Tasting No 234 – September 28, 2021 – Wines from Moldova
The objective of this tasting is to explore wines from local grape varieties and traditional Vitis Vinifera from Moldova.
Moldova, located between Romania and Ukraine, is one of the poorest countries in Europe, with its economy based on agriculture. Most Moldovan families make wine at home, and wineries chiefly produce wines for export.
Type of tasting: Open
Presenter: Marcello Averbug
- 2018 Gitana Winery ‘Autograf’ Feteasca Regala, IGT Valul lui Trainan
- 2020 Gitana Rara Neagra
- 2016 Gitana ‘Lupi’ Rezerva 2018
- 2018 Fautor ‘310 Altitude’ Cabernet Sauvignon-Feteasca Neagra IGT Valul lui Trainan
- Calamari fritti
- Lentil soup
- Eggplant a la parmigiana
- Médaillon de fillet
Participants: Marcello Averbug, Jose Brakarz, Ruth Connoly, Clara Estrada, Alberto Gómez, Italo Mirkow, John Redwood, Jairo Sanchez, Cristian Santelices, Carlos Silvani, Ricardo Zavaleta, and German Zincke.
Information on the Wines
The information below has been compiled from various internet sources
2018 Gitana Winery, ‘Autograf’ Feteasca Regala, IGP Valul lui Trainan
100% Feteasca Regala. This is a relatively high yield grape variety high, and for this reason, it was once very disseminated and highly appreciated grape variety during the communist period. Autograf is primarily fresh and dry and entertains a good level of acidity and a specific flavor.
2020 Gitana Winery, Rara Neagra
100% Rara Neagra. Beautiful aromas of dark berries and hints of strawberry and citrus notes. An intense and complex taste, with notes of dried fruits, well highlighted. Open fermentation in wood casks followed by two years maturation in large oak barrels.
Plum nose, for the palate having a slightly chocolate note with an oak finish. A light red, well balanced, ideal to make the fall transition from white to red.
Ruby red, blackberry jam, oak, and smoke on the nose, balanced on the palate with medium sweet tannins, medium acidity, blackberry and caramel with a medium finish, a good value.
Color: intense ruby. Olfactory: intense, impressive through complex aromas of strawberries and citrus fruits. Gustative: complex with notes of wood and dried fruits. Goes well with hot dishes, such as grilled veal, pork, schnitzel, or grilled dishes.
2016 Gitana Winery, Lupi Rezerva
Cabernet Sauvignon 30%, Merlot 30% and Saperavi 40%. A rare red blend aged for 24 months in big Russian oak barrels, followed by another 14 months in American oak barriques. Intense ruby red with purple reflections. Smell: rich with aromas of blackberries and fruits, which are added shades of chocolate and coffee beans. Taste balanced, structured, with strong tannins and a refined, long, plum and blackberry aftertaste.
Decanter world Wine Awards 91 Pts. The Lupi is considered the treasure of the winery and one of the most famous wines with the label ‘Made in Moldova‘. Among the vineyards used for producing this wine lives a small family of wolves (Lupi). It is to them that the owners dedicate this wine, which has a strong imprint of the wolves’ character.
Awards: 2016 Vintage: Gold, Sélection Mondiale des Vins, Canada; Silver, International Wine Challenge.
The Gitana Winery
The history of Vinaria Tiganca began in 1953 when the first winemaking factory was established in the village of Tiganca in the Valul lui Traian (Southern wine region). The year 2011 marks the emergence of the first series of bottled wines under the new Gitana trademark. The year 1953 marks a turning point in the history of winery, when the Dulgher family becomes the owner and makes significant efforts to re-equip the plant, renovate the cellars, provide it with oak barrels and, of course, establish new vine plantations. Step by step, the traditional winemaking practices began to be combined with modern technology. There is limited human intervention on the vines because nature has already created excellent conditions. There is not too much rain in the summer, but the soil still holds enough water for the vines to thrive at an altitude of 360m.
2018 Fautor 310 Altitude, Cabernet Sauvignon, Feteasca Neagra, IGP Valul lui Traian
The wine: a red blend of Cabernet Sauvignon 80%, Feteasca Neagra 20%, is very pleasant red wine, in the nose, there are some notes of leather, dried plum, and black currant. Long almond finish. Before aeration: plum, black fruit, a bit of vanilla, or caramel. After aeration: the same + intense tobacco and leather, pleasurable tannins, not too heavy, nicely done. Good with meat dishes.
Strong alcohol on the first nose, medium-bodied, bold red color, pepper taste, almond, violets. The second nose is delicate, with notes of roasted wood, red and black pepper, a clear sign that this wine was aged in a medium roasted French barrel. Well-integrated level of alcohol and moderate acidity, which make the wine tasty, complex, extracted, insistent, and a little sharp.
Awards: Gold – Portugal Wine Trophy 2018, 2019.
