Probably the only country where wine is declared as a food product, and the state owned Mileștii Mici winery has the largest collection of wines, containing about 2 million bottles. It has the greatest vineyard density in the world, with about 7% of arable land being used for wine production.
GENERAL TERROIR & HISTORY
Located in the Black Sea Basin, Modolva is among countries like Georgia which are recognised as the birthplace of wine. The history of wine here dates back thousands of years.
Grape growing for the purpose of wine making started in the era of the Ancient Greeks & Romans, but really florished during the 15th century under Stephen the Great, and again under the Russian Empire. Under this period in the 18th century, local grape varietals florished. International grape varietals like Cabernet Sauvignon & Gamay were introduced to the area, only to be damaged by the World Wars.
The reason why many of us don't know much about Moldovan wine is because of it's history of export makrets. Even after the Soviet Union broke up, Moldova continued to place Russia as the primary export market, which also meant that the wines were catered to the preference for semi-dry and semi-sweet wines that were favored by the Russians.
This reliance on Russia backfired when Moldova was "betrayed" by Russia when trade embargoes by Russia pushed Moldova into a deep recession. Today, as Moldova tries to focus on expanding their export market, Moldovan winemakers are shifting their wine styles & focusing on quality over quantity. This is best represented in the "Wine of Moldova" brand adopted by the country's wine producers, with much support from the National Office for Vine and Wine (ONVV) that provides various support programs for winemakers. Over the last 5 years, Moldovan wine has won a multitude of medals at international contests like Decanter World Wine Awards, Mundus Vini, Concours Mondial du Bruxelles, International Wine Challenge, etc.
Rich black soil overlies limestone bedrock left over from ehrn the region was the seabed of the Pannonian sea. Moldova also sits on the same latitude as Bordeaux, with a slightly more continental climate. This provides Moldova with the ideal conditions for winemaking, hence it highers per capita production across the world.
MAJOR WINE VARIETALS & STYLES
Moldova has a wide variety of wine styles, from sparkling wines to aromatic whites, reds & dessert styles like ice wine. Most of the grape variets are local or Caucasian varietals, but international varietals like Cabernet Sauvignon & Chardonnay are slowly being introduced with the intention of creating relevancy with the internal markets. About 70% of wine production in Moldova is white.
Moldova's sparkling style are usually made in the Charmat method, similar to Italian prosecco. When made using Feteasca Alba grapes, are aromatic sparkling whites with moderate acidity and aromas of citrus, field flowers or green apricots. Other producers use various international grapes to craete different styles of sparkling wine, from dry to sweet wines.
Specifically look for Cricova for Champagne style sparkling wines, as they are the first winery to take up this method, making extraordinary & extravagant sparkling wines.
LIGHT BODIED WHITE WINE
International Varieties: Sauvignon Blanc, Pinot Grigio
Local Varieties: Feteasca Alba, Plavai
Feteasca Alba, or White Maiden, is a vine that has grow in the region for centuries. Originating from Romania, it is today a popular local grape in Moldova, but also Hungary, Ukraine & Germany. Known for their exquisiteness, floral aromas, lightness, and freshness, it is a clone of the Feteasca Neagra & is excellent for a variety of white styles. Expect notes of acacia flowers, wildflowers, citrus, green apple, a result of it's Muscat family origins
Plavai is a grape that used to be common, but now has become quite rare. Sauvignon Blanc has become a trending grape in Moldova, with many producers chasing profiles similar to American Fume Blanc or French Pouilly-Fumé. While not necessarily oaked,
FULL BODIED WHITE WINE
International Varieties: Chardonnay
Caucasian Varieties: Rkatsiteli
Originally Georgian, Rkatsiteli is mostly used for Divin, but more experimental winemakers have been using this grape in various styles. Comparable to a Petit Chablis or a Veneto Pinot Grigio, it might not have complex aromatics, but is refreshing with crisp green-apple flavors and hints of quince and white peach. The orange wine styles popular in Georgia are not that popular in Moldova, more producing clean refreshing whites.
Expect slightly oaked Chardonnays across most Moldovan regions, with profiles similar to a white Burgundy.
AROMATIC WHITE WINE
International Varieties: Riesling, Gewurztraminer, Muscat
Local Varieties: Feteasca Regala, Viorica, Busuioaca Alba
With many white varieties coming from the ancient Muscat family, it's no surprise that a lot of the Caucasian or local varieties are aromatic.
Feteasca Regala, or Royal Maiden is the result of a natural cross between Feteasca Alba & Furmint. Floral & grapefruit aromas are dominant on a medium body & textured taste. Expect nuances of pear & citrus. Some winemakers oak age these, which give it the potential for ageing.
Viorica is a cross between 2 red varietals, designed to create a hardier grape that is more resistant to temperature & diseases. While originating in Moldova, it can also be found in other Eastern European countries. An aromatic varietal, it has aromas of intense white flowers, citrus, lychee, yellow apples, and candied apricots. Touches of thyme, basil & other dried herbs also are present, sometimes making it come across as a "less dry & acidic Sauvignon Blanc".
