Can big companies make natural wines? Cramele Recas and their orange and glou glou wines

Can a big company make natural wine? Cramele Recas is a forward-thinking winery in Romania that makes 25 million bottles. Four years ago they started making an Orange Natural Wine, and more recently a Natural Glou Glou Red .  Here, I taste the wines, and interview joint owner Philip Cox via Zoom about some of the controversies these wines have sparked.

Philip Cox is one of the owners of Cramele Recas, which is a family company that started in 1998 with three families. They all still work in the company. ‘When we bought it, it was a rusty old state winery with 600 hectares,’ says Cox. It was only making bulk wine. Since then they have invested €50 million and planted 1250 hectares of newer vineyards. They have also built a further two wineries, and annual production has grown to 25 million bottles. Cox says that they have been trying to do more low-intervention winemaking, and all their wines have been vegan since 2018, with no fining on red wines and all the white wines fined with vegetable-based agents.

One direction that has surprised many has been that Cox has launched some natural wines, first an orange wine and second a ‘Glou Glou’ red, both of which are made from organic grapes without any additions. Cox says that they are now probably the biggest producer of natural wines in Eastern Europe. They’ve been making natural wines for four years, and production of the orange wine was 120 000 bottles in 2019, and is expected to be 200 000 bottles in 2020.

But the release of the orange natural wine was met by some resistance from the natural community. ‘We think it fulfils all the criteria for natural wines,’ says Cox. ‘It fulfils the charter they made in France last week. It is made from organic grapes with no additives and the SO2 is under 30 ppm. There is no filtering.’

What does he think about certifying natural wine? Is it something that interests him? ‘Yes, I have already broached the subject with our minister for agriculture. I get pissed off. With orange wines and natural wines all the arguments seem to be about technical things. Are they authentic? How much sulfur do they have? Are you allowed to centrifuge? I’d rather have all this written down in a law, get it approved, get a certification, so we can actually talk about the wine is like.’

What response does he get as a large producer entering the natural wine world? ‘I get hate mail,’ he says. ‘I constantly get attacked and threatened by small natural wine producers for ruining their life.’ He wasn’t allowed to attend RAW wine with his natural wines: although the wines fit the criteria, Cremale Recas doesn’t.

‘There are a lot of people that look at it in a philosophical way, and it has to be some small farmer with a horse and a cart and a plough,’ says Cox ‘I think, if we do what it says on the tin, and it is made by all the rules that seem to be generally accepted and are now starting to be written down, why not? I can assure you that the people who grow our organic grapes are not some sort of millionaire tycoons, they are small farmers who struggle just like any small farmers growing grapes. It is just as valid.’

‘Some other winemakers think I am crazy doing natural wines, but it’s something that gets people interested in wine and it is a different slant on wine.’

‘It is a growing trend – a growing part of the industry. And it has made us quite a lot more careful with how we intervene with all of our wines. We use fewer additives and we think about the environmental aspects too.’


Solara Orange Natural Wine 2019 Romania
Deep yellow/gold colour. This is very pretty with bright citrus and marmalade/orange peel notes as well as a hint of barley sugar. There’s an aromatic appeal, with pear, honey and some lemon zest. A pretty wine, with just a bit of tannic bite. It works really well, showing freshness and some detail, as well as good fruit and structure holding each other in tension. 91/100

Solara Glou Glou Natural Red 2019 Romania
13.5% alcohol. Varietal Merlot. This is bright and gluggable with a savoury, spicy edge to the sweet red cherry and raspberry fruit. This shows nice juiciness with some subtle cinnamon and spice notes alongside the sweet fruits. This is a very drinkable and quite conventional: a fruity red wine with a little extra. 89/100

In the UK these wines are available on trade through Mitchells & Butlers

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