The story of Histria winery, one of the youngest Romanian wineries
Histria winery (Crama Histria in Romanian) is one of the youngest wineries in in Romania. I discovered it this year in fact and we instantly became friends :-). Yes that is possible, especially when the wine maker is such a pleasant person. His name is Paul Fulea and I thought he was the best person to let us into his wine world. Therefore I put together a few questions and he was more than happy to tell me the story of his winery. So pour yourself a glass of wine and let’s begin:
Mihaela (MP): Hi Paul. Can you please introduce yourself? Who is Paul Fulea?
Paul (PF): Hi. Hmm this is always one of the most difficult questions for me. But let’s just say I am a dreamer, a grape producer and a wine maker. I used to work in a corporation for 20 years but becoming an entrepreneur has completely changed my life. They usually say that corporate life is burning you out but I feel that the entrepreneur life is much more difficult, however much more rewarding of course. In my opinion, entrepreneurship is about freedom and about your will to go further and further, pushing your limits and challenging yourself.
MP: That is a big change. What made you exchange the corporate life for that of a wine producer?
PF: I was already discussing with my father about taking over the winery, one year before it actually happened. This was a family business from the beginning and my father wanted me to continue the family tradition. My parents could not continue this by themselves so I also wanted to step in and help. We were just brainstorming and discussing which direction we wanted to take in the future once I take over the business.
MP: Tell us a bit about your winery: how and when did it start? And also, where is the name coming from?
Actually our family business was not a winery, we were not producing wine, but we were grape producers. That was our main business until I joined.
The first vine was planted in 1976! But at that time it was an association. And after some troublesome and tumultuous times, especially during the communism, in 1998 my father got involved and he managed to revive the whole vineyard.
In 2005-2006 he planted 56ha of new vineyards and in 2006 he was planning to open a winery where we could use all our grapes. But, at that time, it would have costed more than 2mil Eur investment which was too much.
When I joined the business I decided to take a different approach. First of all, my plan was to refresh the vineyard, meaning getting rid of really old vines and plant new and more diverse ones. I cut down approximately 120ha of old vines and I am still planning to cut down another 24ha this year.
Luckily, soon enough I realised that my initial plans were too ambitious, so instead, I decided to take it one step at a time. I will still replace the old vines but step by step.
In 2015 I produced my first wine and named the winery Crama Histria (Histria Winery), from the name of the nearby Histria citadel, which is the oldest town in Romania!
By Dec 2015 I launched my first two wines on the market: Mirachi white (made of sauvingnon blanc) and Mirachi rose (made of cabernet sauvignon).
Then in 2016 we produced the second brand, Ammos.
MP:Your wines have very interesting names. What is the story behind them?
Well, first of all the brand name (i.e. Histria) was easy because we are a few kilometres away from Histria citadel which carries such an important place in the history. We wanted to have something different and unique about out brand and Histria was not only the oldest town in Romania but it was also also the first place to have its own coin. We made that coin our logo.
*Note for the history buffs 😉 : in fact that is the first coin documented in Romania, somewhere around 480BC
Now back to the wine names… the proximity of the sea is influencing our terroir and therefore our wines as well so we wanted to make that part of our Histria brand.
Our very first brand, Mirachi is connected with the population from this area where there is a strong community of Aromanians. The word “mirachi” means “desire”, ranging from lust to spiritual desire and everything in between. It is one of the most complex words in the Aromanian language and which exists in many Balcanic languages as well with different meanings, but all of them very positive.
The second brand is called Ammos and it means “sand” in Greek. We chose this due to our sandy soils. When the wind is strong and it blows from the sea you can actually feel the sand on your face. We can actually see the sea from between the rows of our vineyard!
MP: You just recently took over your family business and yet you managed to already win some important competitions. What are these and which were the awards winning wines?
Yes, we won some medals from the first year of producing wine. The sauvignon blanc 2015 was the most rewarded wine, with 3 medals and unfortunately I no bottle left from it. Bet hey, you learn as you go right? 😉
Then, we won gold medal for Ammos rose at IWCB (International Wine Contest of Bucharest).
