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A wine guru, always at the top: Radu Rizea

by Dan Coclici
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Radu Rizea

If you have attended even a few of the 12 editions of the RO-Wine festival, you can’t have missed it. And if you’ve had the chance to meet him, you’ll quickly be convinced that he’s the biggest in the parking lot, and not just literally.

Today we introduce you to Radu Rizea, the WoR journalist responsible for the interviews that bring you closer to personalities in the world of wine.

Don’t be misled by his bohemian, Big Lebowski air: behind the nonchalance and grace with which he talks about wine lies not only a nose that is indispensable to a true connoisseur (and there’s a story here: after his nose was moved following an incident, he put it back on its own, and now the unique physiological peculiarity enhances his olfactory understanding) but also some solid studies. Graduating from the Faculty of Journalism and Communication Sciences, with a specialization in Communication itself, has helped him to integrate more quickly into a complex and fickle niche, that of wine, which is not short of controversy, often sparked out of the blue. Radu‘s presence in the editorial staff of Wines of Romania is no coincidence: between 1995 and 2013, his articles could be read in “Evenimentul zilei”, “Săptămâna financiara”, Hotnews.ro and Vinul.ro; and on TVR he was, together with Costel Stroescu, the protagonist of the show "Pe picior mare", a foray, for several episodes, into the fascinating world of luxury from a cultural perspective.

Suppose we add to his equally long CV a Master in Wine Quality at USAMV Bucharest, plus a sommelier course under the guidance of Sergiu Nedelea. In that case, we have a clearer picture of the competence that doubles Radu’s passion for wine. In short, if you want to find out from a reliable source where you can have a rustic lunch and which wines would pair best or where the best cream soup, the best Jókai beans, or the best “mangalița” meat is, Radu is the man for you.

In a parallel universe, where Chuck Norris jokes – which Radu loves – are the law, it is more than certain that if wine lovers wear T-shirts with the portrait of Bacchus, Bacchus’ favourite T-shirt is the one with Radu Rizea‘s face!

But… you don’t have to take our word for the above. We’ve asked a couple of well-known colleagues to write a few lines about the man who, for more than two decades, cannot go unnoticed in the wine world – and this is not (just) about stature – the man who is asking the questions in such a personal style in the interviews he conducts for WoR. A necessary clarification: we have arranged the answers in alphabetical order of the names of those who took the time and kindly answered. Go!

Valentin Ceafalau, journalist and wine taster

"Big" Radu Rizea… To write about Radu Rizea and cover the full extent of his capacity for synthesis and creation is almost impossible! And that’s because Radu can write in 20-30 minutes what the rest of us write in two or three hours.

I met Radu Rizea at one of the "Presa de Vin" meetings, an association of wine journalists created by the late Cosmin Zidurean in the early 2000s. I already "knew" him from the wine articles he published in "Financial Week", and I had a kind of admiration mixed with envy for him because his material – articles, reports, news, interviews, extremely well written, had an ease of expression that makes the reader feel that he is the author of the lines he is reading. So, when I made the introductions, I could only say, "I’m a big fan!"

I remained the same big fan when I started collaborating at Vinul.Ro magazine, managed by Cezar Ioan, where I was the editor-in-chief, and the "beggar" of his texts’ deadlines. Radu was one of the most prolific contributors to the magazine, his texts being a "school" for us in the guild and an important source of information for the whole Romanian wine industry, at a time when the printed word had value and Facebook and Google had not yet democratized information.

I did not change my position as an admirer of Radu Rizea‘s work when he replaced his job as a journalist with that of a marketing representative of a winery, learning from Radu that "the market and life are different when you go to the other side of the fence".

Now, after returning to his "first love", writing – "Because we don’t know how to do anything else, Doggie!" – Radu Rizea is one of the most important and valuable contributors to the Wines of Romania platform.

He loves wine, but his passion for writing is above that. Beyond the wine tastings we do together, the summary sessions, the documentary travels, or the varsity evenings, I learned from Radu that elegance and calmness are the best ways to step forward.

I repeat: To write about Radu Rizea and to fully cover the extent of his capacity for synthesis and creation is almost impossible!

Vasile Ghimpu, passionate about wine

About Radu Rizea, some would say that he is great at "state" but I can guarantee that he is also great at "council". At first glance he impresses you, he’s a giant, 2.13 m. He scares you, but when you look into his eyes and he starts talking to you, you see that he’s the good giant, he’s Hodor from Game of Thrones or Rubeus Hagrid from Harry Potter.

We’ve known each other for a few years now, and we’re like brothers, connected by a passion for wine, cooking and good music. He loves to share with others, to help them understand what’s in and beyond a glass of wine and beer (yes, he’s one of the most knowledgeable people in Romania in this area, beer…).

Erudite, with a wealth of knowledge in many fields, he is the man you need to realize time passes over a chat or a beer. Yes, we do have the occasional beer…

He had a place of his own in Bucharest, a kind of temple, office, and psychologist’s office where he welcomed us and where we would put the country in order, relax, listen to good music and create stories: at "eVarză". I think most of the good articles that Radu wrote there were written there. You’d find him in the back, in a cloud of smoke, concentrating, eyebrows furrowed and with a three-quarters empty wine glass beside him. As I walked in the door, his face lit up and his bushy beard opened, revealing a broad smile; he took me in his arms and squeezed me to the bone. Then he’d order a bucket (I’ll let you imagine what it was!), put on some music, and we’d enjoy each other’s company.

