The Cotnari Wine House, premium wines from the Cotnari vineyard
The Cotnari vineyard is part of the wine-growing region of the Moldova Plateau, being one of the best known vineyards of Europe, with a history dating back to nearly 2000 years ago and a surface of 1,750 hectares, twinning favorable natural factors (relief, climate, soil) with human factors (folk traditions, know-how, a.s.o.).
Its micro-climate is characterized by average annual temperatures of 9 degrees Celsius, average annual rainfall of 475 mm and dominant winds from the NV, SE, S, which make up an environment propitious to growing vines and producing quality wines.
The Cotnari Wine House is an ambitious project, started in 2007, through the creation of new plantations in the vineyard, featuring traditional grape types such as Grasă de Cotnari, Tămâioasă Românească and Fetească Albă, adding to which are Busuioacă and Fetească Neagră.
The presence of the Fetească Neagră grape variety in the Cotnari vineyard is not an element of innovation. The ceramic vases of the Cucuteni culture, (one of the most developed Neolithic civilizations, between 5500 and 2750 BC), unearthed in a village 11 km away from Cotnari, contained grape seeds and traces of what seems to be wine.
According to the documents in the National Archives (Arch. St. Bucharest, file 1012, p.8),
In 1899, the head of the viticulture office from the Ministry of Agriculture made a trip to France and visited the schools of agriculture in Montpellier and Ecully (Beaujolais). The directors of those schools said that “they would be happy to have in their schools’ collections several of our main Romanian varieties and vines.” Upon returning to Bucharest, the Romanian official proposed that the Ministry should send 50 vines each from our main varieties from the vineyards of Cotnari, Odobești, Dealul Mare, Drăgășani and Mehedinți.
The wine inspector from Cotnari said that, in order to send them to France, he had “absolutely genuine” vine strings from the following varieties: Grasă de Cotnari, Fetească Albă, FETEASCĂ NEAGRĂ, Coarnă Albă, Coarnă Neagra, Mustoasă, Plavae, Galbenă. The following “absolutely genuine, indigenous, verified” vines, and “with the original denomination,” were sent to France from Cotnari: Grasă de Cotnari, FETEASCĂ NEAGRĂ, Fetească Albă, Plavae, Mustoasă, Galbenă.
Therefore, we can correctly say that the Feteasca Neagră type of grape was REPLANTED, not PLANTED, in the Cotnari vineyard.
A very important aspect, which should be appreciated, is the fact that the Cotnari vineyard has preserved its tradition, with only old Romanian grape types being found there: Grasă de Cotnari, Tămâioasă Românească, Fetească Albă, Francușă, Busuioacă, Fetească Neagră.
The Cotnari Wine House was born at the initiative of the second generation of the main shareholders of SC COTNARI SA, the biggest producer in the Cotnary vineyard; over the years, they expressed their wish to add to the wines produced by the vineyard premium white wines, premium rose and red wines, dry and half dry wines, destined exclusively for the HoReCa segment and for specialized wine shops.
This is how the Cotnari Wine House was born, as a company of its own, headquartered in the Vlădoianu Castle, which owns lands and vineyards planted in 2007, the Vladoianu Wine Cellar – a modern, finalized wine cellar, and the Axinte Wine Cellar – a recently bought wine cellar, which will be modernized.
The headquarters of the Cotnari Wine House is located in Cîrjoaia, at the Vlădoianu Castle,
which was built in 1901 by the former Governor of the National Bank, the aristocrat Vasile Vlădoianu, together with his wife Raliţa Balş, a descendant of the Balş family of aristocrats.
The castle was built according to an Italian plan, with materials brought from Italy. As time went by, various destinations were assigned to the estate: during WW2, it was used as a hospital by the Soviet army, and over 1945-1950 it sheltered an orphanage. After 1950, it was taken over by a state-owned cooperative farm, and then by IAS Cotnari. At present, Castle Vlădoianu bears the signs of the passage of time, but plans are afoot to restore the estate, under a unique project in the future, in order to return it to its former splendor, specific to the Belle Epoque period.
