As I sit here, autumn has already set a print on my state of mind. The air is cooler and sharper, it almost feels like winter and snow but leaves are only just beginning to change their colors. Whenever this part of the year comes around, a lot of things cross my mind – I need to add cinnamon in my hot chocolate, I need to change the decoration around my apartment, how about craving a pumpkin? But I also think about wine. One of my all-time favorite subject.
Wine. Red, white, rosé, it doesn’t really matter at this point. The grape harvest has already begun for quite a few weeks now depending on the region, coworkers and family have already indulged us with one of the most interesting and tastiest Romanian tradition, the must – sort of a grape juice but way better, and I finally got to participate to a harvest this year.
I will need to start by thanking everyone at Serve who welcomed us and spoiled us this last Saturday, allowing a handful of lucky wine lovers to dive into their experience and into a piece of their world. They have shared with us their daily routine, but also their knowledge about how they work, the family soul surrounding their company, and most importantly, their genuine love for what they do: wine. Good wine, excellent wine.
Compared to all the big players on the Romanian market, Serve is small. Something I quite didn’t realize until I got there – mainly because it’s one of the only wines I drink since I arrived in Romania. I guess it’s hard to be objective in this kind of situation. I not only love their wines, I learned to love their motivations behind doing it.
Serve was created in 1993 by the late Count Guy Tyrel de Poix, he loved good wine and his vision still lingers above every bottle you now open, in every single word the handful of people working at Serve now pronounces. You would almost feel captivated by their explanations, as if something extraordinary was about to happen. Very Christmassy indeed.
After a 2hours drive (with a food stop and a few detours), we arrived in the small town of Ceptura, Prahova County. It was ridiculously busy for such a small place. I should probably even call it a village given its size, but still. We have been greeted by Serve’s people, all wearing nice red polo shirts and name tags. We waited a few minutes for everyone that signed up to arrive, hopped in a few 4×4 and were soon heading towards the hills, towards the vineyards.
It was my typical favorite landscape. Curvy hills, lots of colors, vineyards and trees everywhere, and only a small road to drive on.
Once the cars stopped, we followed our hosts for the day to a nice tractor and its trailer, waiting to be filled up. We each received a bucket and grape clippers while we were told that we’d be working for wine bottles! Here’s how to motivate wine lovers, a good bottle per bucket! It was this vineyard’s first harvest (since this spot was only three years old) and it felt really special to everyone.
It was impressive to see how everything was taken care of and prepared. Grapes were all hanging at the same heights, and not randomly tied up like it used to be done. We were running back and forth with our buckets but it’s actually way more organized when they don’t do it for fun.
After a little over half an hour, we all managed to fill that trailer up with almost 500 kilos of grapes. I brought 7 buckets, my friend Alex brought 6, so I guess we’ll get quite a few wine bottles from this first harvest!
We all had a great time working with our hands, filling the buckets up and tasting grapes, talking technicalities with our hosts, laughing and joking around. It felt good to be there and it reminded my of when I was a kid, going to our vineyard with my grandpa, I almost felt nostalgic.
Once the harvesting part was over, we hopped back in the cars and went from Cabernet-Sauvignon to Pinot Noir grapes. On our way there, we saw the anti-hale missiles – very nice and handy toys to have around vineyards.
We talked about soil, exposition, grapes, methods, harvests, challenges… It was so interesting to hear a pro’s point of view. I wouldn’t even dream about knowing so many things even though my family owns a vineyard (a really small one). And all the preparation and care led to beautiful and bountiful grapes.
At a little past 11am, we got back to the estate for the tour.
And what best example of how the work is done than with our very own harvest! The trailer was already there, unloading, and so our tour started with the red wine section.
We have also been shown how grafting is made, an impressive technical invention.
We have been given information on such an important thing as grafting by true professionals, you could feel the years of experience weighting on their shoulders, it was an absolute pleasure to be there.
After that, we moved on to the white wine section. They were making the must, the odors were so familiar to me – I haven’t had the chance to be around wine making processes in a long time and I still remember the smell of it, it’s my Madeleine de Proust I think.
Tasting began with the must from white wine. Absolute heaven. I don’t recall seeing this kind of tasting anywhere else, not even in France. Well, they must do it, but it’s definitely not as engraved in the popular traditions as it’s always been in Romania. That’s what makes it so special and perfect.
We then moved forward to the last part of the tour, the lab and the printing machine. The small lab takes care of all the wine testing required (sugar, sulfate, etc.) and the company does its own labeling right on the estate. It felt really professional and simple at the same time.
Once the tour was completed, we have been invited to a real wine tasting. A long table was set up, crackers and cheese were there to “freshen up” your mouth in-between wines, and the same very professional people explained the process of wine tasting and why they love their wines so much. We all mingled afterwards, talked about how perfect that day has been, had some sandwiches, and enjoyed our guests’ presence for a little longer.
I, of course, left with a whole case, alongside the collector bottle we all received as a gift.
It was a great day, and the start of a great year for Serve. They deserve to be recognized as one of the best wine makers in Romania (at least) and I will keep drinking Terra Romana and Vinul Cavalerului with an even higher pleasure from now on. The Serve team succeeded in transmitting their passion for wines to everyone present on the estate on that October 1st, 2011 – their first Open Doors Day ever, hopefully the first of many more to come. I have met amazing people, learned so much about wine, and experienced something that I will never be able to forget, wine in the making. I will never drink a glass of wine without thinking about that day again.
Thank you to everyone at Serve for making this possible, thank you to our “lecturers” for everything they have shared with us, and a very special thank you to Louis and his aunt, with whom I have talked and laughed a lot.
Santé! And may this be a good year for the Serve wines.