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German industrialists, Austrian dukes, French counts, and giant cross-border viticultural corporations have all plowed big money into Romania's storied vineyards over the past ten years, improving the winemaking infrastructure while capitalizing on the country's centuries-old traditions and excellent terroirs. While big, brawling reds are starting to come out of Romania's Dealu Mare and Banat regions, the country's secret masterpiece might be the little-known Grasă de Cotnari, a sweet wine produced with Botrytis cinerea, the same "noble rot" used in legendary sweet wines like Monbazillac and Sauternes from southwest France.
Located in the far north of the country, not far from Romania's borders with Ukraine and Moldova, the tiny village of Cotnari welcomes wine-loving visitors throughout the year. But if you can, aim for September 14, when the annual harvest festival takes place. Don't look for luxe: This is wine tourism at its most rustic, with single-lane roads weaving through the area's rolling hills and the best lodgings to be found behind one of the many "cazare" signs, indicating a room for rent in a private house.