't know what…, just like the Germanic sparkles of the people who are making this wine. Solid, yet supple and elastic, textured and silky, full-bodied and slippery, lively, yet sober, an endless series of coherent contradictions. Passarowitz 1718 is a wine to drink with the mind, it is the library wine, the wine to study with a history book or an art album in your arms…

The deepest thoughts, the most complex feelings, the darkest fears and the most overwhelming emotions can never be expressed in words. To talk about these things means to throw the chains of verbs and adjectives upon the last divine sparks left inside Man. That is probably why we have the arts – they keep alive the possibility of putting together colours, fabrics, consistencies, aromas, rhymes, flights and forms, where words have no chance of penetrating. We have three special wines, which are linked with the three essential dimensions of the profound Oltenia region – its past, its faith and its land.