by Elizabeth Gabay MW
The Minis wine region in the district of Arad in western Romania on the Hungarian border probably means little to most people. The region is probably better known as being part of Transylvania. Indeed, when you leave via Bucharest airport (nowhere near Transylvania) the shelves of duty free are filled with bottles of red wine with gothic horror labels: castles, bats and fangs dripping red wine.
Talking to Zoltan Szoverdfi-Szép, who runs the excellent Romanian wine festival in Timisoara every November, Géza was one of the first winemakers of Romania who realised, immediately after the revolution, the importance of the quality of the whole range of his wines.
Visiting Bella Géza’s Princess Winery is a refreshing surprise. This bright, modern, winery, founded in 1999 and designed to welcome the large number of wine tourists who visit every weekend, nestles at the foot of a range of hills overlooking the river Mures.
Géza is a Hungarian-Romanian, a relic of historic times when the region was part of greater Hungary. Fluent in both languages, his wines reflect the two cultures. He is found equally at home amongst Romanian wine producers as well as being a member of the prestigious Hungarian Wine Academy.
Of his 105ha, he produces 80% red wines, 20% white and somewhere in-between some rosé wine. A few international varieties are present (Riesling, Sauvignon Blanc, Cabernet Franc, Cabernet Sauvignon and Merlot), but the focus is on the traditional varieties of the Carpathian basin: Feteasca Regala, the local variety Mustoasa de Măderat, and the red Feteasca Neagra. He also has Furmint, Kékfrankos and Cadarca (Kadarka), reflecting the region’s proximity to Hungary. In good years, the thin-skinned Cadarca is made in an historic style with botrytis to make an aszú red wine called Kadarisszima. Enough residual sugar to give a powerful richness, the wine style has a good tannic structure making it not dissimilar to an Amarone.
With a doctorate in viticulture, it comes as no surprise that Géza has pushed the limits with vineyards high up on the sun-drenched stony slopes. These ‘Stonewines’, first made in 2009, are top of the range and produce intensely flavoured wines and includes a unique blend of Feteasca Neagra and Cabernet Franc. Aged in barrel, this wine shows how well these two varieties complement each other to make an elegant wine with ripe cherry fruit, silky fresh acidity and black, inky mineral tannins.
Thanks to Géza’s hard work, he is restoring the reputation of the wine region of Minis and its local varieties, giving his range of wines a Romanian, or dare I say it, Transylvanian, character and not a vampire in sight.