On Thursday, 12 July, Tohani Winery in Dealu Mare, Romania has held an event to celebrate what they called deemed to be their break through success in a USA wine competition. We have attended another wine event at Tohani back in September 2017 and you can read more about the winery here: https://thewinederers.com/blog/2017/09/17/wine-event-mauve-tohani-wine-experience-15-september-2017/, so we will now have a look at the particular achievements they were now honouring.
Tohani Winery entered the Great American International Wine Competition, 2018 Edition, which was held in Rochester, New York, on 28-29 April 2018 and reunited judges from various backgrounds such as Masters of Wine, Sommeliers, Winemakers and Wine Educators (full list of panel of judges is available here: https://wine.raiseaglassfoundation.com/judges). The competition awards Double-Gold, Gold, Silver and Bronze medals for winning wines.
Tohani Winery entered 6 samples to the competition and got 6 medals on them as follows:
- Double Gold: Apogeum IV (Feteasca Neagra, 2014) and Syrah (2016), the last one yet to be commercially launched;
- Gold: Cuvee Dolette (Dry Rose, 2017) and Apogeum III (Feteasca Neagra, 2013); and
- Silver: Maestro (Cab. Sav, 2015) and Cuvee Nicolae (Tămâioasă Românească, Sauvignon Blanc, Riesling and Fetească Albă, 2017).
During the Champions of Wine Event they held to honour these achievements, we had the opportunity to visit a part of the winery itself, the cellars and the vineyard. While the winery visit was rather short as the sheer number of attendees did not allow for an in-depth exploration of it or a Q&A session in the winery, the visit to the cellars housing in excess of 100,000 bottles of aged wine – a prized possession which makes the winery stand out amongst other wine cellars in Dealu Mare – was indeed an unique experience.
It was during the cellar visit that we got to taste the 2016 version of Tohani’s flagship wine, Apogeum, 100% Feteasca Neagra, aged in second use barrel. The wine was a barrel sample, as it is expected to rest in the barrel for another year before bottling and additional maturation in bottle, but it was already showing the structure and aroma characteristics of a great wine. Apogeum is by far my favourite wine of their range, as it comes from 40-year old vines, whose yield is shockingly low (the winemaker in attendance indicated a yield of 0,35 t/ha, which would place it at 10% average Bordeaux yield).
Overall the visit bore the signal of a shift in the winery’s commercial placement. At more than 400 ha cultivated vineyard, Tohani is amongst the largest wineries in the country and has traditionally placed itself as a commercial winery, with wines readily available in all large retail chains and retail prices starting at 3 EUR a bottle up to 30 EUR, for their Apogeum range. This approach has translated into significant consumer awareness amongst retail consumers, but less so amongst wine aficionados. The marketing signal we got was they are slightly repositioning themselves in a manner that also allows them to better cater to the wine devotee looking at terroir wine, which is particularly what Apogeum embodies.
This shift, this struggle to cater for such different types of consumers, is not unique, but rather a common challenge for large wineries. When managing such large surfaces of vineyard, one must always walk a thin line between commercial feasibility and boutique winery techniques and more often than not the two tend to collide. It is therefore up to the winery to manage this thin equilibrium and properly exploit the Feteasca Neagra bold venture that is Apogeum in making them the go-to wine for a whole different range of consumers.