MP: Are there any types of grapes that work better for you or that you want to focus on? What kind of grapes are you cultivating in your vineyard?
This is a very interesting question!
Like I said, the wines are influenced by the terroir and ours is quiet sandy, given that we are right next to the sea. Plus we have more than 300 days of sun per year. The sea breeze, together with the sun give special aromas to our grapes and therefore to our wines.
The problem is that the plans that we made in 2013 for the vineyard were made under the assumption that we will stay a grape producer (and seller) and not a wine maker. And so, we were focusing on what the market needed from us. But when you start producing your own wine, that is a different story.
At the beginning, 75% of it was Merlot. But my plan is to keep only 10Ha of those as they are 40 years old by now. The roots of these vines are anywhere between 10 and 30 m deep now . You can imagine that at that depth the soil is filled with minerals.
But I am not going to talk about what I have now as I am in process of refreshing, renewing, adding so instead I will describe how I see it in the near future.
Regarding whites, in the coming years I am planning to plant more Sauvignon Blanc and Chardonnay, as well as new ones like: Traminer, Muscat Ottonel and Feteasca regala. For reds, I have Pinot Noir, Feteasca Neagra, Cabernet Sauvignon and Merlot. Merlot will be a combination of very old and new vines.
MP: What are your thoughts and perspectives on the current Romanian wine market?
Well let me start with my background which is in fact in the beer market. And what I see in the beer market, which is working very well, is completely different from the wine market. The beer producers work very well together and they help each other through their association. You do not see that in the wine market. From my perspective, the main wine producers do not understand that the main competitor is in fact the beer producers not other wine producers. That is just from the perspective of the wine makers.
The second perspective is from the market itself. Let’s just say this: when going to a restaurant, 90% of the people who order alcohol would choose beer or wine. Out of these 90%, 80% will in fact choose beer. So we need to educate the customers. A well chosen wine will always bring out the flavours in the food, they would complement each other so well. The wine quality in Romania has increased tremendously in the last 6-7 years. If the customer is switching more to wine, all the wine producers get to win.
By the same token, we need to educate the restaurants as well because they are not serving enough wine by the glass and in fact they are not promoting the wine. They either don’t have the proper equipment to serve wine by the glass, or they prefer the low quality and of course the low price wine to sell as “house wine”.
MP: I must say that I was very impressed with the Romanian wines upon my return to the country. I had not idea we had so many good wines here. What do you think about them and where do you see this going?
I see that there are a lot of good changes. Maybe they are not moving fast enough but they are there. Compared to 6 years ago, both the wine consumption and the quality increased. And the wine market is growing with new producers like myself as well. There is also a strong tendency to focus on promoting Romanian wines and wine varieties. At the moment there is a lot of promotion of our “queen”, Feteasca Neagra (Black Feteasca). But the others are coming strongly from behind: Tamaioasa, Sarba, Cramposie, Babeasca, Negru and they started getting the right attention.
We need to start producing more and more new wines through new grapes combination. A true wine lover and wine drinker is always on the look for new wines and always wants to taste different and special ones. There is a lot of room for growth here on our production market.
MP: And finally, I am sure that by now everybody is intrigued to taste some of your excellent wines! So please tell us where we can find them.
The easiest way to find us is in specialised wine shops such as : Private Wine, Ethic Wine, Wine Republic, Infinity Drinks, Terroir Boutique du Vin and so on. Recently we added our wines to Carturesti Bookstore chain too.
We are currently growing our restaurants distribution chain as well. We are only 2 years old as wine producers but were are off to a good start!
If you want more details about Crama Histria and their wines, go and check their website here.
I hope you enjoyed this article as this is the first one from a series that I am planning to put together about the Romanian wines. Let me know your thoughts, questions or any proposals you might have in the comments below.
And here are some of the pictures from my visit to Crama Histria…until I manage to recover the rest from my broken HDD (face palm).
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