04 Dec 2022

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The Romanian Rosé Wines through the eyes of Elizabeth Gabay MW
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The Romanian Rosé Wines through the eyes of Elizabeth Gabay MW 

Elizabeth Gabay rose pink wine revolutionMeeting the author of a book on a niche subject like rosé wines is an honor, and an excellent opportunity to satisfy your inner imbibe geek. Elizabeth Gabay MW is the mastermind behind Rosé- Understanding the Pink Revolution;  the volume covers history, viticulture, classical and new regions, and the particularities of the trade for this wine.

I had the pleasure of listening to Mrs Gabay on several occasions, and she is a passionate speaker with a clear agenda. Her message is: Stop judging rosé by color! Start looking more in-depth at winemaking techniques and terroir expression.

The Masterclass in Bucharest 

Following the National Rosé Contest, where she was invited as a member of the jury, Mrs Gabay held a very hands-on (the glass) masterclass to discuss 10 Romanian rosé wines. She hand-picked each of them either from the Contest or her tastings during the visits at different wineries. The masterclass took place on the 30th of June, at Gastrolab, Piata Victoriei. 

Stop judging rosé by color 

This was the first lesson that she wanted to get across to the participants. She talked about the current trend of very pale rosé wines, which are Provence inspired. She highlighted the idea that there is no demonstrated connection between the color of the wine and the quality. Also, just like in fashion, trends come and go, and the bold producers go against the current. 

I loved the comparison with the XIX-th century obsession to categorize everything, including wine, which did not fit into the white or red bins. The two most essential questions in this section were:

  1. Where does Blanc de Blanc end, and rosé starts?
  2. Where does rosé wine end, and red wine starts?

Learn more about the rosé winemaking techniques 

Although most rosé wine is created through limited skin contact, much like red wine, there are several other techniques. She mentioned saigneé, direct pressing, and even blending white and red (forbidden in Romania). Each of these has particularities, a long history, and a specific taste to be discovered and appreciated.

Not all rosé is about red fruits 

When questioned about what is specific to rosé wine, many of those present at the masterclass named red fruits as characteristic aromas. This was another myth that Mrs Gabay wanted to dismantle by the power of example. 

Elizabeth Gabay rose pink wine revolution masterclass bucurestiThe 10 Rosés in tasting notes and highlights 

Non- aromatic 

1.Prima Stilla- Budureasca (Pinot noir)

Sparkling wine, extremely pale color, spent 18 months on the lees and has 17 g of sugar, which give it a velvety touch in the mouth. Light, floral, with hints of red fruits, a medium body, and medium length, it was deemed as a perfect pairing for Asian food and healthy salads.

2.Aurelia Visinescu – Karakter (Syrah, Cabernet Sauvignon, Pinot Gris)- first prize in the Contest

Although a rosé, this winning wine struck the audience with hints of stone fruits and some exotic notes rather than red fruits, supporting Mrs Gabay’s idea that not all great rosés need to have red fruits to satisfy the crowd. Long, lean finish, just right for a pairing with a burrata with peaches. 

3.Familia Vladoi- Ion- (Fetesca Neagra, Syrah)- second prize in the Contest

As a counter-argument to the previous wine, this one came as an explosion of red fruits, a bit heavier with soma caramel notes, but well sustained by acidity and a long taste. The audience voted this as a gastronomic wine, great for medium-hard cheeses.

4. Alira- Aliento (Merlot, Fetească Neagră, Cabernet Sauvignon) -third prize in the Contest

A definite crowd-pleaser with a twist. This rosé had a very vegetal nose, almost reminding of a Sauvignon Blanc. This style reminded Mrs Gabay of her early days in Provence. Overall, a great wine for the summer through its crispness, citric character, and freshness.

5. Avincis- Cuveé Alexis (Merlot)

I could guess that this wine was one of her favorites because it was different. She talked about the sandy texture, which gave the wine weight and made it more gastronomic than easily drinkable. Although it has a more muted fruit, it has length and goes great with grilled cheese like halloumi.

6. Rasova Sur Mer (Feteasca Neagra, Pinot Noir si Syrah)

Another rosé which denies the red fruits cliché, but is elegant and noteworthy. It is more about apricots and pomelo than strawberries. It has a bright minerality reminding of its birthplace, near the Black Sea.

7. Histria-Ammos (Feteasca Neagra, Merlot, Cabernet Sauvignon)

Mrs Gabay used this wine as a teaser to help the crowd overcome their inherent bias about color. The bright fuchsia hue of the wine made people think it is sweet or has an intense taste of berries. After tasting the wine, they re-calibrated and talked more about the sour cherry notes and acknowledged that color is a deceiving indicator of what rosé is. The high acidity and medium+ body recommend the wine as a robust choice for fatty fish. 

Aromatic  section 

Mrs Gabay stated during the evening that she believes that the Busuioaca de Bohotin should become a statement grape for Romania and currently is severely underexploited. In her view, this could become part of the national brand because it is easily recognizable and has very little competition from other members of the Muscat family.

8. Averesti-Diamond (Busuioaca de Bohotin)

This wine was the star of the aromatic section, a garden of  English roses and peonies in a bottle. This wine is bold; she even called it dramatic, but in a good way, like a beautiful lady in an evening gown.

9. Valahorum- Busuioaca de Bohotin

A more restrained, but equally elegant version of the grape from Dealu Mare. She selected this wine to show just how an aromatic grape expresses himself when made into a bone dry wine. 

10.Casa de Vinuri Cotnari- Domenii- Busuioaca de Bohotin

The last wine of the night had a bit of residual sugar, which complements nicely any aromatic grape. In fact, she said that she feels this is a more natural expression of this variety.

End remarks

The masterclass brought a  professional’s view on local wines and winemaking styles. Mrs Gabay is always on the look for new, expressive, and exciting wines. She advises all #winelovers to do the same, to extend their mental catalog with new styles. 


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