Feteasca Regala- Discover the prolific Royal Maiden3 min
Imagine a grape you could use for any type of white wine, from dry to sweet, from still to sparkling and even for distilled drinks. How about if the same grape performed equally well in stainless steel or oak? On top of that, imagine it was easy to grow and had high yields? Ladies and gentlemen…Feteasca Regala (The Royal Maiden).
This grape is known for almost a century since it was first discovered in Transylvania, near the Danes village. In the 1920s Romania was one of the most modern kingdoms in Europe, and the Royal Family was loved and appreciated by its subjects, thus the marketing twist on the name of this indigenous grape. This was a way to show its similarity with the Feteasca Alba (also thought to be a parent) and the fact that this grape variety is even better, therefore suitable for royalty.
What makes Feteasca Regala sparkle?
One of the most prolific varieties (11-20t/ha), it is also the most widely planted in Romania (over 12500 ha). You can find it in almost every region, and important producers carry at least a wine or a blend of Feteasca Regala in their portfolio. Most likely a native Romanian grape, it has migrated in the nearby countries, and you can now find it in Moldova, Hungary, Ukraine, and even Slovakia.
The primary attribute of the Feteasca Regala is its versatility. It is a semi-aromatic grape (like Sauvignon Blanc and the Greek Assyrtiko), and it can produce almost any type of wine. Some producers use it in native Transylvania for distilled drinks called “vinars”, similar to cognac.
The staple mark of this grape is that it has a bit more tannins than your average white, which makes it feel fuller. Stainless steel wines get a medium body, up to a full body for those aged in oak barrels.
The nose is light, floral, including hints of white flowers, linden tree flowers, even rosebuds. If young, it carries a green, vegetal note which can be either grass or apples. When aged it gets a certain complexity of dried peaches and almonds.
The alcohol can vary between 10,5% (usually mid-sweet) up to 13% (dry). In the worst case, it is neutral, inexpressive and a bit dull, excellent expressions bring hints of honey, summer fruits and a balance between acidity and alcohol.
You’ll love Feteasca Regala if you already drink
An equally versatile grape, it shares the same palette of aromas, ranging from green to tropical fruits, depending on the winemaking style. If you are a fan of the fresh Sauvignon Blanc, try a Feteasca Regala from Transylvania, which is a colder climate. Meanwhile, if you like more peaches in your drink, go for one from Vrancea or Dobrogea. You can also find a lot of blends between the two.
For those of you who like a buttery Chardonnay, you could try an oaked Feteasca Regala. It gets a certain elegance and brings a taste of red, juicy apples, combined with quince.
As suggested by a sommelier, the Feteasca Regala can be almost as versatile as the Hungarian marvel. It will not produce Tokaji-like wines, but the dry styles can be very similar in terms of acidity, freshness and herbal notes.
As stated before, since this is a versatile wine, you can find a style suitable for most foods. With the help of my friend, the excellent chef Ileana Braniste I bring you the following:
- the fresh dry versions are a match made in heaven for anything that has some green freshness: pesto pasta, anything with fresh cow cheese, like the Hungarian-inspired “langos”, seafood with butter and parsley;
- the oaked Feteasca Regala is best enjoyed with smoked fish croquettes, stir fry vegetables with shiitake mushrooms, turkey cooked in butter with sage and rabbit in mustard sauce;
- the off-dry wine from Feteasca Regala is an excellent pair for fruit tarts.
A traditional dish with a twist is the “sarma” (meat rolled in leaves) made from fish rolled in pickled vine leaves and served with steaming hot polenta.