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Fetească Neagră - The Black Maiden of the Balkans

Written on 08-12-2016 by Aurelia Vișinescu, Bucharest, Romania

A lovely image of Fetească Neagră from www.crameromania.ro

Fetească Neagră (or 'Black Maiden' in English) is considered to be an ancestral autochthonous variety widespread in Romania and Moldova for more than 2,000 years.

It is a wide popular selection of Vitis vinifera ssp. sylvestris, cultivated today by most of the wineries from all Romanian wine regions. It is also known as Poama Fetei Neagra, Coada Randunicii or Pasareasca Neagra.


The plant is vigorous, with low fertility, therefore is best pruning with long canes.


The clusters are medium-sized, cylindrical or cylindrical-conical, with one or two wings , slightly compact , thick skin, dark red , bluish black appearance, juicy pulp not colored, average weight 180-220 g. It is an early ripening variety, at 1 week after Chasselas.


Fetească Neagră is a resistant variety to frost as well as to drought but very sensitive to odium. Variety gives not uniform productions, the average is about 8 tons/hectare, but it requires application of precious viticultural technology. Very easy is accumulating sugar especially in a warm area. Most of the wineries are producing today dry or medium dry wines but in the past the variety was used to produce medium sweet or even sweet wines.


Depending on the oenologist approach, growing area and viticulture technics the style of wine from Fetească Neagră can vary very much from light, very fragile, fresh, wild, herbaceous, violets, spices to jammy, with black forest fruits, black cherry, chocolate, tobacco or dry plums.


For the new plantations, the multiplication plants has been selected carefully for 5 years so that now we have much more uniform plants, with more constant production, small berries, better fruit concentration and color.


We at Domeniile Sahateni Winery are growing Fetească Neagră in Dealu Mare DOC area, in Naeni and Fintesti villages, at lower 1/3 of the slopes (and some on the top of the highest hill at about 350-400 m altitude), density of 4545 plants/hectare, double guyot pruning.


The big challenge is to balance the production, since limited pruning can give very low yield and high load can result in watery, less intensive wine. We work with moderate wood load and do a lot of green work to balance the production and quality.


Fetească Neagră is a fragile variety, I will put it on the scale after Pinot noir before Merlot, medium colored and high tannin content so the winemaking is a really a challenge. It is accumulating sugar very easy, so that picking at the right time it major factor in wine quality along with balanced production.


I like to ferment Fetească Neagră in stainless still tanks with gentle punching down the cap like for Pinot noir. I fermented it at about 25-27 C, sometimes I am making a cold soaking before fermentation. Wild fermentation is an option in some vintages. I keep the wine in contact with the skin for 2 weeks on average depending on the vintage and the style of Fetească Neagră I intend to make. If the wine goes into the barriques than 2 weeks is a minimum. Always wild MLF with lees aging till the end of the year.


I am respecting very much the variety and terroir so all my play with Fetească Neagră follows in that direction. I like the fresh flavor of wild herbs and violet, but I do also like very much the aging mature flavors of black berries and dry plums.