To get things straight, I’m no wine expert. I can’t tell a 2005 Cabernet from a 2006. However, I can tell a good wine from a bad wine. Or an excellent one for that matter. And I always enjoy a good wine, especially if it’s mixed with the right cheeses and/or fruits.
Until a few years ago, Cluj wasn’t the best city to enjoy good wines – either in restaurants or in shops. However, there are now some specialized options, where one can find some realy good wines, properly served and with the right “accessories”, as well as some shops where you can get the good stuff for comfortable home consumption. So here goes, a list with the best places to find good and excellent wines.
First of all, I’ll start with places that serve and sell wine – it’s not a big list, but i’ll go for quality versus quantity:
I discovered this bar in Bucharest initially, they have a real nice location in Lipscani where I went many times with some good friends. After this experience, I was very excited about 18 months ago when I heard they’re opening a place in Cluj. Location: Museum square. And the wines: the selection I so much enjoyed in Bucharest. They do not serve any bad wines. And they mix the wines with an excellent selection of meats&cheeses. You can also buy the wines to take home – they have discounts if you buy for home use. Check out their website.
Note: they also have a facebook page where they publish all their events.
I’ve been here a few times, it’s more of an event type rather than a specific wine bar. I discovered it randomly, at an event with an organization, where they also included a wine tasting. To my surprise, the wine tasting was for a Bulgarian wine (Enira) – this goes against my principle of only drinking Romanian wines while in Romania. However, I tried it, and it was a wonderful surprise. As a consequence, I became a fan of the wine and the place. Here’s their website.
Although a full-scale restaurant, Baracca also has a section designed more like a bar. They have a great selection of wines and some really good (and decently priced) house wines. And their service is consistently excellent. I’ll add more about Baracca when I make the “best restaurants” list – until then, I’ll leave you with the website: http://www.baracca.ro/
As for where to buy good wines, the order is as follows:
1. Matei Corvin shop
A wine shop on Matei Corvin street – they have a great selection of Romanian wines, from famous and more intimate wineries. They have some of my favourite Romanian wines. I uploaded the location on Google Maps, but until it gets approved by the google censorship committee, i’m referencing the Matei Corvin Restaurant (a restaurant that won’t make the “best of” list) because the shop is approximately across the alley – about 10 metres to the south on the street.
2. Crama noastra
This is a specialized wine shop in the middle of the city, with a good selection of Romanian wines. They also do wine tasting events. Their range is medium to premium, and prices are ok. I think you can also buy online – never tried it, but the website seems to indicate that option
3. Vino Vero
A specialized wine shop right on Napoca Street, approximately across the street from the “Baracca” restaurant. They’re not my favorite because they’re focused on medium international wines and have a very limited Romanian selection. More catered to the hospitality industry that for individual customers – see their website for details.
4. The unexpected shop
This place was a big surprise for me. It’s a little neighbourhood shop, looks like all other 200 little corner shops in Cluj, but when you look at their wine selection, you realize they have some of the best Romanian wines. Why they sell them is still a mystery, but nevertheless, they do, so I had to include them. They’re located in the “7 streets” intersection in Cluj, right across the intersection from the “Seven Hotel”.
5. The large super/hypermarkets also include some good wines, with some more than others. In terms of selection, the nicest wine section is in the “Real” hypermarket, while “Carrefour” and “Metro” also have good selections.”Cora” is ok with a decent selection, while “Kaufland”, “Auchan” or “Billa” are big disappointments if you’re looking for good wines.
If you know of any other places, please let me know, as I’m always looking for new options.