Press Wine Trip to Moldova 2014

by spela tezak (text & photo)

Small country with great people and "wild" wines, located between Romania in the North and West and Ukraine in the South and East.Mysterious and in a way exotic, Moldova offers a real fusion of old and new, traditional and modern. Grape-shaped land has drew attention in the 1878 when Negru de Purcari, local variety from Purcari district in the south, was sent to blind wine tasting in France and was – surprisingly - choosen as the best wine on the tasting. His rich colour together with strong smell and full taste gave him the worldwide fame and brought small »unknown« country to the wine map of the world.

From the history

Tradition of winemaking in Moldova is as long as the history of winemaking itself. Wine growing started about 4 - 5 thousand years ago with Dacians who discovered the art of producing wine in this theritory. Through the history this land was ruled by many cultures and not always winemaking was alowed but the flourish of winemaking happened in 15th century, during the reign of Stefan cel Mare (Stephen the Great). Like for many things in Moldova, he has credits for development of wine culture too. Stefan cel Mare stimulated the winemaking by ordering the import of new grape varieties, expanding wine-growing areas, improving the winemaking technology, building wine cellars and setting up the position of Cupbearer, who was responsible to supervise the wine plantations and winemakers to ensure the production of high-quality wine. In the USSR period Moldova was the most important wine producer in the union. After declaration of independence in 1991 wineries were privatized, production was modernized and biggest attention was put on producing high quality wine which is as wild and special as his motherland.

Wines of Moldova

Today, Moldova is devided into four wine regions: Balti or Northern zone, Codru, Central zone around Chisinau, Nistreana, southeastern zone around Dnester river and Southern zone called Comrat. The most representative wines are coming from Southern and Southeastern regions where the continental dry climate is mixing with the winds from Black sea coming to the land through Dnester river. Most of the days here are sunny, soil where vineyards are planted is unique and can not be found anywhere else. Here mostly red wines are produced: Merlot, Pinot Noir, Cabernet Sauvignon, Malbec and local Rara Neagra and Saperavi. White varieties are Chardonnay, Savignon Blanc and Muscat.

Codru, region around Chisinau is most industrialy developed zone and home to majority of primary winemaking and bottling entreprises. Landscape in this region is much more dynamic, hills and forests are interwoven with fields and offer endless views to the visitor walking through the land. Also, vineyards are here protected from winter frosts and dry summer winds. Region is known by the best white and sparkling wines in Moldova. Most grown varieties are Sauvignon Blanc, Reisling, Traminer Rose and local Feteasca Alba and Feteasca Regala. Codru's specialities are underground cellars of Cricova and Milesti Mici as well as the magnificent Orheiul Vechi monastery.

See it, feel it, taste it

Moldova's true beauty is it's landscape. Take a car (with driver!) in Chisinau and simply get lost in the random village. Our suggestion is Crocmaz village in Stefan Voda region, just around 1,5 hours of driving south from Chisinau. Crocmaz is a home to Et Cetera Winery, small and young family winery with unrepeatable hospitality. Wine tasting there is slightly different as you might be used to but it is a great experience combined with their fresh wines and homemade food.

Stefan Voda region is also »home« to Purcari Winery, the oldest private winery in Moldova. Here you come not only for visiting the cellar and taste famous Negru de Purcari but you come to relax from everyday problems and activities.

Visiting Codru region is different but very special experience. Before going diving into the underground world, we suggest to take some time and enjoy the views around Orheiul Vechi (Old Orhei) - a unique natural and historical complex with traces of several ancient civilizations. Endless landscape, gently moving by the sound of the wind might easily brought you back to the childhood spent at Grandmother's place.

Not so far away, just above the town of Orhei, on the top of the hill with incredible view, Chateau Vartely is located. Young winery with big potential is offering not only wine pleasures but also cosy accomodation in traditional houses (all in different traditional styles) and restaurant with delicious Moldovan food.

Do not leave Codru without visiting at least one of the underground cellars. We were in touch with Cricova but unfortunatelly due to force majeure we had to postpone visit to our next Moldovan journey. Cricova does not have the longest nor biggest underground cellar but it does have the one with the oldest wine collection. Visit to underground is organized by your own car. In front of the entrance a guide will »jump« in and here you go.

My TOP 3:

    • Rose 2013, dry, Et Cetera winery, Moldova

    • Pinot Grigio de Purcari 2012, dry, Purcari winery, Moldova

    • Cabernet Sauvignon 2012, dry, Chateau Vartely, Moldova

My personal best: Vinul Bunicai (Grandma's homemade wine), tried by the delicious dinner at friend's Grandmother's home in Crocmaz village. The experience of a experiences.

Mysterious Moldova