A Romanian wine producer has been slammed after he boasted on national television that he only allows virgins to crush his grapes.
The bizarre claim was reportedly made by Romanian wine producer Gheorghe Albu, owner of the Viisoara winery, as he showed documents he said were medical certificates confirming the young girls that pressed his grapes were virgins.
In the traditional winemaking process, those involved are expected to climb into huge vats where they stamp up and down on the grapes in order to squeeze out the juice.
Video Credit: CEN/CramaViisoara
In Romanian legend, it is believed that grapes crushed by non-virgins will produce bitter wine.
The claims resulted in Gheorghe Albu, a former state secretary of the Ministry of Agriculture and former head of the Constanta Directorate for Agriculture and Rural Development, being slammed by viewers including local ‘Dora Constantinovici’, who filmed the images on TV with her cell phone and then shared it on social media.
She said: “I do not know how to tell you this because I’m embarrassed to witness this discussion in the year 2019 on TVR national TV.
Video Credit: CEN/TVR1-Viata Satului TV
“Here, in the Village Life show, the owner of the vineyard company Viisoara told how the company produces wine traditionally, inviting virgins to crush the grapes.
“He even boasted about how he asked specifically for virgins and that 40 had applied, with 20 being hired. But of the 20 girls that he took to a clinic where they were checked, it turned out that only six were really virgins. The man even had a dossier with their virginity certificates. Yes, Romania, yes, 2019, yes.”
Netizen ‘Lia Lup’ said: “I saw the show… I was left… in shock… He was saying something about tradition… and the wine produced ending up bitter if the girls are not virgins…”
The wine producer from the village of Viisoara, in south-eastern Romania’s Constanta County, first made the claims in 2017, during a local wine festival, but they only attracted public attention he repeated them in the latest edition of the village life (Viata Satului) programme shown on 14th July.
He is heard saying “Here we have their virginity certificates” while brandishing some documents.
In the wake of the controversy he tried to play down the row by saying that he was a private person and not a public figure, and should be able to say what he wanted as long as it did not break the law.
He also tried to claim that it had all been a joke anyway and he had not really taken the girls for virginity tests.
Asked what the paperwork was that he had presented on the show, he did not answer directly, but simply referenced legends and stories about the tradition of using virgins and crushing grapes.
The United Nations regards virginity tests of any sort as unethical and in October 2018, the UN Human Rights Council, UN Women and the World Health Organization (WHO) ruled it was a practice that was painful, humiliating and traumatic and constituted violence against women.
But whether it was a joke or serious, Andreea Rusu from FILIA, a nonprofit organisation fighting for women’s rights, told local media: “It is irrelevant whether it was a joke or whether this practice is real. It seems to me incredible that there is such a practice in 2019, which is straight out of the Middle Ages. And as a boss, to say that means he runs his business based on myths and legends. It’s a very serious form of discrimination and sexism. Those girls are humiliated by a man who selects them and evaluates them as if they were pieces of meat. Their quality is measured by the presence of hymen.”
The Romanian National Audiovisual Council CNA would be responsible for any complaints, however it said it was taking no action. Spokesman Radu Herjeu told local media he did not believe the Audiovisual Code had been violated, adding that from a legal point of view, nothing had been violated.
But he did concede that the fact that “we sell our wine in the 21st century by saying that the grapes were crushed by virgins says a lot about the level of education of people”.
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