MEDIUM BODIED RED WINE
International Varieties: Malbec
Local Varieties: Rara Neagra (Babeasca Neagra)
Rara Neagra is a variety cultivated since the times of the Dacians, and it has been absorbing the sun of mellow Moldovan hills for all these centuries. This gives Rara Neagra wines their fresh tones, soft taste with notes of dried fruits and vanilla. It has a relatively pale colour, with delicate, light tannins and a taste of spicy berries. Dominant aromas of rosehip flower, red currant, wild blackberries. Give it a try if you enjoy Pinot Noir or Gamay, and try an oaked style if you enjoy Nebbiolo or Sangiovese.
FULL BODIED RED WINE
International Varieties: Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, Syrah
Caucasian Varieties: Saperavi, Bastardo
Local Varieties: Feateasca Neagra
Feteasca Neagra, or Black Maiden, has more than 2000 years of history, which began in Moldova, in the valley of the Prut river. The wine obtained from Feteasca Neagra has a distinctive rich bouquet full of berry and cherry flavors, and a long, fruity aftertaste.
While famous from Georgia, Saperavi performs very well in Moldova, with a dark colour, black fruit and aromas of exotic spices. It is often a powerful wine but with a good freshness, and is produced either as a single varietal, or used in blends, like the famous Negru de Purcari from Purcari, a big producer in Stefan Voda, which is Cabernet Sauvignon blended with 25% Saperavi and 5% Rara Neagra.
Bastardo is a cross between Trousseau & Saperavi, and tends to be a bold wine that is often blended. Expect notes of cherry, prune, bay leaf, & herbs.
Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, & Syrah have often been used in commercially grown wine in Moldova, especially during the time where Moldova "supplied" wine to Russia. However, now, many winemakers are shifting back towards local grape varietals in order to promote Wine of Moldova as a quality wine.
DESSERT & FORTIFIED WINE
There are various late havest & icewine style sweet wines produced across all the Moldovan regions. As rare icewine is from other regions, it can be produced almost every year in Moldova as winters usually dip below -7 degress. Pair this wine a wine variety of aromatic while grapes available, sweet dessert wines are plentiful in Moldova, often made with grapes like Muscat Ottonel, Traminer (Gewürtztraminer), Chardonnay, Rkatsiteli, Riesling, and even Cabernet Sauvignon.
MAJOR REGIONS / SUB-REGIONS
Moldova has over 100,000 hectares of vineyards, with about 40% of this used to mande home made wine. The commercial production lies in 3 historical wine regions - Valul lui Traian (south west), Stefan Voda (south east) and Codru (center), designated for the production of wines with protected geographic indication.
A fourth region, Divin, is also a protected grape growing area, but focused on brandy production.
CODRU (CENTRAL MODOLVA)
Codru is Moldova's premier wine region for high quality white & sparkling wines. It stretches from the Romanian border to Ukraine on the other side, making up the central third of the country. Most of the soils are dark chernozem, which are very fertile & have high water storage capacity, which produces high yields with it's high nutrient levels. Key white varieties are (in order of planting area) Chardonnay, Riesling, Sauvignon Blanc, Aligoté, Muscat Ottonel, Rkatsiteli and Feteasca Alba. Principal reds are Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot and Pinot Noir.
It's also home to the state-owned Milestii Mici, which was founded in 1969. Well known for it's underground cellars that hold the largest collection of wines around the world, it includes many unique Moldovan wines starting from the 1969 vintage
Cricova is another well known winery, which have used it's underground cellars are huge labyrinths for ageing sparkling wines, and is the first and only company awarded the highest state distinction, the Order of the Republic. By virtue of the Law of the Parliament of the Republic of Moldova, the “Cricova” Associated Wine Factory has been declared the National Cultural Heritage.
VALUL LUI TRAIAN (SOUTHWEST MOLDOVA)
Very much the table wine producing region of Moldova, Valul has a number of top wine microzones, such as Ciumai, Vulcanesti and Etulia, that benefit from deposits of tertiary red soils, rich in microelements. Cabernet Sauvignon & Merlot account for half of the production in this region, with Saperavi, Feteasca Neagra, Sauvignon Blanc & Chardonnay making up most of the remainder
ȘTEFAN VODĂ (SOUTHEAST MOLDOVA)
This southeast region of Moldova is best known for red wine production, and is named after one of the four administrative districts which form its growing zone. The principal varieties are Cabernet Sauvignon, Chardonnay (which together account for over half), Merlot, Sauvignon Blanc, Rara Neagra and Malbec. Very much a valley region, it's clay & sand soils are iron & mineral rich.
It is here that Château Purcari, the oldest Moldovan winery, is located. Producing some of the most renowned wines in the country, it is located in the village of Purcari. In 1827, Russian Emperor Nicholas Ist signed a special decree appointing Purcari as the first official winery in Bessarabia. Over the years, Purcari has become a supplier of the British royal family and also the official supplier of the Romanian royal family, until today.