Unfortunately, ,,eVarză" continues to exist only in our memories, so, Big Radu, you need to find another place to create!

I love you, Radu Rizea!

Cristian Gretcu, ex-Divertis, sommelier with diploma and initiated taster in tasting

Preamble. Until a few years ago, Crama Cotnari organized a large-scale action, mobilizing and bringing to its headquarters dozens of personalities/personalities from the field of wine connoisseurs or enthusiasts, people of all professions, regardless of ethnicity or gender. The action was called "Vineyard Champion" and aimed to obtain (more or less) authorized opinions about the directions in which the wines of Crama Cotnari could evolve.

I should point out, Crama Cotnari made a huge effort, all the guests were flown in (and out) by plane (except the local ones), accommodated in four-star hotels, and the transport, the protocol meals were provided by them.

The guest list included personalities, sommeliers, bloggers, wine tasters and other wine enthusiasts (like me!).

On the day of the event, we were summoned to the winery’s headquarters, transported there by coach and seated at the big table, like "Stephen the Great" inside the winery … Of course, Radu and I quickly "redefined" a few places in the mezzanine, so that we could sit next to each other… With Silvia Palasca.

To harmonize energies, of course…

The event started with a speech by the esteemed Catalin Paduraru, who invited everyone to introduce themselves. The first was Mr. Dr. Boboc, then President of the Association of Authorized Wine Tasters of Romania (ADAR), followed by dozens of other colleagues; I quote at random: Costăchel-blogger, Dan Coclici – Clubul Degustatorilor de Vin Neautorizati din Romania, Cristian Gretcu – Producer of the TV show ,,Vin-la-vorba"… When it was his turn to introduce himself, Radu said: I’m a drunk like you, only I recognize it…

Horea Hasnas, former colleague and, he hopes, still a friend of Radu

"Write a short text about Radu!". That’s what Dan’s request sounded like, to which, I admit, I had no reaction. Because anyone who knows Radu would have said he couldn’t fit into a small text. It’s hard to fit him into a king-size bed – I say this from my own experience, having travelled the country together, and I remember that at Stârmina, we had to share a room with only one double bed. I can honestly say that the only request I had of him was that he didn’t itch!

Big Radu, as he is still known in our world of known and not-yet well-known drunks, is truly great. A quintal half life, weight spread over a redwood structure. That he’s also tall. Which is an advantage to close friends on long visits to the vineyard when the sun is burning. You can sit in the shade… It’s big on the state, but also on the council, especially when it comes to wine, beer, distillates and other useful human stuff. And on top of all that, he’s a very big soul. Logically, somewhere that has plenty of living space. But seriously, I don’t know of any meeting with Radu that hasn’t raised my optimism and confidence levels. Even though we only saw each other for 10 minutes. Erudite, passionate about bien vivre, always smiling, Radu is one of the people you want to be with. Not just when you want to drink a good wine. You don’t want him at a beer tasting because you’ll catch the foam from the first glass. But that’s a whole other discussion…

P.S. Are you okay, dear? Do I deserve a beer?

Cezar Ioan, journalist, founder and editor of Vinul.ro

Radu has the great quality of writing well even when he’s not trying. He has an intellectual and conversational flexibility that allows him to fly with the agility and precision of a swallow (yes, I know, it’s hard to equate Radu’s image with a… swallow) through social layers that seemingly nothing connects, indeed everything separates them – and to extract from these,, journeys" something relevant for the reading public. With solid readings and a sense of poetry that he can instantly put to work, Radu is distinguished by creative detente, affability and a complete lack of snobbery that also make him a great discussion and debate partner – I’d want him on my side in any confrontation of ideas.

Razvan Jurca, ex-blogger at Vinsiplec.ro

When I first started writing about wine, you could count on one hand those of us who approached this niche. I was proud of what I was getting, until I read a review by Big Radu that rocked my world: "This wine is like a girl dressed only in jewels, sitting tenderly next to a half-awake opium addict." The wine was Quinta de Lubazim from 2005. Since then, and thanks to him, everything is history. Thank you from the bottom of my heart, great friend!

George Mitea, blogger at Lucruribune.blogspot.com

Everyone who knew Radu placed him in their register of acquaintances under mythological characters. His imposing appearance, rugged features, sometimes wavy hair in pleats, slightly reserved and introverted, but with a generous character, create the image of a centaur or faun, Pan and Dionysus alike, a gentle but undeniable giant, with a healthily constructed culture, who, for his reasons, chose to radiate his high journalistic and literary possibilities over the world of wine. He’s a man you can talk to about anything from Dostoevsky to any notable rock album. He’s also a Magellan of the locals, being a well-travelled man, thanks to years of, touring" the country, either as a journalist or brand ambassador. There isn’t a notable city in Romania where Radu doesn’t know a club, bar, or restaurant where you can’t eat an olive and drink a beer at any time of the day or (preferably) night. He knows everyone from famous artists, eternal bartenders, train controllers, petty politicians and other beasts. With how many people have had even one beer in his company, he could build himself a party and get into Parliament! It would probably be called the Party of As Yet Unwritten Poems or the Alliance for Emptying All Wine Bottles and Refilling Them with Words of Wisdom.

