Wines, Spirits & Beer
A notable feature of a visit to any Transylvanian courtyard is the friendliness and hospitality of the people you meet. Most households will produce several hundred litres each year of wine for their own consumption. Due to the cool climate, these tend to be fresher and crisper white wines than those produced in the rest of Romania. The vine is a local grape variety, and varies in colour from rust to red.
Traditionally the Saxons do not drink wine until after the meal, usually accompanying food with schnapps made from plums, pears or apples. These fiery spirits are a Romanian institution, and often offered on arrival at a home as a gesture of hospitality, regardless of the time of day! Vicinata is a delicious variant made by soaking sour cherries in alcohol, and being sweeter and less strong, often preferred by ladies. Some houses have their own copper stills, often very old, and most villages have a communal still. The fruit is harvested in autumn, left to ferment naturally in wooden barrels for 2-3 months, and then the resulting liquid is distilled once to make tuica (more common in southern Romania) and distilled twice to make palinca (significantly stronger, more common in Transylvania).
If you visit over the winter, ask if it can be arranged for you to see palinka being distilled in a village courtyard “a perfect antidote to the winter frost”. Beer is seldom offered in private houses but can be readily purchased from bars and shops. Good Transylvania beers include Ciuc Cuicas,Silva and Ursus.
Romania produces some excellent commercial wine. Highly recommended is an old native variety of grape only found in Romania, the red Feteasca Neagra (Black Maiden), the white Feteasca Alba (White Maiden) and the white Feteasca Regala.
“Beware that bottles in private houses are often re-used and rarely contain what they say on the label!”