A Fascinating Journey Through the Vineyards of Moldova: Insights from the Masterclass by Cees van Casteren

Moldova has a wine history that spans thousands of years. The country is known for having the world’s largest wine cellar and even boasts an underground wine cellar city.

Recently, Wines of Moldova and PitchPR organized a masterclass on Moldovan wines at The Generator Amsterdam. The masterclass was led by Cees van Casteren (MW) and aimed to increase awareness of Moldovan wines. After the class, attendees enjoyed a lunch at the Pillows Hotel, accompanied by Moldovan wines. Thank you, PitchPR, for inviting me!

Introduction to Moldova’s Wine Culture

Moldova, a small country in Eastern Europe, is a hidden gem in the world of wine production. Situated between Romania and Ukraine, this landlocked nation has been producing wine for thousands of years, making it one of the oldest wine-producing regions globally. The wineries of Moldova showcase the country’s rich heritage and deep affection for viticulture.

Wine is more than just a beverage in Moldova – it is a way of life. Moldovans take immense pride in their winemaking traditions, which have been passed down through generations. Wine plays a vital role in all family celebrations and communal gatherings, and it is common to see Moldovans raising a glass of their favorite wine during a casual lunch or dinner.

The wine culture in Moldova is deeply ingrained, intertwined with the country’s identity. Whether you are a wine enthusiast or a casual drinker, you cannot help but be captivated by the passion and commitment with which Moldovans approach the art of winemaking.

The Taste Profile of Moldova Wines

Moldovan wines are diverse and unique, reflecting the country’s terroir. They offer a wide range of styles, from dry, full-bodied reds to crisp, fruity whites, and everything in between. Moldova’s favorable climate, fertile soil, and geographical location allow for the production of a wide variety of wines.

Moldova’s red wines are known for their depth and complexity. They boast rich, dark fruit flavors complemented by spicy notes and a hint of earthiness. These wines are often aged in oak, which adds complexity and imparts a subtle smoky character.

On the other hand, Moldova’s white wines are celebrated for their freshness and vibrancy. They exhibit bright, citrusy flavors and pronounced minerality and flintiness, making them an excellent pairing with seafood and poultry dishes. Additionally, Moldova produces exceptional rosés and dessert wines, both equally delightful and offering an exciting tasting experience.

Robert of PitchPR pouring some wines at winesofmoldova

Robert of PitchPR pouring some wines at Wines of Moldova

Introduction to Moldova’s Wineries

Moldova’s wineries offer a diverse and fascinating range of wines, produced by both large-scale commercial wineries and small, family-owned estates. Whether you prefer a big operation or a cozy family-owned estate, Moldova has a winery that will suit your taste.

The wineries of Moldova are more than just production sites – they are destinations in their own right. Many of these wineries offer guided tours, allowing visitors to learn about the winemaking process, explore vineyards, and, of course, taste the wines.

What makes Moldova’s wineries unique are their remarkable cellars. Carved out of limestone, these cellars provide optimal conditions for aging wine. Some of them are so vast that they have even been recognized by the Guinness World Records!

A Brief History of Wine in Moldova

Moldova’s wine history can be traced back to ancient times when the Thracians, known for their wine culture, inhabited the region. Archaeological evidence suggests that viticulture has been practiced in Moldova for over 5,000 years, making it one of the oldest wine-producing regions in the world.

Throughout the centuries, Moldova’s winemaking traditions have been influenced by various cultures and civilizations, each leaving their own imprint on the country’s wine culture. The Romans introduced new grape varieties and winemaking techniques, while the Greeks and Byzantines helped Moldova’s wines gain recognition beyond its borders.

Despite facing numerous challenges, such as wars, political upheaval, and the devastation caused by phylloxera – a pest that ravaged many of Europe’s vineyards in the 19th century – Moldova’s wine industry has not only survived but thrived. Today, the country is acknowledged as one of the leading wine producers in Eastern Europe.

The Unique Grape Varieties in Moldova

Moldovan wines are known for their uniqueness and intrigue, which can be attributed to the wide variety of grapes grown in the country. While international varieties like Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, and Chardonnay are popularly cultivated, Moldova also boasts several indigenous grape varieties that are rarely found elsewhere.

Grapes such as Fetească Neagră, Rara Neagră, and Plavai are responsible for producing some of Moldova’s most distinctive wines. These indigenous grapes offer unique flavor profiles that allow winemakers to truly capture the essence of Moldova’s terroir.

Not only is the diversity of the grapes impressive, but their quality as well. Moldova’s favorable climate and fertile soil contribute to the exceptional quality of its grapes, resulting in wines that are rich, flavorful, and highly expressive.

Moldova Grapes

Exploring Moldova’s Wine Regions: Key Vineyards

Moldova is home to diverse wine regions, each with its own unique terroirs and wine styles. The country is divided into three main regions: Codru, Stefan Voda, and Valul lui Traian.

Codru, located in the central part of the country, is renowned for its fresh, aromatic, and highly expressive white wines. The region’s microclimate, characterized by mild winters and cool summers, provides optimal conditions for cultivating white grape varieties.

