176 Criș, Judetul Mures,
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In recent years reputable publications have drawn comparisons between Tuscany and Transylvania, and it is not difficult to see why. They are two European destinations known for pristine natural landscapes, charming small farming communities, and old-world rural architecture. But undoubtedly, the former far outstrips the latter in terms of the quality of local alcoholic beverages available.
Indeed, Transylvania’s alcoholic offerings may be fledgling-like in comparison, but there is still plenty to try during your holiday in Transylvania. From traditional fruit-based spirits to new exciting gins, from an old historic vineyard with links to former Bethlen estates to a local beer that became embroiled in a fascinating legal battle against a beer giant – and came out on top.
We have rounded up five alcoholic beverages you can try during your Transylvania experience.
Kaspers elderflower gin
Kaspers elderflower gin is the perfect sundowner, a must-try spirit that uses wild-harvested elderflower as its chief ingredient in the distillation process, as well as nine other botanicals, including three from Transylvania’s rich wildflower meadows. The drink is typically mixed with tonic water and garnished with a fresh piece of fruit — which ensures that the drink imparts a wonderful refreshing crispness that can only enhance your experience absorbing the hum of rural Transylvania.
Kaspers gin is distilled not far away from Bethlen Estates in the UNESCO heritage village of Saschiz (Keisd in German, Szászkézd in Hungarian), by Scotsman Jim Turnbull. The process respects the region’s traditional methods and way of life, while adding a touch of modern science to guarantee quality and consistency.
We usually have a regular stock of Kaspers at our estate for you to enjoy.
The largest wine producer in the country, Jidvei, has strong historic links to the Bethlen family and represents the long history of viticulture in Transylvania.
Today Jidvei has more than 2,500 hectares of vines – some of which is produced on former Bethlen estates – and some of its wines, such as Ana and Maria (named after the owner’s daughters), have on their labels pictures of a manor house and castle formerly owned by the Bethlen family to symbolise the historic connection.
Ana is a Chardonnay and Maria a Feateasca Regala (Királyleányka in Hungarian; Königliche Mädchentraube in German), which, interestingly was first discovered in 1920 in Daneș (Dános in Hungarian; Dunnesdorf in German) — a commune situated at the end of the valley that leads to Bethlen Estates Transylvania.
Jidvei produce a wide range of wines and, some, like the two aforementioned wines, that are worth a try.
Bethlen Estates’ homemade pálinka
In Transylvania, distilling traditional homemade spirits remains a popular activity, especially in the countryside. At our estate, where our forefathers for centuries distilled their own alcoholic beverages, it is no different.
Using fruit grown on today’s Bethlen Estates, simple methods are used at a distillery in the Székely Land where our apple, pear, and grape pálinka (palinca in Romanian) is double distilled. Pálinka is not a particularly sophisticated drink and nor should it be. Pálinka is a drink that warms the heart and pays homage to the wonderful natural landscape that surrounds you and the local way of life.
Although pálinka remains to be a predominately homemade tipple here, there are some excellent upmarket brands that have somewhat lifted the bar, such as Potio Nobilis (Noble Liquor), which distills a wide range of fruit-based spirits.
Tel: +40786 618 381
———— Stephen McGrath is a Romania-based correspondent. His work appears regularly in the international press, for publications including BBC, The Times, The Guardian, The Telegraph, New Statesman, The Spectator, Forbes, and others. He works in print, radio, and holds a bachelors degree in photography.
176 Criș, Judetul Mures