A Pocket Guide- White Romanian Grapes- Feteasca Alba
Before delving into another delicious and delicate white grape variety, let’s just take a moment and think about vine pests. Some of the grapes and therefore wines we know today in Europe are the result of fighting the great phylloxera invasion of the late XIX-th century. This is a bug which feeds on the roots of the vines. It is dangerous because it cuts off the nutrients supply to leaves and grapes. It was brought from North America through trade and wiped out several types of varieties before a cure was found through grafting with American vines.
Just a couple of old world grapes survived. One of these is Feteasca Alba, which translates as “White Maiden“. This is a native variety with a history spanning over at least a few centuries, if not millenniums. The name is a mirroring of the native red grape Feteasca Neagra. As in the case of its dark “sister”, Feteasca Alba has been around for too long to find a definite origin or an ancestor.
Feteasca Alba- A Short Description
Much like Feteasca Neagra, you can find this type of grape in all areas of the country and also in Hungary and Moldova. Almost all wineries have a brand in their portfolios. Feteasca Alba produces single grape wine, but some blends also emerged in the last few years. It’s customary to use it next to Chardonnay, Sauvignon Blanc or its offspring, Feteasca Regala (Royal Maiden).
It ripens quite early, and it is perfectly adapted to cooler climates. The color is pale lemon, translucent, and the wine can be enjoyed young or up to 3-4 years if it’s a premium which ages well.
The nose impresses with delicate white flower aromas like jasmine and linden tree, married perfectly with citric notes including hints of lime, lemon zest or grapefruit. It can evolve into summer wildflowers, sun-dried hay, and even stone fruit (peach). Some wines develop hints of honey especially if sweet or semi-sweet.
It is very versatile. The traditional style was to make it mid-sweet, but more modern winemaking techniques create a dry, elegant wine which shows of refreshing acidity, well balanced with medium alcohol. Serve it chilled, around 8-10 degrees for sweet and up to 12 degrees for dry.
International ”Cousins” of Feteasca Alba
The floral aromas found in the Feteasca Alba can satisfy those in love with delicate and discrete wines. Think about the smells you would find in an orchard in a late summer afternoon. You might like the young white maiden if you are generally a fan of:
Viognier- Be prepared to find the same wildflowers notes, balanced body, and citric hints. If you like Rhone region Viogniers try a Feteasca from Transilvania, while if you are more into the New World feeling you might enjoy better the one from Moldova which even comes in a medium-sweet version.
Semillion- While in Romania, choose a Feteasca Alba if you are looking for a medium to full-bodied wine with a satisfying combination of citrus, honey, and grassiness. This resemblance is the reason why many producers blend Feteasca Alba with Sauvignon Blanc.
Food Pairing for Feteasca Alba
It’s best to pair it with food. Otherwise, it can seem a bit flat and not so exciting. It tends to open up nicely in the company of delicate food like chicken dishes, light fish or salads. Since it has a very well integrated acidity, don’t pair it with too heavy or fat sauces. It gets a nice balance next to spicier numbers like curry or flavored ones like sushi.
If you are looking for a native pairing, why not try carp brine. This is a fisherman’s dish from simple ingredients, but with lots of flavors. The delicate wine comes as a nice addition and is not overpowering next to the fish and herbs. The acidity in the tomato sauce pairs well with that in the wine, especially if you find an unoaked Feteasca Alba.
Special thanks for extensive reading resources on grapes and winemaking: Tiberiu Onutu (www.viesivin.ro).