What we know about Tohani estate is that it is the largest winery in Dealu Mare (500 ha) - area between the cities of Ploiesti and Buzau, famous for wines. Tohani winery has evolved with time and with the country. When Romanian wine consumers have started to become picky, Albertus van der Merwe came in Dealu Mare, a winemaker with experience in New World wines, all gathered in South Africa.
I recently visited the estate. You should not miss a walk through the terraced and cared for vineyards, where you can encounter Marina Samoilă - Brand Manager, and winemaker Albertus van der Merwe. We walked among the vineyards, we talked to the workers, then returned to the winery where we tasted the fermented stum from white varieties. I was told about the oak barrels used in Domeniile Tohani, I "inhaled" the smell of a new barrel, medium burnt, in which wine from Chardonnay grapes will mature, and of course we talked about wines. I took the time and I asked him about his experiences and how he decided to work in Romania.
"My love for vineyards and wine arised when I was a child. I was born, I grew up and studied viticulture in Stellenbosch, Western Cape Province, located in the heart of the vineyards in South Africa. Since 1995 I work with wine and, as you know, South Africa is well-known for modern wine production methods, ie the New World ones." Albertus said.
Labeled as New World wines are the ones made in Australia, South Africa, Chile, New Zealand and USA, where the vines are not as old as the ones in Europe. The wines are made with more freedom for innovation, aromas are more fruity and rapid consumption is recommended.
"I worked in winemaking in Europe, nine months in Germany and two years in France. In 2004, invited by my good friend Răzvan Macici (now the winemaker of M1 Cellar Studio in Romania and Nederburg wines in South Africa), I got to be in Romania for three months as well. At that time, Domeniile Tohani were looking for a winemaker. The potential of the Terroir in Dealu Mare was a challenge for me and so I started working."
One of the wines with which Domeniile Tohani penetrated the premium wine market in Romania is Apogeum Fetească Neagră. For this wine, Albertus brings the new world flavor and Ion Marin, winemaker for Domeniile Tohani for over 30 years, ensures the Terroir is preserved. Apogeum is the culmination of over 15 years of effort and research.
"I created Apogeum when I felt that Romanian consumers are open to learning more about wines and Romanian varieties. Surely we can not compare them with countries that have a deep tradition in wine, but we must recognize that in Romania, in the last 4-5 years there was a greater interest in wine compared to other beverages."
It is already known that a winery in Romania has to face many challenges. But what are the challenges of Domeniile Tohani? "It is a winery with 500 hectares of vines. Maintaining consistent quality of wines and reaching the premium wines market as much as possible, that is a challenge, especially since our wines are vinified in the style of the New World."
Domeniile Tohani cultivates numerous grape varieties, but one is national celebrity. "Feteasca Neagra had the most beautiful evolution ever since I am in Romania and I think it represents us best." Albertus ends.
The wines produced in Domeniile Tohani continue to progress, along with the consumer. Tohani estate is passion invested in the whole process of winemaking, from vineyard flowering until bottle labeling.
Short questionnaire for Albertus van der Merwe:
White: Sauvignon Blanc
Red: Fetească Neagră
Keywords for wine? Flavors and complexity
Preferred growing zone, anywhere in the world: Stellenbosch, South Africa
Favorite part of the job: The transformation of the must into wine
What do you think about CrameRomania.ro and Revino.ro?
Marina showed me what it was about and I'm happy for Romanian consumers. Now they have information about Romanian wines and wine tourism.
Text: Alexandra Hash
Photo: Alina Iancu