With Moldova having Odobesti and Muntenia having Dealu mare, Oltenia in its turn has an important, old and traditional wine region: Dragasani. Located in the south of the Valcea County, where ‘the sun loves the most the mild hills of the Olt River meadows,’ lives surrounded by worldwide awarded wine varieties.
Photo credit: (c) Vasile MOLDOVAN / AGERPRES ARCHIVE
Confined to a relatively small area, the Dragasani wine region spreads west and north of the Dragasani city, including several viticultural areas corresponding to the following localities: Dealul Oltului, Dragasani, Calina, Prundeni, Zavideni, Orlesti and Scundu, Sutesti, Verdea and Mitrofani, Creteni, Nemolu, Aninoasa and Olteanca.
‘Dragasani vineyard has an over 500 year old tradition. Among the properties in this area, there were the vines of Ban Buzescu, Ban Ghica, Clucereasa. Princes Bibescu and Stirbei, same as many old noble families also owned famous vines in the aforementioned areas. A first US grafted vine was planted in Baratia in 1895 by the Valcea Prefect at that time, Dumitru Gheorge Simulescu, at the initiative of Ioan C. Bratianu, who also brought some Vermorel atomizers for spraying the vines against mildew, after they proved to give good results in Florica (Muscel),’ says Gheorghe Iordache, former mayor of the city of vines and one of the greatest viticulturists in the area.
According to him, French ampelography specialist J. Roy Chevier, speaking about Romania’s old vineyards, pointed out that here the rulers, the boyars and the monasteries had outstanding vines and produced good table and export wines. J. Roy Chevier also says that ‘the wine of Cramposie of Dragasani was tried out for turning it to champagne in Stuttgart by N. Berger, with the best results.’
The wines of Dragasani received awards in France, where German chemist Dr. C. Bischof, a member of the jury, while analysing them, said: ‘The Romanian white wine is a normal, excellent wine, which must be taken into account as a clean, natural wine. The red wine shows, in all essential analysis norms, it has the same quality as the French wines, especially the Bordeaux wines and the best red wines.’
The wines were appreciated again at the Paris’ World Fair of 1900, when, among others, I. C. Bratianu’s white, red and muscatel wines of the 1886 and 1889 crops were awarded medals, the same M. C. Danaricu’s muscatel and white wines of the 1890 and 1896 crops.
The beginnings of the wine industrialisation have as initiator Joseph Condemine, a French tradesman who exported oak wood for barrels to France. He settled in Dragasani in 1846 and on March 4, 1849, he drew up the statutes of an anonymous enterprise called ‘The Oenology Company,’ engaged in wine trading on Wallachia’s territory, with its headquarters in Dragasani. Among the shareholders there were rulers Barbu Stirbey, boyars Ioan Filipinescu, Ioan Otetelisanu, Constantin Sutu, Bengescu and a few Frenchmen, among whom Labouret (married to one of Condemine’s daughters, Fairon).
The oldest viticultural station of Romania was established in Dragasani in 1936, under the coordination of the Agriculture Ministry. Among the wine varieties created by the Viticultural Station in the over 80 years of activity, it is worth mentioning varieties for table grapes with early ripening, present and acknowledged national and international wide, Azur, Calina, selected Cramposie, Vilarom, Novac, Negru de Dragasani, Alutus, as well as clonal selections — Sauvignon 62, Romanian muscatel 104, Cabernet Sauvignon 7.
The nationalisation, fortunately didn’t harm the wine varieties, but caused much damage to land owners. Among those who lost everything was Princess Maria Stirbey, who inherited the largest viticultural area of the country that went to the property of Dragasani State-Owned Enterprise (IAS). However, as a paradox, the communists respected the viticultural industry and preferred to bring specialists to this IAS and to the research station.
‘After 1990, the wine industry of Dragasani had entered a declining trend and even worse was that upon recovering their plots of land people started to take out the noble vines and plant corn instead,’ Dragasani Municipality current mayor Cristian Nedelcu underscores.
This disaster lasted almost 10 years, he says, but with the retrocession law, the heirs of those who owned renowned vineyards managed to be repossessed and to revive the viticultural tradition.
In 2001, the vineyards and the wine cellar of Stirbey were restored to the rightful heirs. Baroness Ileana Kripp, Princess Stirbey’s granddaughter, in her desire to revive this family tradition, together with her husband renewed the vineyards and equipped the wine cellar with modern technology, for improving the performance of the wine making process and for providing the customers with best quality wines from the Stirbey domains of Dragasani.
Together with the Stirbey vineyards, Dragasani also hosts the Isarescu House of Wines, the Iordache Wine Cellars, or the Avincis Wine Cellars (belonging to Valeriu Stoica).
‘The aristocratic complexion of the wines of Dragasani sells the wines very well. In the modern and globalised world, the nobiliary distinction associated to some common goods is a significant marketing element,’ Nedelcu says.
At present, according to the statistic data, Cramposia de Dragasani sells best in Austria and France and the Romanian muscatel of Dragasani is the vineyard’s best sold wine in France. On the French market, the wines of Dragasani are ranked — at least in terms of prices — on an average level. They are sold for 11-12 euros a bottle.
On Dealul Viilor (Vines’ Hill), resembling the region of Tuscany, according to specialists, the town hall initiated a niche tourism project. The vine and wine road will cross almost 300 hectares of vine and will connect four wine cellars. The entire promotion was made on Government and European funds. An amount of 5 million lei will be invested in the vine and wine road, and one million euros has already been used to restore a unique museum of the vine and wine, which will become another tourist attraction of the area.
‘For Dragasani, the greatest challenge is thus the promotion of the viticultural tourism in occidental manner. In the current context, the viticultural tourism represents a necessity to Dragasani, therefore it has an imperative nature. Dragasani has the potential of the French, the Italian, the Spanish areas. Dragasani’s prosperity widely depends on its economic development,’ believed the mayor of Dragasani.
The wine cellar owners have built guest houses and expect tourists, who want to breathe the fairy-tale aroma of the noble wine of Dragasani, while taking a walk through the vines, witnessing the harvesting, the making and the tasting of the wondrous liquor.AGERPRES