"Wine can of their wits the wise beguile,
Make the sage frolic, serious smile
Having recently met someone who was busy setting up a business to import Moldavia wine into Europe, I was intrigued to find out more about a land I knew very little about, let alone its wine production. Generally, when one is asked to name wine making countries, the usual set of names roll off the tongue, whereas Moldavia gets scarcely a mention. Maybe it is due to the fact that we assume that in that part of the world vodka is the preferred drink. Whilst vodka remains the traditional toasting beverage of the region, the last few years has seen wine consumption increasing in popularity.
The Republic of Moldavia, can be found between the Ukraine and Romania and lies on the same latitude as that of Burgundy in France. This country covers an area of 33.70 square kilometres, and due to its fertile soils, relatively mild winters and long hot summers it is an ideal place for the production of fine wines.
Although Moldavia has produced wine for many centuries it has had to deal with various obstacles over the years, such as a non-alcohol policy during Gorbachov’s office, the effects of two World Wars and general pollution, which has led to the destruction of some vineyards and decline of wine production as a whole in Moldavia. As yet the re-immergence of Moldavia as a potentially interesting wine area is slow but sure.
There are twelve regions in Moldavia, where different varieties of grapes are grown, but generally white wine is produced in the centre and red wine in the south and west. Wine is not only produced from grape vines indigenous to Moldavia but also foreign ones. Examples of other white wine sorts are Italian Riesling, Pinot Gris, Chardonnay, and Sauvignon, red wines include Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot and Pinot Noir. Grape sorts native to Moldavia include: Aligote which comes from a white grape, is the most well-known and produces a light, mild fresh wine with a straw-gold colour and a green tint, Rkatsiteli also from white grapes is used for the production of fine cognac and a high quality champagne, as well as Saperavi from a red grape which is a late maturing grape and produces a pink juice unusual for red grapes. When comparing Moldavian wines to those of other countries around the world Moldavian wines can be said to be on a par with those of New Zealand.
Most of Moldavia’s wine is exported for Russian consumption with only 3.5% going to European countries. Once Moldavia has prepared a wine classification system, comparable with the ‘Appellation of Origin’, system their wines should become more interesting for the European market.
An example of a particularly famous Moldavian winery is Cricova , whose its cellars are 100 meters underground in a limestone mine. The labyrinths of this cellar run for almost 60 kilometres in length. The natural limestone in the cellars helps in the wine making process by keeping both the temperature and humidity at a constant level. This microclimate is unique and cannot be compared to any other in the rest of the Republic or abroad.
Producing numerous brands of high quality red and white collection wines as well as fifteen different brands of sparkling wines; Cricova has received many prestigious awards. Wine can be sampled in grand tasting halls, each with a different themed interior and accompanied by the local cuisine. The more unusual varieties in their collection include a red champagne, as well as white methode champenoise bottled in stylish cut crystal bottles and in scripted in 24 carat gold.
So, next time you feel like trying a new sort of wine - there is always Moldavian wine!.
© Alison Day
First published in the Connections magazine #8 July 2005