Moldovan Wine – Moving forward while not losing track of the Authentic grapes of their past #WorldWineTravel

Vineyards in Moldova courtesy Wine of Moldova

Moldovan Wine – Moving forward while not losing track of the Authentic grapes of their past #WorldWineTravel

I’ll be honest, I’ve not had a wine from Moldova before.  I’ve heard and read a bit about the country and its wines and when #WorldWineTravel had an opportunity to collaborate with Wine of Moldova on their National Moldovan Wine Day, I was interested to participate.  Our host for this is Lynn Gowdy of Savor the Harvest, you can visit her Invitation post here.

Wine of Moldova and Vinconnexion sent us samples of 4 wines.  All opinions are our own.  We will start out with a bit about Moldova, dive into the wines and pairings and finish with the pieces by our colleagues at #WorldWineTravel which will give you additional opinions and information on the wines of this region, as well as some spectacular pairings.

A little Moldova History

Moldova, like Georgia, was the source of wine for the Soviet Union.  The country is covered in vineyards. At one point in the 80s there were over 200,000 ha of vineyards, this in a space that is slightly larger than Maryland. 

In the mid-80s as an anti-alcohol campaign began in the Soviet Union about 1/3 of the vines were pulled up.  They continued exporting to Russia through the collapse until the 2006 embargo by Russia on Moldovan and Georgian wines. Russia has since gone back and forth importing Moldovan wines, but they hold their purchases like a hostage, in an attempt to keep the country from leaning too far to the west.

Over ¼ of the country is part of the wine industry in some way.  This is their country’s bread and butter.  It has divided the country and the industry into those who look back and wish for the return of what they consider better days and those who are embracing the future and finding a way out into the great world of wine, holding on the heritage, but building anew. 

The grapes of Moldova

The large wineries here have gone from bulk wines in large tanks to finding new directions with old ways and new smaller wineries are popping up.  I have seen multiple sources for vineyard coverage. The documentation from the Wine of Moldova from 2018 listed 74,200 hectares (183,352 acres) of technical varieties. This morning I heard a quote of 112,000 hectares during the My Wine Day with Wine of Moldova conversation. This may be a recent update, and could include private non-commercial vineyards. This is a country, where there are many backyard vineyards and people have a culture of home winemaking . 

The most cultivated varieties are International with Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, and Pinot Noir leading the reds and Aligoté, Sauvignon Blanc, and Chardonnay leading the whites.

Still, they are also embracing the indigenous varieties like the white grapes Feteasca Alba and Viorica and red grapes, Feteasca Neagra, Rara Neagra, and the Georgian grape Saperavi.  Currently, 73% of vineyards are planted to European varieties, 17% to Caucasian grapes (which include Saperavi), and 10% to local grapes.

Moldovan wine regions

Wine regions of Moldova courtesy Wine of Moldova

Moldova is bordered by Romania to the West and South, Ukraine to the North and East. It is a landlocked country. The country sits mostly from around 140 meters (459 feet) above sea level, with its highest point at 430 meters (1410 feet).

The country is divided into three wine regions. Condru to the North in the center of the country focuses on white wines and covers the most area. Stefan-Voda below it to the southeast sits at a lower elevation and is the smallest of the 3 regions. Here you find the indigenous red grape Rara Neagra. Valul Lui Traian sits to the southwest. The climate here is warm and is influenced by the Black Sea. 60% of the wines here are red. These three regions sit within this country which they proudly point out is shaped like a grape bunch.

There are of course the two largest wine cellars in the world are located here, Cricova with 70 kilometers of galleries where they house wine collections from celebrities and dignitaries from all over the world, and Milestii Mici that stretches over 200 kilometers.

The Wines of Moldova

The four wines we received wines from Wine of Moldova as samples, included 2 white wines: Castel Mimi’s Feteasca Alba and a Viorica from Suvorav-Vin.

Castel Mimi – Feteasca Alba

Castel Mimi Feteasca Alba with flavor profile

Located in the Condru region, Castel Mimi was founded in 1893. After 50 years in disrepair a restoration project began in 2011. Today this sprawling Castle is home to the winery as well as a restaurant, gardens and terraces and has cottages for overnight guests.

Feteasca Alba is an ancient grape that has been cultivated here for years.  At one point during the Soviet era, it was banned, but some growers hid it so save the variety.

The flavor profile I found for this wine included: yellow apple, pear, ripe cantaloupe, rose petal & white flowers.

After tasting this myself, I found much more rich citrus, meyer lemon, lemon zest, a little pith and nectarine. The white flowers were there subtly in the background. Michael was reminded a bit of Fresca, so he must have been getting some grapefruit in there. I did get some briny minerality.

If you like Pinot Grigio, this might be a great wine to explore.

This wine is 100% Feteasca Alva and has notes of rose, pear, honeysuckle, yellow apple, and cantaloupe.

13% abv, suggested retail $18.99

Suvorov Kazayak – Viorica

Suvorov-Vin is named after a monument near the winery called “The hill of Suvorov” from the Russo-Turkish war. 

Viorica is the name of a flower and is a woman’s name in addition to being the name of this grape variety.  It is an indigenous grape. 

This wine is 100% Viorica and has notes of tea rose, candied fruit, nutmeg, lime, lemon curd, honey, peach nectar, and ripe cantaloupe.

13% abv suggested retail $13.99.

Viorica and its flavor profile Wine of Moldova

Suvorov-Vin is named after a monument near the winery called “The hill of Suvorov” from the Russo-Turkish war. 

Viorica is the name of a flower and is a woman’s name in addition to being the name of this grape variety.  It is an indigenous grape. 

This wine is 100% Viorica the notes I found indicated aromas and flavors of tea rose, candied fruit, nutmeg, lime, lemon curd, honey, peach nectar, and ripe cantaloupe.

The nose on this wine could not have been more different than the Feteasca Alba. My nose was filled with honey and beeswax, white peach, yellow apple, lemon curd and lime.

It hit me like a viognier with the addition of rich citrus notes.

13% abv suggested retail $13.99.

The red wines included Rosu de Purcari from Chateau Purcari and a wine called Ampre made of Saperavi, Feteasca Neagra and Merlot from Radacini.

Chateau Purcari – Rosu de Purcari

Chateau Purcari Rosu de Purcari - Wine of Moldova a Bordeaux style blend with its aroma flavor profile of black plum, blackberry, and sweet vanilla.

Chateau Purcari is located on the Dniester river and is in the Stefan Voda PGI Region. Located in the south western part of the region they are close to the Black Sea and the border to the Ukraine This historic Chateau is surrounded by vineyards and lakes.   They do supply the Queen of England with their wine.

This wine is a blend of 50% Cabernet Sauvignon, 40% Merlot, 10% Malbec, a Bordeaux style blend.  It has notes of forest fruit, plum and sweet vanilla.

When I stuck my nose in the glass I found blackberry, prune, black plum, baking spice vanilla and sweet tobacco.

13.5% abv suggested retail $31

Radacini – Ampre Saperavi Feteasca Neagra & Merlot

Radacini Ampre of Saperavi, Feteasca Neagra & Merlot and it's aroma/flavor profile - Wine of Moldova

Now we are into indigenous red varieties.  This blend leans into Saperavi the red fleshed grape originally from Georgia at 70%.  20% of the Moldovan indigenous variety Feteasca neagra, and 10% Merlot.

Suggested notes of ripe black fruits like plum and black cherry, blackberry as well as black pepper, thyme, and fruit leather.

When I stuck my nose in the glass, the first thing I got was fresh cut herbs, followed by black pepper. There was black fruits like plum and blackberry and dark cherries, then the thyme wafted through. It ended with some menthol, eucalyptus notes and a bit of barnyard that was not at all unpleasant.

13% abv Suggested retail $19.99.

2 pairings, one for the white and one for red

Rather than try to pair across all the wines, we broke our pairings into red and white, with lighter dishes pairing with the Feteasca Alba and Viorica and heavier with the Purcari and Radacini red blends.

Light and elegant lunch pairings

I was reading on other tastings with these wines to get a feel for what they would be like, as mine were arriving close to when we would need to post (they have not arrived as I type this).  My friend Liz Barrett at “What’s in that Glass” had tasted this wine and said that chicken piccata or ceviche would pair well (not together though, she warns!).  I love ceviche and have not had it in a while, so….

We started with prosciutto wrapped cantaloupe (thanks for that suggestion too Liz!). We then did a ceviche on an avocado sauce and a salmon carpaccio.

An unorthodox pairing

Rosu de Purcari Moldovan red blend with bacon and eggs

Chateau Purcari Rosu de Purcari 2015 with Bacon and Eggs

The Chateau Purcari Rosu de Purcari 2015 is a Bordeaux style blend. We did a bit of an non-traditional pairing, suggested buy Fiona Beckett of bacon and eggs. It worked wonderfully.

This wine has mellowed with good tannin and acids that are just right and the fat in the eggs was perfect with this. I did throw on some blackberries which picked up the fruit in the wine, as well as a spinach arugula salad with a bit of balsamic.

A regional pairings reimagined

With the Radacini being a blend of Saperavi, Feteasca Neagra, and a bit of Merlot, I wanted to think more regional with flavors, but elevate them.  I had read about mamaliga which is a cornmeal dish, like polenta, so fried polenta cakes seemed appropriate.  We topped them with shards of parmesan, fresh thyme, walnuts, and arugula to pull out other flavors of the region and the wine. Of course, when you think of this region cabbage rolls or “sarmale” come to mind.  My husband won’t eat those (I grew up with them, thanks to a Hungarian mother).  We pulled in those flavors with grilled purple cabbage wedges and then grilled steak tips to bring in our protein.

#WorldWineTravel

With all the research I did, I still can’t wait to learn more.  Saturday morning (my time) there is a session with the wonderful Dr. Jamie Goode from London.  Sunday morning you can jump in and join the conversation on Twitter by following and using #WorldWineTravel as our group of writers share our discoveries on this region.  There are links below to each of their pieces.

Sources, Resources & Additional Reading

As always be sure to follow us on Facebook, Instagram and Twitter to keep up to date on all of our posts.

Robin Renken CSW (photo credit RuBen Permel)

Robin Renken is a wine writer and Certified Specialist of Wine. She and her husband Michael travel to wine regions interviewing vineyard owners and winemakers and learning the stories behind the glass.

When not traveling they indulge in cooking and pairing wines with food at home in Las Vegas.

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Robin Renken
[email protected]
16 Comments
  • terristeffes
    Posted at 18:48h, 03 October Reply

    Oh my goodness. I will definitely be trying the Rosu with bacon and eggs! Great post!

    • Robin Renken
      Posted at 18:51h, 03 October

      Thank you, Terri! Got to love those overlooked amazing combinations!

  • Linda Whipple, CSW
    Posted at 15:14h, 04 October Reply

    The Viorica had a bit of grassiness that reminded me of Sauvignon Blanc. I love, love, love the bacon and eggs pairing with the Rosu. Red wine for brunch, anyone?

    • Robin Renken
      Posted at 17:00h, 04 October

      I know right? It was a wonderful and simple pairing. I added the arugula salad on the side (I like greens with brunch) for those peppery notes. I have to admit to wondering if perhaps my wines had not cooked a bit in route. The Viorica was pretty viscous with a very sweet nose and was overwhelmingly honeyed notes and honeysuckle. I enjoyed it, but I feel like the notes I got from it don’t match other people’s impressions.

  • Lynn
    Posted at 01:40h, 05 October Reply

    Moldova’s history is truly fascinating, as is the amount of land under vine. At one point this weekend I laughed when I read you were “…sipping on wine and munching ceviche”, how civilized! You’ve out done yourself with your pairings and photos ;-D

    • Robin Renken
      Posted at 07:54h, 05 October

      Thank you Lynn and thank you for putting this event together. I really enjoyed doing the pairings for this.

  • Deanna
    Posted at 19:03h, 05 October Reply

    The photos of the food and wine are stunning!!! I love how the bottles are surrounded by their tasting notes and how you’ve reimagined the food pairings. I was thinking of doing some polenta cakes too and your version sounds so good.

    • Robin Renken
      Posted at 09:21h, 06 October

      Thank you, Deanna. The tough part about the tasting notes is that I have to do them before opening the bottle, so they are based on the various notes I can find on the wine. None the less, they are fun to do and usually leave me with items to pair with a cheese plate with the wine.

      The polenta was delicious and simple. Lacking rings to set the polenta in, I simply bought one of those sausage shaped packages in the store and sliced it up. I did cook it in the drippings from the meat, which gave it some wonderful savory notes. I do often make my own polenta, but on this day, with all the other components, I was grateful to have an easy way out.

  • Cooking Chat
    Posted at 04:14h, 06 October Reply

    Those two whites were sure very different! Wow, never would have thought of bacon & eggs with the red wine!

    • Robin Renken
      Posted at 09:25h, 06 October

      I was so glad that they were so different. It really gave us a range to play with.
      Leave it to Fiona Beckett to come up with a perfect pairing! What a great brunch idea, right?

  • Nicole Ruiz Hudson
    Posted at 10:33h, 06 October Reply

    I had not come across the detail that Feteasca Alba had been banned during the Soviet era — how interesting! Glad a few managed to keep it going. I also just love your photography in this post — beautiful and very fun!

    • Robin Renken
      Posted at 09:37h, 07 October

      Thanks, Nicole. I am always impressed when the little guys go out of their way to protect some “Godforsaken Grape”. Diversity is important in all things.
      Thanks also for the photo compliment. The Etna photos were sourced, of course. I look forward to a day when I can go and take my own!

  • Wining with Mel
    Posted at 13:33h, 08 October Reply

    The history and geopolitics of this winemaking country is so fascinating! And your photos are gorgeous! Well done!

    • Robin Renken
      Posted at 09:29h, 12 October

      Thank you, Mel! I do find the geopolitics of this interesting.

  • Payal Vora
    Posted at 13:01h, 12 October Reply

    Love you aroma visuals with the bottles! And the top notch presentation of the food pairings #goals!

    • Robin Renken
      Posted at 15:00h, 12 October

      Thank you, Payal. It made for a busy and fun few days of shoots and pairings!

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