The story of the Villa Vinea winery begins, as most successful vineyard stories, with a man with a passion for wine. Heiner Oberrauch, a businessman from South Tirol, while on a trip on the banks of Târnava Mică river, saw potential where no one thought premium grapevines could grow again. Eight years have passed, and the vines yield fruit, more abundant than ever.
And, because it takes good people to make good wine, Heiner formed a highly proficient team. The winemaker, Celestino Lucin, was declared Oenologist of the Year 2009 in Italy and promises to bring out the Latin spirit in Romanian wines. Even the person in charge of sales, Mihail Manolache, is in fact a winery engineer and prides himself with his MA in winemaking. Take Denes Misi, the chief of the winery. In his CV, Misi writes that, when he sleeps, he dreams of wine, and if you wake him up out of the blue, he can tell you how many grams of sugar rosé contains, how long the Merlot has fermented and how many hectolitres of wine there are in barrel no. 7. But the people I want to talk to you about are not those behind wine production, but rather those who give the answer to the question “who deserves the merit for the winery’s success and impeccable organisation?” – Cristi and Veronica Podar.
Cristi Podar, an economist, a banking man through and through, is, since February 2014, the Director General of the Villa Vinea winery. Through a random chain of events which brought Veronica in charge of the winery’s accountancy, Cristi grew closer to the vineyard and its people. After only a short time, though some candidates for the position of General Manager were already shortlisted, Heiner chose to trust his instinct and chose a person whom he completely trusted and who he already knew was in love with the winery’s wine. Though at first Veronica didn’t like the idea of the two of them working for the same client, she sensed her husband’s passion and together they decided to help the winery progress as far as possible. “We were on a vacation in Bolzano when the phone rang and the investors called Cristi for a talk. I told him I didn’t think it was a good idea for him to take over the position and he reassured me that it was true and that he’d be back in half an hour. Obviously, he returned after more than two hours, telling me that he had accepted. He was too happy for me not to support him to the end,” remembers Veronica.
How does the winemaking field compare to banking?
Cristi Podar: It’s a completely different world in the winery. Just look at the view outside! And when the mist draws back from the hills, you could swear you’re inside a painting. Besides, the team is extraordinary, and wine just makes you reinvent yourself as a person.
Veronica: I think the difference is in the freedom, in the trust that investors place in us and in the very special people working here.
How does the Villa Vinea winery stand on the Romanian market?
C.P: Villa Vinea is a Romanian winery with Italian influences. For instance, in its architecture we meant to keep the uniformity of the towers in the area, which is why the façade itself was inspired from the Transylvanian church steeples, but the architect is Italian. The same goes for the wines: they keep the exceptional terroir of the Târnava rivers area, but the winemaker is Italian.
Why did Heiner Oberrauch invest in Romania?
C.P: Heiner knew the country, because he already had a textile factory here. He had always dreamed of having a winery. One day, he went out for a drive around the area, saw these lands and fell in love with them. The hills were bare, but he felt potential there. I can perfectly understand how he felt.
Where is the difference felt when it comes to the wines?
C.P: In the terroir, I think. The wines are south-easterly exposed, so it can’t get any better than that. But the main trait of our wines is that we stress quality, not quantity. Heiner said that this is his heart’s project and that, if need be, he’ll change the course of the Târnava, as long as the vines benefit from it. Fortunately, it wasn’t necessary.
Brief Q&A with Cristi and Veronica Podar:
Cristi: Sauvignon Blanc
Veronica: Fetească Neagră
Favourite winemaking area:
Cristi & Veronica: the area of the Târnava rivers
Keywords for wine:
Cristi: body and balance;
Veronica: simply the wine you love drinking;
Favourite part of your job:
Cristi: the fact that, although wine is an ancient drink, it always comes up with something new.
Veronica: wine tourism. I’m glad more and more people discover it.
Romanian wines are... special.
The Romanian wine industry is... always moving.
The Romanian consumer of wine... is searching for better and better wines.
CrameRomania.ro is... an interesting idea, beneficial both for the industry and for consumers.
Villa Vinea is a “must-see”. The gravitational, three-level winery, the terrace in the tower and, first and foremost, its memorable wines are well worth the attention of anyone with a passion for wine or simply for beauty.
Villa Vinea wishes to share the stories of the places and people working hard in its vineyards. Its people want grapevines to once more embrace the valleys of the Târnava rivers, filling them with hard-working people and curious visitors. They want people to taste a drop of the Transylvanian spirit, for the rebirth of Romanian winemaking.
TEXT: Alexandra Hash ▪ ▪ ▪ PHOTO: Alina Iancu