The country of Moldova has, along with other countries surrounding the Black Sea, suffered from communistic occupation which had led to poorly maintained vineyards and a lower quality of wine. However, terroir and climate contain perfect elements to produce high quality grapes. A lot of lost potential. Slowly this whole area is investing in reclaiming its position it once had in the wine world. More and more high-quality grapes are harvested, and interesting wines is exported to Western-Europe and soon the rest of the world!
A couple of months ago a befriended importer brought Moldovan wines to the tasting table. I was very curious as I find Eastern-European wines very interesting and exciting. Usually new aromas and flavours are brought to the palate and create new gastronomical possibilities. However, the wines my friend served did not meet my expectation and left me rather disappointed. I did know in the back of my mind that there had to be high quality coming from this country as well, so needless to say I was very excited to attend this masterclass of Wines of Moldova and hoping that this would confirm my beliefs.
Coming from Western Europe, wines coming from a country like Moldova are very unusual. However, as this article will show, a lot of West European influences are making their way in the wine world over there. Before getting into that, let us first talk about the history of the country. Archaeological findings have shown that there was already wine making as far as 5000 BC. No doubt coming over from the Caucasus mountain range, where wine making originated from. That explains the presence of high numbers of Caucasus grape varieties in the country.
Moldova is situated in an enclave between Romania and Ukraine. It does not lie right next to the Black Sea, but the sea does influence the climate enormously. The winters are short, yet cold and the summers are long and hot.
Moldova always had a hard time not to be occupied by another nation, however it was the ancient Greeks and Romans that did spike the trade on an economical level, which led to higher quality of grapes and an increase in production. Being a part of Russia in the 19th century, the wines were of very high quality and were being shipped to the Tsar Alexander the first. Because he wanted to increase the quality, the Tsar invited a lot of French wine makers to come and educate the Moldovan farmers on how to reach the best results with their grapes. This was done by bringing a lot of French varieties to the country. Explains why there is still a lot of wine made from the Cabernet Sauvignon, Pinot Noir, Merlot, Aligoté, Sauvignon Blanc and Chardonnay today. Also, German winemakers came, introducing the Riesling grape.
Phylloxera, along with both world wars did a lot of damage to the vineyards and the wine industry as a whole. After the second world war, Moldova became part of communistic occupation and fell victim to the neglect of vineyards with a decrease in quality. The country became independent in 1991 and has since been working very hard to reclaim its position. The results are stunning, and it already reached a high position once again in the region of the Black Sea. Now Moldova is ready to show Western-Europe and the rest of the wine world what it’s made of!
This current presence in the West has partially to do with the export bans that Russia has made on wines of Moldova to Russia, respectively in 2006 and 2013, leading the way to export to other countries.
During this masterclass we got the chance to get an introduction to high quality Moldovan wines and how they pair very well gastronomically. The focus of Moldovan wines used to be laying on semi-sweet reds, but now we see an increase in production of dry reds, whites and even sparkling.
In terms of legislation there is still a lot to be done, and for now the regions are categorized in IGP’s or PGI (Protected Geographical Indication). We divide Codru, Stefan Voda, Valul Lui Traian and Divin.
The Codru region is located in the heart of the country, so the very central part. The surrounding area does feel similar to Bordeaux with its smooth hills and softer climate. Therefore, we see a lot of Atlantic grape varieties planted here, that lead to excellent results. Cabernet Sauvignon and Merlot are thriving here.
Stefan Voda has the most influence of the Black Sea, as with its South-Eastern location it is closest to it. Bordeaux varieties like Cabernet Sauvignon are blended with indigenous varieties like Rara Neagra and Caucasian varieties like Saperavi.
The south of the country holds the region of Valul Lui Traian and produces lighter styles of Saperavi, a fruity Feteasca Neagra and beautiful blends of Chardonnay, Sauvignon Blanc, and Riesling.
Divin is the cross country PGI for wine spirits.
The wine regions and their grapes described above, are just a grasp out of what the country has to offer. We do see that 70% of the grapes are international, compared to 16% local varieties and 14% of Caucasian varieties. A big step up, considering that over 90% of the varieties just after the second world war, were hybrids. This in order to protect the vineyards from phylloxera.
Today Moldova is the number 2 producer in the world for Riesling and the number 3 for Pinot Noir!
For me however it is the local varieties and Caucasian ones that get my attention. It shows us once again how much is still to be discovered in the wine world and how much we can still learn!
We will be seeing a lot more of this country in the wine world over the coming years and after this great introduction, I look forward to experiencing their development!
Thank you Moldovan wines and Pitch PR for the organization and Cees van Casteren for hosting!