Oliver Bauer, oenologist for Stibey Winery and owner and oenologist at Bauer Winery, moved to Romania since 2004 after gaining knowledge about wine and winemaking in Germany, his homeland.
“I was born and raised in a winery in Flein, Baden Württemberg, Germany. Although I have never been forced or obliged to continue what my parents started it became quite fast very clear what I wanted to do for a living in the future. Since I was 10 or 11 years old, I started to help my parents in the winery and besides the benefit of being paid for my efforts, I learned from scratch what it means to be a vintner and how important practical experience is.”
Seeing Oliver’s passion for winemaking, his parents wanted him to gain practical experience during his school years by working for 3 years at two renown wineries in Germany -Fürst zu Hohenlohe, Württemberg and Franz Keller, Baden. „After graduatuating school and completing my 2 years military stage, I started to work for another two wineries at the Weingut am Lump in Escherndorf/Frankonia to earn resources to access another school for higher education in Veitshöchheim near Würzburg. I managed to do this and I continued with my practical work to gain more experience and to earn money to finance my studies.”
After graduating with honors as a state certified technician for viniculture, viticulture and oenology, Oliver still had to work another year in order to be able to access the final school where he graduated after one year as a state certified wine-maker/cellar master.
“It was not written in the stars to find work in the field, but luck did strike me. In 2003 I met Sigmund Kripp, the owner of the Stachlburg in South Tirol who brought me in contact with his brother, Jakob Kripp. During our first meeting in a garden nearby Munich, while drinking beer, we discussed the possibilities of a collaboration. The Kripp family wanted to re-launch the Stirbey winery and the idea was for me to train the staff for 2 months and then come back a couple of times to oversee their work. That was my very first contact with Romania. I have to admit that it was quite impressive on many levels.”
After this first collaboration Oliver returned to Germany, completed his studies and started working for a retail company, where he built and ran a high-end vinohek and did the consulting for a wine portfolio. „As soon as this job started to become monotone and boring to me, Mr. Kripp came up with the proposal for me: to move to Romania and to manage the winery. Thus, I quit my job and moved to Romania in 2004, a step I still do not regret, not even for a second. Here I got the possibility to built up again a historical winery from scratch and to work with serious, experienced people, who have a vision in an emerging country.
Romania – the perfect land for winemaking
Romania has a long history as a wine growing country and similar to France it has a lot of different regions with various, particular varieties of wine grapes. That is precisely the reason why Romania has been highly appreciated until World War II. So, there is no need to talk about its potential because it is more than obvious. What we do have to talk about is our self-conception and our values if we want to regain this former reputation.
“When we started to promote indigenous varieties and to produce single grape wines at Stirbey in 2003, almost everybody laughed about this officially considered, “outmoded” approach. We can call it anything, but not outmoded. It is the only way to make a difference and to define what Romanian wine is all about. Up to today, the vast majority (there are exceptions) of the Romanian wine producers have neither an answer to this question nor a coherent philosophy concerning their wines.“
Oliver believes that as a country we need to invest more in education and research and less in wine production. We need highly trained professionals in every field from production (vines and wine) to marketing, sales, administration etc. If our country will succeed in these fields and the people involved will work hard, Romania will take back its well deserved place in the wine world – there's a long and bumpy road in front of us, but it is not impossible.
Oliver’s World Travels – his favourite place
So far, South Africa is on top of my list. The mix of amazing different landscapes with an intact and rich flora and fauna, high quality food and wines plus an incredible hospitality is simply breathtaking. Furthermore, South Africa is to me an example of how wineries can work together even if the competition is very tough and the national currency is weak, especially for the export markets.
A producer once told us: “The average quality level of wine is high and consistent because nobody is able to afford to produce weak wines due to the fierce competition amongst national producers! Abroad we have to be united and to work together because none of us will be able to have a big enough impact on its own!” That's the right attitude!
Wine tourism in Romania
Tourists from all over the world come throughout the year at Stirbey and Bauer Winery. “Stirbey Winery opened its doors for visitors since its re-launch in 2004 because in Germany or Austria it was and still is absolutely normal to welcome your clients at the winery. At Bauer Winery, since 2012 we have a small tasting room, for groups of 18 people maximum. Up until now, anyone, who has visited us, was thrilled by the experience and spread this wine tourism “virus” among their group of friends.”
In Romania, the wineries managment slowly understood the importance of wine tourism and now, they do a great job in offering high quality services; besides the normal wine tastings, they also provide food or even accommodation. But we still are at the beginning. All the wineries have to continue on this path, to offer even more profound, varied and competent services to their visitors in the future.
“Another important part in improving wine tourism is communication and offering the possibility for the visitors to easily get profound and coherent information about wines, wine-growers and regions.”
One last advice
“As I already mentioned, we have to invest much more of the public funds in educating and forming people’s skills, a really useful infrastructure and also in hospitality to grow the number of local and foreign tourists.”