Silvia Palasca, winelife.style

If Radu were a wine… first and foremost it would probably be in a bottle from Solomon upwards, to reach all his friends, to match his heart and the stories he can patiently tell at any time.

If it had a label, it would probably be punk, unconventional, with little hints of 70s-90s music, with well-hidden cultural references to modern art and antiquity, all in the form of African-influenced graffiti.

In the glass, at first glance it would be dark, towards black, like the rock they listen to when they work. It takes a little light from a lighter to see the edges of his slightly brick-like soul, a little melted by the years since he took up writing: poetry, reportage, wine, whatever. Because that’s what he does: he tears a little piece out of his heart or mind and rolls it on paper or keyboard enough to leave a fine trail so that we have something to read.

The smell would be, unmistakably, tobacco. Cheap tobacco, expensive tobacco, cigar or forgotten in a box, rolled tobacco, next to a coffee, yes, it would surely be there and the aroma of coffee, at all hours, as they gather their thoughts for a tasting where guests would forget they ever had a watch.

The taste would always be changeable, depending on the "taster", with some too acidic, with others balanced, but always showing curiosity about what someone else has to say. Paradoxically, he remains remarkably consistent with each interlocutor, no matter how many glasses are in between.

The aftertaste would be long, with flavours of discussions about art and politics, in which vast knowledge in almost any field is intertwined with a continuous revolt against the system, the rules, and anything that limits man.

And if it weren’t for all that, it would be a cold beer on a hot day, ready to quench a Jameson in Varza.

Valentin Saminta, founder of the Club of Uncorked Wine Tasters, blogger at Pivnicer.blogspot.com

On the websites and blog of the Unauthorized Wine Tasters Club, the name of Big Radu gives a lot of finds by the titles and content of articles written in the last two decades.
Thus, on cdvin.ro there are 19, on vestik.ro – 7, on Pivnicer we find 5. And they, the stories, are both few only because we haven’t had a chance to mention all the stories, adventures and bohemian that binds us to our great friends.

I thought I’d remind myself of all these oenological, oenophiles and, naturally, Bahian experiences with using glimpses from the chronicles of events of past years in which I have had Radu Rizea as a companion, convivial or host.
At an event in February 2020, this is how the description of the event began:

  • If I were to put together all the bottles or arrange them like overturn able dominoes, they would probably circle the Earth. Between thousands of bottles, the ones presented by good friend Big Radu, stand out for their labels extraordinary, but especially in content.

At a judging/tasting/tasting of 70 samples of wine from the 2018 vintage, held in March 2019 at Cotnari, it was certain that.

  • The eye of a drone followed us on this adventure. We photographed the vineyards and people in the backlight and Big Radu in the hut’s gate, in the guise of the deity of
    bronze working in the toothy sun of that early March.

And still, at the end of a day and a night spent at the mouth of the bottle, the barrel and the the tanker, I knew that

  • (…) Radu Rizea, our Big Radu, can’t even conceive of not starting again, down our bohemian boulevard, to a club, to the Cub, with rhythm and dance and souls to as young as ours, but in younger bodies, the occasion for beer and whisky for some, brandy for us, thanks to the same great generous friend.

Back in January 2018, it was reported that

  • Clearly, one evening with Grace, Radu Rizea put us on Jar, and some dreamed right at the palaces of Clestar. As Ambassador Emeritus of some of the wineries in Dealu Great, our great friend opened, on a Thursday, the series of three interesting events spent consecutively in my grandmother’s rooms.
  • Big and grand, literally, figuratively and in every possible way, my friend Radu
    Rizea is the incarnate synonym of the word magnificent and for some years now has been part of the legitimate wine magnate born of one of the most creative minds of the CDViN.

Enthusiastic freelance promoter of several wineries, Radu introduced us to Dagon Clan, a new quality winery in Dealu Mare, and brought to our papillary attention some of the great wines of Rotenberg Winery.
At an emotional workshop with the seven wine magicians, a thematic action made in CDViN, which took place in October 2015 in my grandmother’s living room, someone summed up her personality this way:

  • Big Radu – Mythological character and friend, a deity of wine who used to It traces the entire history of tastings everywhere, from Gvino to Grand Cru.

At the Goodwine Festival in spring 2013,

  • I mostly conversed and shared opinions with Radu Rizea, a fellow pleasant, always on the height, a kind of Bachus condeier, gentle and expressive, of all festivals in this corner of the world.

And yet the most beautiful part about Big Radu is the ineffable, the unwritten part about the adventures, the bohemians and the as-yet unfulfilled follies, the thread of which we can barely discern. Like a October funnel that binds together all the calendar sheets that the Creator still needs to have a chance to print them for the readers, tasters, and wanderers that we are…

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