Stefan Voda, situated in the southeast, is the smallest of Moldova’s wine regions. However, it produces some of the most acclaimed wines in the country, particularly reds. The warm climate and limestone-rich soils of this region create ideal conditions for growing red grape varieties.

Valul lui Traian, located in the southwest, is famous for its full-bodied and powerful red wines. The region benefits from a warm, sunny climate and its proximity to the Black Sea, which together create favorable conditions for producing robust and complex red wines.

Moldova map

Insights from Cees van Casteren’s Masterclass

As a Master of Wine, Cees van Casteren provided valuable insights into Moldova’s wine industry during his masterclass. He highlighted the unique characteristics of Moldovan wines, the potential of its indigenous grape varieties, and the future of the country’s wine industry. Participants had the opportunity to taste some excellent wines while receiving a wealth of information from van Casteren. Later in this article, my personal favorites from the tasting will be featured.

Van Casteren believes that Moldova’s wines are authentic and unique. He considers the country’s indigenous grape varieties to be its greatest asset, offering a distinct flavor profile that sets Moldovan wines apart from others.

Furthermore, van Casteren emphasized the importance of sustainable viticulture in ensuring the future of Moldova’s wine industry. He believes that by adopting sustainable practices, Moldovan winemakers can protect their vineyards and ensure the long-term viability of their industry.

The history of winemaking, which is its cradle, dates back to ancient times. In 1812, there were already 65 hectares of vineyards with tax benefits. Many Germans planted Riesling and French Pinot Noir, but other countries also participated. By 1945, there were already 100 hectares of vineyards, half of which were for table grapes and the other half for wine. Moldova ranks second in the world in Riesling production and third in Pinot Noir.

There are wine cellars that are 250 and 120 km long. You can drive through them by car, and the corridors have street signs.

My personal favorites from the tasting

  • Asconi Sol Negru, Pinot Grigio, 2022, has a delicate rosé hue and a fruity aroma. Tasting notes reveal flavors of apple, citrus, lemon, pear, anise, rosemary, and peach. It offers a medium level of acidity, a pleasant dry finish, and stands out from the traditional Italian Pinot Grigio with its rounded fruitiness and hint of spice.
  • Davidescu Rara Neagra Saperavi, 2021 is a light red wine that offers smoky aromas of strawberry and cherry, accompanied by woody notes. The palate reveals flavors of strawberry, cherry, and chocolate. With medium tannins and acidity, this wine has an elegant finish that carries a subtle sweetness reminiscent of sour cherries.
  • Novak, Feteasca Neagra, 2021 is a light red wine that offers enticing fruity notes. It features aromas of rhubarb, blueberries, and thyme. On the palate, you will experience flavors of blueberries, raspberries, rhubarb, and white pepper. It has a moderate acidity and medium+ tannins. This wine pairs wonderfully with desserts that include rhubarb.
  • Purcari Freedom Blend, 2021, exhibits a deep red color and is distinguished by its smoky cherries, tobacco, leather, and rosemary aromas. On the palate, one can taste the delightful flavors of juicy raspberry, strawberry, rosemary, and sage, complemented by medium+ acidity and medium+ tannins. The wine concludes with an elegant and pleasing finish.
  • Fautor Illustro Rosu, 2016, offers aromas of concentrated red fruit and vanilla. On the palate, you will find notes of cherries, blueberries, vanilla, and woody undertones. The wine has elegant medium+ tannins and medium+ acidity, which are nicely balanced. It has a Bordeaux-style but also brings to mind the South African Toren V fusion.
  • Chateau Vartely Taraboste Rosu, 2018, has a highly aromatic nose with hints of alcohol and spices. It presents a palate with flavors of sage, rosemary, cherries, strawberries, and wood. The taste buds discern a concentrated blend of cherries, strawberries, rosemary, and vanilla.

A Guide to the Best Wines of Moldova

Moldova offers a wide variety of wines to cater to different tastes. From bold and complex reds to crisp and refreshing whites, the country’s wines are both diverse and delicious.

For those who enjoy full-bodied reds, Purcari’s Negru de Purcari is a must-try. Made from the indigenous Fetească Neagră grape, this award-winning wine is renowned for its rich, dark fruit flavors and velvety tannins.

If you prefer white wines, Château Vartely’s Fetească Albă is highly recommended. Made from the indigenous Fetească Albă grape, this wine is fresh, aromatic, and expressive, providing a true reflection of Moldova’s terroir.

All the wines offer excellent quality for their price.

Conclusion: The Future of Moldova’s Wine Industry

The future of Moldova’s wine industry appears promising. The country possesses unique grape varieties, diverse wine styles, and a commitment to sustainable viticulture, positioning it to make a significant impact on the global wine stage.

As consumers increasingly seek out distinctive and authentic wines, Moldova’s wines, with their distinct flavor profiles and rich historical background, are well-suited to meet this demand. With the ongoing efforts of its winemakers and the support of experts like Cees van Casteren, the future of Moldova’s wine industry is undoubtedly worth celebrating.

Special thanks to PitchPR for the invitation and for organizing this event in collaboration with Wines of Moldova.

For more information about wines of Moldova, visit: www.wineofmoldova.com/en

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