Cheers to you for your interest in Moldova. Our next live session is this Thursday at 7:30 pm on Zoom. To register, follow this link. It's free to attend. If that doesn't fit your schedule our last session is June 22 at 11 am. Sign up here.
Welcome Back! It's Part 2.
This is Part 2 in our series on Moldova - a country that you have never heard of, that is until now. If you missed Part 1 here is the link. It introduces the history of Moldova from 10 million years BCE to present day which sheds light on why you may not be aware of this amazing wine country.
Just the facts ma'am!
Moldova is 33.9 thousand square kilometers in size (a little bigger than Vancouver Island). It borders Romania to the west and the Ukraine to the east with boundaries naturally formed along the rivers Prut and Dniester. Moldovans will tell you the country is shaped like a bunch of grapes reflecting both their passion for wine and their sense of humor. The capital city is Chisinau (Keys in ow) and the population of the country is 2.65 million people (about the population of the Greater Vancouver region here in BC.). Chisinau has an international airport and flights to Vienna, Istanbul and London are some of the dominant routes.
Is wine important to Moldovans? You bet. In fact, National Wine Day is celebrated like a national holiday every year on October 3 & 4th marking the end of harvest. There are parades, feasts and winery celebrations that lasts for two days. Maybe it's because there are hundreds of wineries, maybe it's because Moldova has the most vines per capita anywhere in the world, maybe it's because like Hungary, wine is the national drink. Many families have their own vines and produce wine for home consumption with recipes that have been passed down through the generations. For all of these reasons, Moldova celebrates wine!
Moldova sits between 47 - 46 degrees latitude, similar to that of Bordeaux with a climate more like Burgundy. Here you find a moderate continental climate with cold winters, hot summer and all four seasons. Humidity is relatively low despite its proximity to the Black Sea and rainfall varies from 350 - 900 mm per year. Sunshine hours are high at 2100 to 2500 annually (reference here is 1200 hours of sunshine per year is the minimum). It is cooler in the north and warmer in the south - and maybe no surprise with lots of micro climates because of the landscape of rolling hills, valleys, rivers and lakes. The highest peak at 310 meters giving you an indication of its the suitability of farming here in Moldova.
The soils are "black Moldovan" soils and recognized for the layer of black topsoil that sits on a bedrock of limestone. Vine grow deep in search of water and this helps the vines survive droughts that can happen here.
There are four protected geographic regions (PGIs) in Moldova of which three are dedicated to wine. From north to south they are Codru, Stefan-Voda & Valul Lui Traian. Moldova adopted EU standards for the purposes of trade in 2013 which has resulted in the distinct regional classifications. There are 64 producers on 8600 hectares according to 2017 data and the trend is towards small wineries producing under 500 tonnes of grapes.
Grapes & Local Varieties
History resulted in a lot of French and Germany grape varieties planted here in Moldova. Am I in France? Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, Pinot Noir, Chardonnay, Aligote, Pinot Gris, Sauvignon (blanc) and Riesling have been grown here in Moldova since the early 19th century.
Most are produced in a traditional French style of barrel fermentation and oak ageing for the reds and stainless steel or neutral barrel fermentation with limited oak ageing for the whites. There is a strong sparkling wine tradition here in Moldova which relies on Chardonnay and Pinot Noir. It is important to note that there are indigenous grape varieties here as well as about 9600 hybrids. While hybrids won't be seen on the export market it is a shockingly large amount and due to the efforts during Soviet times to find varieties that produced high yields, with aromatic character that were disease resistant and hardy enough to survive the cold temperatures during the winter months.
Perhaps the most interesting grape in Moldova is Saperavi - considered a Georgian grape and often produced full bodied, rich and off dry. Saperavi produces deeply colored wines with bright acidity and aromas of flavours of dark cherry and berry notes supported by spice and suitable for oak ageing. It's often blended with international red grape varieties which seems to capture the best of both worlds.
Saperavi is not considered an indigenous variety but rather a Caucasian variety with roots in Georgia. Despite how magical the connection between Saperavi and Moldova is, the grapes that are likely to become signature grapes are in Moldova fall to the Fetească family. The reds are called Rara Neagră, Fetească Neagră and the pronunciation is something to work on. The whites (and yes Moldova does produce more whites than reds) are Fetească Alba (delicate flavours and aromas with good acidity) and Fetească Regala (whites with texture and structure). When listening to Caroline Gilby, MW, there is also mention of Alb de Onitcani (hybrid), Viorica (hybrid that has aromas and flavours in the muscat (floral, stone fruit) sense made in a dry, youthful style and Bastardo (French in origin and widely planted in Portugal).
Lion Gri Wines from Stefan Voda
In preparation for our series of live Zoom sessions on Moldova, here are a few bottles from Moldova thanks to LTC Wines (an agency founded by Silvia and Anatol Pogolsha). LTC represents Lion Gri wines here in the BC. Silvia and Anatol are Moldovan and have been living in Canada for the last 10 years. They are excited to share their heritage with you.
You can find these wines at Everything Wine, Jaks on Granville and Liberty Wine Merchants on Granville Island and Point Grey and other private wine stores.
If you need help today please call Mark Konstantinov, Eastern European Wine Buyer at River District, part of Everything Wine. He's happy to assist. He can be reached at 604 416 1672. If you prefer to email you can email him at email@example.com
Let's make it easy for you to start your Moldovan wine adventure.
Moldova - small in size, big in wine. Will it be the next exotic eastern European wine region? It may be. That depends on you.
Thanks for Caroline Gilby, MW, Jeff Burrows of Food Wine Click and Silvia & Anatol Pogolsha of LTC Wines for your support on the discovery of Moldova. Thank you to the shops that are stocking bottles here in the BC market like Everything Wine, Jaks and Liberty and to you for being a wine lover interesting in finding "good wine".