It is a well documented fact that viticulture was an ancient occupation in Transylvania, going back to the times of the Dacians. But it’s fair to say that the most important contribution to the development of wine production in the area belonged to the Saxon settlers of the XII century, who brought new techniques and new types of grapes. It was them who first introduced noble grape varieties and improved the processes involved in the actual production and preservation of wines. In fact, such was the quality of the wines obtained in this area that even the great prince Matthias Corvinus was reputed to have served wine from Alba at his own wedding.
The tradition of wine making has continued throughout the centuries into modern day, the second half of the XX century bringing important developments and investments aimed both at improving the existing plantations and at establishing new ones. Today, in the very heart of Transylvania, the most renowned wines are produced by vineyards clustered around several major centers with a long-standing tradition in wine-making, such as Alba Iulia, Sebes, Aiud, Blaj, and Medias.
The cities of Alba Iulia, Aiud, and Blaj have all been recently included in a touristic program called “The Wine Road”, a trip over some 200 kilometers that takes visitors through several towns and villages in which wine making has become second nature for most of the inhabitants, with some of them turning it into a genuine form of art. This tour also includes a stop at Jidvei, probably the best known of the vineyards in the area, owned by the similarly named company and producer of some internationally appreciated white wines. Somewhat dwarfed by the fame of Jidvei, the smaller Takacs winery of Aiud has managed to make a name for itself thanks to the rather rare (in this area) red and rosé wines, as well as a promising Chardonnay. The much smaller vineyards of Blaj, which go back to the early XVIII century, provide a wide variety of white wines, one of which, Feteasca Regala, has become a favorite among wine enthusiasts throughout the world.
For those willing to make a detour from the “Wine Road” and stop at Sebes, the wines offered here are certainly less famous, but that doesn’t mean they don’t have a charm of their own. Made mostly of Iordovan and Italian Riesling grape varieties, these wines are slightly acidic, but still enjoyable thanks to the rich fruity flavors, a quality that also makes them excellent feedstock for sparkling wines. In the Medias area wine production is still limited to small scale vineyards, but efforts have been made recently to encourage and support these small local producers, one of the most successful such initiatives being the Wine Caravan Festival, an event first organized in October 2013 and aimed at promoting the riches that Weinland has to offer, its liquid gold included.
Read about Jidvei, the heart of the "Weinland"