The area under exploitation by the Cotnari Wine House includes 100 ha planted to
Fetească Neagră, Busuioacă – 75 ha, Tămâioasă Românească – 75 ha, Grasă de Cotnari – 50 ha and Fetească Albă – 50 ha. Being a producer of premium wines, resulted from quality grapes, the plantations of the Cotnari Wine House were created using the latest-generation technology, aiming at a small density of the plants (3,646 plants per hectare), a large distance between the rows (3 m), which allows for an efficient circulation of the air and for the works to be made with modern equipment. The works are made so as the per-hectare quantity of grapes harvested should not exceed 6 tonnes (Grasă de Cotnari, Tămâioasă Românească, Fetească Albă, Busuioacă), and respectively, 5 tonnes (Fetească Neagră), with an accumulation of at least 230 g. of sugar.
The completion of the Vlădoianu wine cellar, located behind the Vlădoianu castle, is the first stage of the wine-making investment plan of the Cotnari Wine House. Located on the premises of the old wine cellar, where the aristocrat Vlădoianu used to produce wine from the grapes harvested from the more than 50 hectares under his administration, and on the site of the 15-m deep, 6-m tall cave, with a surface of around 200 sq.m., where he deposited his wine, the Vlădoianu wine cellar is equipped with latest-generation technology for the production of wine from red grapes.
Although the initial investment plan had provided for the building of a new wine cellar on the Vlădoianu estate, equipped with latest-generation technologies for the production of white wines, a major, but beneficial, change was brought in September 2013, when an old wine cellar was bought: the Axinte wine cellar.
In 1933, Ioan Axinte, a well-known lawyer at the time and former Iasi prefect, as well as “a skilled vintner,” bought from the famous soprano Hariclea Darclee a vineyard spanning nearly 1.275 ha, in order to make wine from the grapes grown there.
At that time, the Cotnari Vineyard was known for the production of wine from traditional grape types made by families which owned small plots of land planted to vine. Of those families, prior to the acquisition made by Ioan Axinte, the Terente family of vintners was famous in the Vineyard; that family had scored the performance of selling a “bottle” of wine, whose blending has remained unknown, at a price of 700 lei, to the Royal House of Egypt and Ethiopia.
Shortly after Ioan Axinte bought the vineyards [according to 1969 accounts from the Chronicle of Cotnari (Bucharest, 1971, p.214)], following an exceptional year, when the harvesting was made very late and the resulting must was processed in an unknown way, the blended wine from three traditional types of grapes produced by the celebrated vintner sold at a price of 1,500 lei (approximately 10$) per “bottle,” being sought for as a “healing herb.”
This considerable hike in quality, over such a short period of time, brought him fame in the Vineyard, and in 1936, he was elected vice-president of the Cotnari Wine-Making Cooperative Society, whose purpose was to use superior technical conditions in order to make wine from the grapes, as well as to sell the wine at better prices.
As such, the well-known lawyer and former Iasi prefect, quickly turned into a skilled vintner, played a decisive role in boosting the quality the wines produced in the Cotnari vineyards, a mission which the Cotnari Wine House assumes for the future.
The vintner’s track-record was the main reason behind the acquisition of the Axinte wine cellar, with the Cotnari Wine House aiming to blend modernism with the time-honored experience and history of the place.
Although the Axinte wine cellar is now in a derelict state, white and rose wines, as well as sparkling and distilled wines will be produced there when the investment is finalized.
The two brands produced by the Cotnari Wine House (Cotnari Domenii and Colocviu) blend innovation (the shape of the bottles, of the labels, of the hoods, the content) with honoring tradition (the history of the places where the wine is produced, the Romanian autochthonous types of grapes), a fusion which is specific to the Cotnari Wine House.