What international wine critics knew about Romania in the early ‘90s, was that it had once produced wine. Nothing more. Romania was a blank spot on the world’s wine map.
The domestic market offered everything but wines: from deceiving labels and flawed bottles to stocks of so-called “long-keeping wines / vin de garde” from privatized warehouses, which were in fact oxidized juices that couldn’t be used not even in vinegar factories. The very few wines on the market were sweet or semi-sweet; the sugar (added sugar – most of the times), had the only purpose to concealing lack of hygiene.
This was the landscape in which Guy de Poix appeared: a Corsican dentist and ski lover, whose family had worked since generations in wine, both at home, in Corsica (Domaine Peraldi since 1540) but also in the famous Champagne region (being the owners of the famous Piper-Heidsieck until 1984). A simple phrase read in Hugh JOHNSON’s 1971 World Atlas of wine made Guy interested in looking at Romania’s viticulture: “Of the rapidly expanding wine country of the Black Sea and the Balkans, Romania almost certainly has the greatest potential for quality”. A series of fortunate events brought together Guy, Mihaela Badea (first as a translator, then as his associate and wife) and Aurel Rotărescu, the oenologist who, from 1994 to this day, defines the soul of SERVE wines.
Things kicked off hard, with grapes coming from distressed vineyards, processed in one of the communist wine cellars in Dealu Mare. Land’s private ownership legislation didn’t exist yet and was blocking any attempt in buying land. It was obvious SERVE needed its own winery, replanted vineyards, all the things that today are normal to a wine producer, but seemed impossible at the time. The winery that we see today was built between 1999 and 2001, a time of intense trouble and for SERVE the moment of rebound. In ’98, after 4 years of sustained efforts, Guy had his doubts for the first time and he was close to abandon SERVE project: the market didn’t seem to ever want to give up the semi-sweet wine mixed with sparkling water, and quality wines weren’t showing up. Restaurant and store owners, used to large production and distribution companies, didn’t trust SERVE’s dry wines and their own distribution, something unusual for that time.
The trigger was the apparition of Vinarte Company, followed by other small and medium producers from the first wave of Romanian wine rebirth. At the same time, Romanians begun to travel and so the first informed consumers appeared. It was time for quality wines to finally have a chance.
The end-of-the-world hysteria was a second chance – the Millenium range of wines, launched at the end of the 90s, was received enthusiastically and gave the company the impetus it needed. Cuvée Charlotte and Cuvée Amaury followed, names that have been forever written in the rebirth of the Romanian wine. Step by step, Guy de Poix saw the birth of a group of wine lovers, a generation of small and medium producers focused on quality and most of all, he saw the grape he had fallen in love with, Feteasca Neagră, becoming a national symbol. Unfortunately, he left this world before having the chance to fully enjoy his achievement. His heritage, Cuvée Alexandru, a powerfull wine made out of the last picking in vineyards more than 45 years old, imposed a new quality standard for premium wines.
Today, the Cuvée Guy de Poix by Aurel ROTARESCU shows why Feteasca Neagră deserves to be called the flagship of Romanian wine varieties.