In the Prahova county of Romania, just outside Bucharest, there is a town called Urlati. From the verb “urla”, to howl, its name could be translated as Screamtown.
While there is some debate about how this came to be, one story goes that the townsfolk got so drunk all the time that you could hear their intoxicated shouts from the surrounding area.
It sounds unlikely, but when you arrive in the town it becomes a little more believable. The place itself is intoxicating, heavy with the fruits of the earth at every turn. Plums grow at the side of every road and the fields are teeming with wild herbs and overgrown brambles. In the kind of humid air that always threatens a thunderstorm, it smells delicious.
This was what Mihnea Vasilache wanted to bottle up when he looked into buying a vineyard here. Romania is not short of vineyards, thanks to the collectivist agriculture policies enforced under the former Communist regime. But the hangover from this period of high production for the common good has resulted in Western connoisseurs perceiving Romanian wine as mass-produced and inelegant.
“From the taste of the fruit to the taste in the bottle, there seemed to be a disconnect,” says Vasilache, an investor. “The wines all tasted the same and the reds were too oaked and too alcoholic.”
Dagon Clan is Vasilache’s answer to this problem. Part of a new generation of small producers in the country, he wants to show the wine world what Romania can produce.