A two- days invitation to Crama Budureasca, August 15-16, 2022


Flying winemaker Stephen Donnelly arrived from North- eastern England to Dealu Mare a couple of decades ago, being among the foreign forefathers of the post- communist Romanian Wine, from the same gang including Guy de Poix, Sergio Faleschini, John Halewood or Carl Reh. This Davis- schooled oenologist used to offering consultancy worldwide in countries such as South Africa, India, UK or Hungary, set foot in Romania in 1995 to take care of a winery in Mizil. He fell in love with the area’s Merlot and felt like there was a need for further development in the corner. Hence, he associated his winery to an UK investment and together founded what would become Budureasca later. The change of a name occurred in 2007 to highlight the terroir dimension, pinpointing the Budureasca river valley and its terraces adorning most of the estate’s vines.

With a brand new, state- of- the- art winery launched in 2013, Stephen was ready to combine the best from the New World and Old World, in a country that was tremendously progressing by that time. He has in fact a New World approach, while pampering some the best terroirs within the Ceptura and Tohani famous growth of Dealu Mare with traditional Old World care.

Budureasca focuses a lot on the agronomy of the vine plots, with Chief agronomist Mr. Vârga working hand in hand with Stephen. Hence, we visited the most representative plots to better understand their vineyard environment, climbing from 180 m at the lowest point up to 430 m on the top of the hills. Soil varies from rich and black chernozem on the bottom, becoming richer in gravels as we go up and completely rocky on the top, with chalky limestone and Sarmatian fossils on the highest terraces.








This is why they continuously pursue their research on the best adapted clones and rootstocks, while the global warming doesn’t ease the job: as Stephen told us, vines are increasingly picking the free calcium, due to the climate change, so Mr. Vârga and Stephen had to convert many plots from the classic SO4 to the 5BB – Kober to help the vines extract less Calcium and salinity.

They are among the few in the area to work with Busuioaca de Bohotin pink musky grape variety on a regular basis, using different clones and mutations of this grape. Plantings date to 1996, along with some Tămâioasa Românească white Muscat. Budureasca prides itself with old Fetească Albă vines dating back to 1986 and some original Fetească Neagră selections– 5ha on the top of the hill, from the same period. The new plantings focus on specific clones, like the Cabernet Sauvignon with clonal adaptation depending on the plot: 169 and some Italian clones on the “La Nick” plot, 685 on the “La Beton”. Pinot Noir is pampered with extreme care using a mix of 777 and 667 clone.

The 265 ha offer a true patchwork of grapes, namely: Chardonnay, Sauvignon Blanc, Fetească Alba, Fetească Regală, Pinot Gris, Tămâioasa Românească, Muscat Ottonel for the whites and Fetească Neagră, Pinot Noir, Merlot, Cabernet Sauvignon, Shiraz for the reds. They are planning to experiment with Negru de Drăgăşani and Novac, soon.

From the first vintage in 2006, Stephen who was used to the consistency of the vintages in the New World, have never had the same profile, from year to year here. This is the Old-World nature of the place somehow. His long memory in the area also allows him to keep in mind the terrible powdery mildew attack in 1998, the top 1999, 2000 vintages and the good 2001. This helped him better anticipate vintage like 2019 when the hailstorms swept many of the vines around, though only slightly affecting them, thanks to the installation of the rocket’s lancers dispositive. Or the odium that only scarcely attack their vines, from time to time, thanks to a good spraying calendar based upon precise observation.

Stephen is among the first to fraction his presses for sparkling wines in Romania, to use the edge technology Inertys press, also allowing him to skin contact grapes like Busuioaca de Bohotin, Tămâioasa Românească or Sauvignon Blanc for 3h up to 2 days. One of his obsession is the Pinot Noir, which gives rather remarkable results for the grape in this warm area.

He is also very proud of his barrel chamber hosting a rich mix of contents and preparing to welcome some new barrels using the ceramic technology such as “Éclair”, ceramic and classic toast for “Fuzion” or a mix of wet and ceramic treatment for “Hydro”. Together with some classic “Artezan” and Italian “Gobeletto” large wooden vats, the barrel park is complete and ready for the new vintage.

We arrived at the winery the day before the harvest started with the Pinot Gris and the Pinot Noir for the sparklings. After an authentic Romanian welcome with bread, salt and palinca, we toured the vine plots and ended up in the cellar, to then focus on assessing almost the entire portfolio, neighbouring 50 labels. Among the strongest brands “Origini”, “Noble” and “Premium” are complemented by the “Classic Budureasca” Label, “Vine in Flames”, “Bristena” (for the sweet wines), “Prima Stilla” for traditional methods and “Shine” for Charmat sparklers, while the entry level is represented by the “Exuberant” and “Cuvée Regia” ranges, complemented by various export labels and special editions. They also have an organic range with 5ha already certified and an excellent Orange wine. A lot of the cuvées bear historical or mythical names, inspired by the Dacian past of the region as spotted by the archaeological site close to the vineyards. Hence, “Vine in Flames” is a direct hint to King Burebista burning the vines during one of the very first prohibition acts, while Bristena, Zenovius, Daphyx are supposed to be famous historical or mythical characters.

