Lawyer by day, premium vineyard manager also by day, ambassador for Romanian wine 24/7, children’s book writer by night (mostly), mother of two small boys also 24/7, enthusiastic and energetic promoter of reading for young children in schools–it’s difficult to see how Andreea Micu fits it all in. She does, somehow, and what’s more, she’s a bubbly and thoroughly engaging individual regardless of her intense schedule. OZB caught up with Andreea at her office in Bucharest for a glass of sparkling mineral water and a chat.
By Douglas Williams
There’s a passion about Andreea that permeates everything she does and hence not only is the law firm founded by her parents, where she also works, one of Bucharest’s most respected, her wine among the nation’s finest and her books acclaimed, but she’s also a wonderful ambassador for modern Romania. It’s Andreea’s generation (the early 30s) that’s shaping this nation more and more and for the good.
We talk about vine varietals that are indigenous to Romania. Many virtually disappeared under the communist rule: whites like crâmpoșie (“crispy and light with a lot of personality, it’s different”), fetească regală (“delicate and sophisticated”) and reds like negru de Drăgășani (“big and powerful and masculine”). Many of these, according to Andreea, had to be imported from foreign growers in Austria, Italy and France after the revolution, sometimes at considerable cost. “The Romanian vines are part of our heritage, our history and therefore, in some ways, they define who we are as Romanians. Romanian grapes can produce very lively, exciting wines and these grapes and vines must be maintained and preserved and enjoyed,” she says. There can be no doubting her fiery conviction.
Getting the History Back
“The rebirth of Romanian wines can be seen as a reflection of the rebirth of the nation as a whole. After the collapse of the communists, many Romanian people were keen to recapture the beauty of their country as it was before. There are many people who owned land before communism and they have got their land back; now they want to revive the traditions that existed before. It’s not only a national identity, it’s a personal one. They want to know their personal roots, their ancestors, and Avincis is such a story – it’s a story of continuing the traditions of our family.”
Andreea’s great great grandparents established the Avincis vineyard at the beginning of the last century and the wines it produces have a burgeoning international reputation, such is its quality. In terms of latitude, orientation, aspect, drainage, soil type, climate and view the 43 hectares are close to perfection in oenological terms. Over the communist period the property was largely vacant and it fell into disrepair. The neglected old vines produced rough, blended wines. Andreea’s parents knew about the property which had featured largely in the childhood of her mother through the recollections of her parents and, in 2007, they realized their long-cherished dream of re-acquiring the property in Drăgășani, to the west of Pitești.
“Everything is so well balanced – the climate, the soil – and there is a tradition of planting grapes here that dates all the way back to the Dacians and the Romans. The wines from this area were winning prizes back at the end of the 19th century in international wine competitions in Paris and Brussels, especially for the whites,” said Andreea, who first visited the villa in 2007. It was a ruin then but she was charmed nevertheless. It has come a long way since. The property was fully restored over four years, but although the villa’s traditional features were carefully maintained, the vineyard and the processing equipment are all state-of-the-art now, with a clear separation of the technological processes into different rooms.
Wine as an Indicator of Economic Development
“We are a small winery: the maximum area we will grow on is 50 hectares, we don’t want to go above this as we are producing premium wines and we want to focus on the details of the production. For example, our grapes are all harvested manually, this is the first selection of the grapes, when you are taking them from the vine and putting them in the boxes, and this enables us to ensure the maximum quality of the grapes and therefore the wine,” she says. Currently, Avincis wine travels beyond Romania mainly to German, Belgian, UK and Japanese markets. “There are very good vineyards emerging here. Romanian wines can now compete against any – French, Australian, South African – we are getting very good.”
Warming to her theme, she says, “Wine can be an economic indicator. It says where you are economically, as a country. Culturally it can reflect anything – your history, your character, it’s so much more than just a beverage. It’s not like cola, or juice, it’s a cultural product in itself.”
There are many opportunities within the wine industry, but there are steps that Romania must take first, according to Andreea. “We need to enhance the study opportunities for those who wish to work in the wine industry, currently we don’t have a Romanian degree in Oenology for example. We need more labs for sample analysis of our wines for export. Currently there is only one; it’s always very crowded and it takes a lot of time, it’s very inefficient. But perhaps most of all, we need a national umbrella organisation that can help us promote and more effectively market our wines around the world.”
This would allow more exports and therefore generate far greater overall revenue which would naturally feed back into the Romanian economy, particularly in rural areas where it is much needed.
“First we need to educate the Romanian consumers, if they have a maturity, then they become our best ambassadors. I think it’s going in the right direction, I am optimistic, more people are interested in visiting vineyards here, both Romanians and those from abroad. There are agencies who are bringing more and more tourists here for oeno tourism and they return to espouse the quality of our wines.”
Andreea divides her time between legal work and Avincis. The legal work and the wine work are a good balance to one another, according to Andreea. “Legal interests are always changing. You have to do everything because the market is always evolving and clients have different legal problems, you need to be a one stop shop.” Wine-wise, “I learn from our wonderful team there and I read exhaustively. We have one Italian and one French consultant and they help us with our wine production.”
On top of all this, last year Andreea published her first children’s book which has a title – “Lunus Plinus”, that translates as “Fullish Moonish”. Two more will follow later this year part of the same, ongoing series. She runs workshops in schools to encourage reading and writing and she hopes to plant some seeds. There have been six such workshops so far this year. “I’m an artistic type in my soul and I love children and I was writing short stories when I was little. When I went to law school I promised myself that I’d return to writing at some point. Well, it was 17 years and last year I launched my first book.”
Discerning, determined, hard-working and super smart, Andreea epitomises many of her generation for whom the communist regime is more a historical concept than a memory. They know what sort of country they want their Romania to be, like Andreea, they’re striving to make it reality, and their vision is of a very cool place indeed.
Spending a few days at the vineyard
Avincis has some very comfortable accommodation and, besides the tours of the vineyard and just plain relaxing, there is an abundance of places to visit in the Drăgășani area. These include the Oltenia Monastery, Maldăr Mansion, the Horezu pottery, the Horezu monastery, Arnota and the Măldăreşti Cule. There is certainly plenty to keep a visitor pleasantly occupied for five days to a week.
“There’s a special silence on the Vila Dobrușa family estate, you can’t hear any engines, only birdsong, it’s the perfect place to go and recharge your batteries. You can go for a couple of days and rediscover your balance, the contact with nature cleans you, it gives you a mental bath,” extols Andreea.
At Avincis there are two 1-bedroom apartments, one 2-bedroom apartment, with a living room and a fully equipped kitchen and a terrace with the most sublime view over the vineyard. Then there are double rooms that have a terrace either overlooking the vines or the Olt River and some have a view of the mountains.
There are various common spaces that are ideal for different event types – from the 300 capacity terrace with a view over the river and the vines, to the wine-tasting room with a screen (video projector), advanced sound system and wifi. There are also a football pitch, basketball court and tennis court for visitors to use.
Visit www.avincis.ro for more information or email: