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Hidden Giants; Exploring the World of Moldovan Wine
While France, Italy and Spain may hold the lion’s share of an industry which is over 35 billion bottles strong, there are many other players in the game. The world of Moldovan wine may be lesser known than other European countries, but that makes it somewhat of a hidden gem for those who seek something off the beaten path.
If These Vines Could Talk
In Eastern Europe, bordered by Romania and Ukraine, lies the small country Moldova. The picturesque hilly landscape provides the perfect climate for a variety of grapes, and fossils how that grape vines have been growing here for over 6 million years, though they were not fermented and bottled yet (talk about an aged wine). Grape seed fossils reveal that wine making in Moldova began as early as 5000 years ago, and is continued today.
The story was not always pretty, however. Production has been shut down in the entire country multiple times. The Ottoman rule left the vines decimated for 300 years with their strict “no alcohol” policy. Then there was the Great Wine Blight. And then the wars. And of course, Russian prohibition. And then the blanket ban on all Moldovan wines in Russia. But at every turn, the Moldovan vintners and wineries have dusted themselves off and started anew. Now expanding their reach to Eastern Europe, Great Britain, North America, and even China; the vines have never been better.
The Grapes of Moldova
Though many regions of Moldova are used for wine production, the southern region is considered most important. Red wines from the southern region of Moldova are often sweet or semi-sweet. White wines are produced here as well, and have high alcohol content when finished.
The majority of the grapes in Moldova are white grapes which come from other parts of Europe. There are some domestic varieties as well; but as Moldovan wines are often created for export, it is the European grapes which are seen the most.
White varieties often found in Moldova include:
Red wines of Moldova include:
Only a few native varieties of grape can still be found in mass production on Moldovan vines today. The Fetească alba is an indigenous white grape which often finds its way into the delicious sparkling wines of Moldova. The grape has been cultivated in Moldova since the ancient Dacians lived there.
The Rară neagră is a traditional red used to create fruity, light bodied red wines. While most people will go for a familiar name like Pinot Noir when reaching for a bottle, Rară neagră may surprise and delight anyone in the mood for a refreshing wine with a fruity body.
Small as the land may seem, it plays host to a few surprises. Moldova is home to the world’s largest underground cellar. It has a Guinness world book of record’s certification and all. With nearly 2 million bottles housed in a 250km cellar; the Mileștii Mici is irresistible eye candy for any wine lover. Plus, with over 25 percent of the population working in the wine industry, you will be among friends on a trip to Moldova. Add to this the variety and richness of the food and you are one plane ticket away from a “bucket list” fulfilling journey for any wine enthusiast.
Winemakers • Monsaraz, PT
Winemakers • PT