Organiser (alongside Liviu and Mihai Popescu) of the RO-Wine Festival scheduled to take place in Bucharest on May 19-20, Marinela V. Ardelean, cosmopolitan ambassador of Romanian wines, plans to change the international image of Romanian wines, after having a successful career in the “old world” of Italian and French wines. With an experience of ten years in the wine industry, Marinela teaches at the Italian Chef Academy (Rome, Italy), is a professional taster, author, brand ambassador and export development manager. Marinela is author of ’50 Romanian wines meet 50 Italian dishes’, a multi-award winning bilingual book, and initiator of ‘The Wine Book of Romania’ project, the first bilingual guide that features the best Romanian and Moldovan wines, and which has had 2 successful editions so far.
The third edition of the RO-Wine Festival will take place on May, 19th and 20th. What do you want more, through this event, than the previous editions?
We want what we want each year, in one way or another – to have a significant contribution to the evolution of the Romanian wine market. This year, we organize masterclasses and workshops, but we also have a tangible contribution, an all-inclusive six-week scholarship, worth € 10,000, dedicated to young people interested in winemaking, offered by Giotto Consulting laboratories. We believe that investment in education is fundamental, because knowledge provides immediate results and has long term effects.
What does “extreme wines” mean, what’s their story and what extreme wines can the participants taste at the festival? From which countries?
The wine carries the mark of the place where it was born, not just the oenologist’s touch. We know about the vine that it has to live on the hills, not have too many resources, and have x days of sunshine, with an average y temperature. Extreme wines are produced from grapes that grow far enough from the standard conditions – on uncommon or improper soil, at high altitudes or too close to major water bodies, in places where it is too cold or too hot, generally in areas where you would not expect to grow wine grapes.
The extreme wines of this edition are selected by Roberto Lepori, a journalist, writer and sommelier, who has been long interested in this phenomenon. The selection is made of Italian wines, from those born at 1,000 meters in Southern Tyrol or from the steep slopes of Tremonti to those on the barren soil of the Etna volcano.
What’s the biggest challenge for the RO-Wine Festival, a premium event, when we’re talking about its target audience?
I think a successful wine event should be like a good wine. A good wine keeps you company, but does not “pull your sleeve” when you have a conversation. Instead, if you want to turn your attention to wine, it will start talking and saying many interesting things to you. RO-Wine is a place where you can come, taste and get to know hundreds of wines, but it is also a place where you can come to learn. The most important thing here is the presence of the producers – the people who can say the most important things about the wines presented. The great challenge is this huge amount of information, from which everyone is allowed to choose freely.
How many more wine producers are at this edition, compared to the previous ones?
We’re talking about a festival dedicated to professionals into the wine’s world, which is why we chose a smaller place for the event, not a public market or an exhibition space. Consequently, the number of producers is relatively constant and this is mostly due to physical space constraints. What I can say is that this year we had a record number of wine cellars that wanted to participate in the festival, but only took a decision when it was already too late. In fact, for the 2019 edition, we set out to close the enrollments in December 2018, so that the producers can have a clearly established timetable.
What adds the RO-Wine Festival, compared to other similar events?
Another philosophy, another concept, another attitude. The equal representation of producers, the limited number of wines that each producer can present, the tasting of wines before they are accepted into the festival – everything is meant for visitors to enjoy both excellence and diversity. If a single producer would exhibit 40 excellent wines, he would monopolize a visitor’s time for tasting, wouldn’t he? In addition, we have some high-caliber international market players attending, some even sustaining masterclasses and workshops, along with well-known personalities of the wine world.
Which country do you find more interested in Romanian wines and their quality?
There is a spark of interest in the UK, but on the global level, Romanian wines are rather unknown. Much of the exports are consumed by Romanian communities in other countries, along with by their friends. The colossal diversity of the market helps us, but it also prevents us to assert ourselves as a wine-producing country: on the one hand, we have the benefit of the educated public, willing to discover, experience, find new things but, on the other hand, for this audience are fighting dozens of countries, tens of thousands of producers, and if we fail to create a wave of sympathy for Romanian wine, it will be very difficult to impose ourselves on any strategic market, whether we’re talking about the United States, the United Kingdom or China.
A remarkable success for future wine specialists is the scholarship you offer this year, for the first time, through the RO-Wine Festival. What do you want most with this project and how do you see things happening? What can the winner learn from this training?
It’s a scholarship for oenology, biochemistry or food chemistry graduates, allowing them to study in-depth the laboratory processes that contribute to the birth of a wine. Grape chemical and microbiological analytical methods, winemaking protocols, fermentation control and management, wine tasting and wine selections are just a few of the topics covered within this program.
How did you meet the famous Helmuth Koecher, founder and president of the Merano Wine Festival, and how much do you think it would mean for the wine lovers to meet him at the festival, there where he will present a masterclass?
I met him when I was working at Foss Marai and I attended the Merano Festival representing those wines there, about 7-8 years ago. And, as two people who share the passion for wine, we became friends, we have developed over time a “strategic partnership”, let’s say, both trying to bring as many exceptional wines into contact with as many different people as possible. About what his presence at the event means, I will let the participants of this masterclass speak about it, but I can tell you that after 30 years of dedication to oenogastronomy, The Wine Hunter has a lot of stories to tell!
What’s the most urgent thing to change or improve in this industry so that the effort in promoting the Romanian wine brand to be a complete success?
I would say – and I am sure it’s not only me – that all it depends on the way the producers will begin to work together, with or without the involvement of the Romanian State. This is, for sure, a lengthy, complicated and expensive endeavour. It means strong commitments, efforts that do not find immediate reward, energies that will first appear as a loss, but with a correct, well implemented and sustained strategy, in the medium and long term, we will be able to gain the recognition that the quality of Romanian wines deserves.
How do you see that things have developed in the Romanian wine area over the last 3 years, since you are organizing the RO-Wine Festival, and how do you think things will be going on in the next few years? Is this the right way for the wine’s future?
For the domestic market, it is clear that things are constantly improving, not only over the last three years, but for ten years or more. In the past three years, the market has worked to recover from the economic downturn, which seems to have taken longer in Romania than in other countries, especially in the on-spot market. I am happy to see that there are more and more producers, new wines, wine bars and restaurants with consistent wine menus, because small producers are the ones who ultimately define an area, a micro-terroir, the potential of a piece of land. The more medium and small producers there are, the better for the whole market.