Among the wines one should not skip, here is a selection of whites and sparklings by Bruno Scavo, while the reds are our commun “coup de coeur”:





White wines

“Orange Wine” (Fetească Regală and Sauvignon Blanc, with 6 months in wood vats) showing a moderate lemon-yellow colour, delicate nose, some honey, pears, spices and resin, on floral background evoking a Gewürztraminer. Supple and silky, large, yet fresh, with layers of honey, wax, candied pineapple, it has a fairly good acid, elegant tannins, and zesty finish with spices, flowery notes and honey. Can wait another 3-4 years, to carry on for 7/8 years globally.

The “Fumé Premium” 2021 (Sauvignon Blanc 34%, 3% Pinot Gris, 33% Chardonnay in new oak) offers an intense nose with caramel, spices, such as cinnamon, honey and apricot, on coffee, vanilla, background, with a fine oaky impact. Large and dry, with lots of suavity and mellow attack, its silky core is supported by a balanced acidity and spicy wood- derived phenolics, while bursting with pepper, pear, and citron fruit zests on the long finish. Enjoy between 3-4 years and up to 6-7 years.

Lovely Noble White 55% Sauvignon Blanc, 5% Muscat Ottonel, and 40% Chardonnay, with intense, ripe nose expressing jasmine, peach, passion fruit, pear, on a leesy background, with bright acid structure, integrated alcohol bringing layers of mouthfeel to the pulpy core, while lengthy and lingering with aromatic zests.

Sparkling wines 

“Prima Stilla” rosé brut 2016, a pure Pinot Noir traditional method, with 6 grams of dosage. The creamy nose offers delicate notes of peach, red fruits, strawberry and cherry, with fine autolysis hiding beneath the fruit. The palate is supple, with light and airy bubbles. The clean and sincere fruity profile is faithful to the olfactory panel, while the acidity is moderate, yet offering a fresh feeling. A balanced wine with discreet autolysis, elegant mouthfeel, its drinkability and gentle character pushes is as an enjoyable pre- dinner drink.

Another 2014 traditional method from Crama Budureasca is the more confidential, Extra brut “Classic Blanc Noir” with pastry notes, almonds, as well candied citrus and peaches on the toasty background. The palate reveals a creamy mouthfeel imprinted with tonic bubbles and tinged with citrus and peach. The acidity is moderate, yet the feeling is fresh, thanks to a clean, reductive style and zesty phenolics that support the structure and provide sappy salivation.

Red wines 

Fetească Neagră “Premium” 2019 Clean and harmonious nose with light toast, chocolate hints and vibrant red and black fruit like cherry and blackcurrant. As the wine breathes, herbal balsamics, resin, pepper, come along. Dry and ripe, with silky texture and juicy, concentrated acidity, its lovely texture and fine-grained, polished, and integrated tannins are wrapped by the rich layered body. Superb fruit, with cherry, blueberry, complemented by pepper, floral and herbal aromatics, a lengthy and full, but elegant wine, which aftertaste lingers with juiciness. Drink over the next 5- 7 years, this charming wine doesn´t need any decanting. Simply let it breath in a 40 cl glass to fully preserve its vibrancy.

« Origini » Cabernet Sauvignon 2018 offers a deep purple, almost inky colour. The nose is pronounced with both vibrancy and concentration. Pulpy blackcurrant, black and morello cherry, almost plummy fruit entwine with oaky aromas of vanilla and spices, balsamic herbs like mint and eucalyptus. The palate is dry with ripe and smooth attack, the texture is velvety, wrapping the elevated but balanced acidity. The tannins are high, polished, while being richly packed up with layers of generous mouthfeel and warmth. With depth of flavours and warming, pungent spices, this long- living wine is lengthy with a lingering, minty finish.

« Origini » Cabernet Sauvignon Dulce 2019, is a sweet UFO wine with 70g/ l of residual sugar. Very Cab style on the nose with layers of black cherry, blackcurrant and toast, some desiccated herbal notes recalling rosemary and thyme, seasoned with cinnamon, nutmeg, on a meaty background with leather and tobacco aromas. Sweet but balanced and feeling more on the semi- sweet side, its acidity is salivating and concentrated with tight tannins, integrated, digest alcohol, while the finish feels dry, clean and sapid. Lovely texture, not much oakiness, just a touch of chocolate and spices lingering in the finish.