Now on the Wine Travel Bucket List: Moldova
January 20, 2015 Leave a comment
If you can’t come up with anything, don’t feel bad. As of yesterday, I knew a grand total of about three things about Moldova: one-it was part of the former Soviet Union; two-they make wine there (but I couldn’t tell you anything about it); and three-it is the home of the “Epic Sax Guy.”
Today, though, I can tell you quite a bit more about Moldova. For instance, Moldova is located between Romania and Ukraine, just north of the Black Sea. As part of the breakup of the Soviet Union, Moldova declared itself an independent state – the Republic of Moldova – in 1991. The transition has not been easy and there has been civil unrest and economic woes. But there has also been progress, and in 2013 Moldova entered into an “Association Agreement” with the European Union, meaning that they can work towards aligning their practices with EU standards in the hopes of becoming a member in the future. It should be interesting to see how that unfolds.
This also means that wines of Moldova may soon fall under EU standards, and perhaps that means that more wine lovers may soon become a bit more familiar with Moldovan wines. For starters, here are a few fascinating facts about the wines of Moldova:
It’s ancient: Moldova has one of the oldest wine cultures in the world; there is evidence of wine production in the area as far back as 3,000 BC.
It’s growing: Moldova currently has over 275,000 acres of vines. Of the vinifera grapes planted, about 70% of them are international varieties of the Cabernet-Merlot-Chardonnay type. About 20% are grapes sometimes called “Caucasian grapes” and are widely grown throughout eastern Europe – Rkatsiteli and Saperavi, for example.
It’s indigenous: About 10% of Moldova’s vineyards are planted to the indigenous varieties of the region. Some of these include Feteasca Alba (white), Feteasca Regala (white), Feteasca Neagra (red), Rara Neagra (red), and Viorica (white). These are surely some of the most historic and unique wines of the region.
It’s deep: Moldova is well-known for its historic and extensive wine tunnels. The cellars of Mileștii Mici Winery stretch on for over 135 miles, at an average depth of 250 feet. The cellar, built in the style of a feudal fortress, is understandably one of Moldova’s most popular tourist attractions. With over 1.5 million bottles of wine from all over the world – some dating back to the 1960’s – Mileștii Mici Winery’s “Golden Collection” holds the Guinness World Record for the world’s largest wine cellar and wine collection.
It sparkles: During the time of the Soviet Union, Moldova was a large producer of the sparkling wine known at the time as Sovetskoye Shampanskoye (“Soviet Champagne”). The Cricova Winery, the largest producer of Moldovan sparklers, makes its wines using the “Traditional Method” and ages its wine in its underground cellars. The underground cellars of the Cricova Winery – stretching on for 45 miles and housing a large wine collection known as the “National Vinotheque” – are almost as impressive as the cellar at Mileștii Mici.
It has 4 designated regions, including 3 PGIs:
- The historic region of Balti is the smallest, northernmost and coolest region. The Balti region produces mainly white wines as well as a high-quality brandy known as Divin.
- The Codru PGI is the largest area, producing over 60% of the country’s wine. This cool-to-warm-climate region, surrounded by forests, is known for white wines.
- The Valul lui Traian PGI, located in the southeast of the country, is the leading producer of red wine.
- The Ștefan-Vodă PGI, located in the basin of the Nistru River, includes the famous Purcari region. It produces both red and white wines. Purcari wines have been renowned throughout Europe since 1878, when Negru de Purcari (a red wine made with Cabernet Sauvignon, Rara Neagră and Saperavi grapes) was awarded a gold medal at the World Exhibition.
For more information, visit the Wine of Moldova website!