The Winery: In 2017, 2018, and 2020, Fautor was the most awarded Moldovan winery. It is family-owned and operated, producing wines of unique terroir from both international and indigenous grape varieties. The “Fautor” name comes from the Latin “author-creator”, emphasizing the family’s approach and responsibility for quality. The Tigheci micro-zone where the winery and vineyards are located, is unique and one of the best areas to produce high-quality wines.
From 2003 – 2006 the winery has been equipped with advanced technology, and new vineyards have been planted to reach their present size of more than 350 hectares.
Information compiled and edited by Marcello Averbug, from various sources, such as Wikipedia, Wine Folly, Wine Searcher.
Moldova, located between Romania and Ukraine, is one of the poorest countries in Europe, with its economy relying heavily on agriculture. Two-thirds of Moldovans are of Romanian descent, and the two countries share a common cultural heritage. In 1940, Russia annexed Bessarabia from Romania and combined it with most of the Moldovan Autonomous Soviet Socialist Republic to form Moldavian Soviet Socialist Republic.
According to archaeological finds, the cultivation of vineyards began in Moldova from at least 3000 up to 6000 years ago. Due to this past, the wine culture has gradually expanded from generation to generation, and currently, viticulture plays an important role in the economy.
The Black Sea basin molds Moldova’s continental climate. Therefore, it’s perfect for wine production. With snowy winters, enough sunny days in the summer, and lengthy landscapes of low hills and vast plains, grape cultivation has prospered in this region since antiquity.
Under feudal Moldova, during the 14th and 15th centuries, local wine was exported to countries such as Russia, Ukraine, and Poland. In the 19th century, after the country became part of the Russian Empire, wines remained a significant asset for export.
Despite comprising a tiny fraction of the vast Soviet Union, Moldova produced about 70 percent of all former USSR wine. However, following the Union’s dissolution in the early 1990s, Moldovan wine for a while remained unrecognized by the international community. As a small country that branded its main product as “made in the USSR,” it took some time until Moldova’s high-quality social lubricant found its place in Western markets. At present, the country exports 80 percent of its wine stocks to EU countries.
Moldova boasts the highest per capita production of wine in the world. However, it ranks 18th for wine produced globally. There are 142 wineries in Moldova. Its production comprises 60% white wines, 34% reds, and 6% table wines.
Varieties: 70% of good value Whites are produced with more traditional European grapes, such as Pinot Gris, Sauvignon Blanc, Chardonnay, Riesling, Muscat, Sylvaner, and Müller-Thurgau. Among Reds, Cabernet Sauvignon, Pinot Noir, Saperavi, Malbec, Syrah, Cabernet Franc, Montepulciano, Merlot and Semillon are among the most prominent, while grape varieties of more local origins take a back seat in Moldova.
Moldova’s native grapes are usually blended with foreign grapes. Feteasca, which means “maiden” in Romanian, is a name shared by three distinct varieties: Feteasca Regala (royal maiden), Feteasca Neagra (black maiden) and Feteasca Alba, or white maiden, which refers to the color of the grapes. Another dark-skinned variety is Rara Neagra, which sometimes appears in export markets.
Feteasca Alba is a light-skinned grape variety found particularly in Romania, as well as in Moldova and other Eastern European countries, including Hungary, Slovakia, Ukraine.
Feteasca Regala is a white skinned grape variety widespread throughout the Eastern Europe, in particular in Romania. It is well suited to a continental climate, as it can withstand extremes of temperature in summer and winter. However, it requires ample rainfall and does not perform well in drought-prone areas.
Feteasca Regala tends to be richer in flavor than its alba counterpart, as tannins in the grapes’ skins provide some complexity to the wines. These are aromatic with green apple and tropical fruit characters and can be vinified in an off-dry style. In addition, Feteasca Regala responds well to barrel maturation, which can add complexity to the wines.
The variety is sometimes blended with Muscat Ottonel, particularly in sweeter wines. This grape variety is considered one of the most famous and sought-after of Romania. Furthermore, it is regarded as the most characterful indigenous grape variety of this region, used to produce various tasteful dry white wines worldwide.
Feteasca Neagra is an old native variety and most popular of Romanian and Moldovan grapes. It is usually produced as a varietal wine but is often blended with cabernet sauvignon and merlot to give it more body and weight. Its seeds [of Fetească Neagră] were discovered in ancient vestiges in Romania, more than 2000 years old. For the Romanians and Moldovans, this grape is like a sophisticated fairy – hard to tame, seductive, and mysterious – imposing through presence, complexity, and acidity, while very well balanced.
Depending on the wine-making techniques, Feteasca Neagra wines get various flavors and fine tannins, good acidity, medium to full body, and often more than 13,5% alcohol. It is typical to have aromas of dried plums, blackberries, and black blueberries along with nice black pepper, vanilla, and coffee flavors, and for the old wines, toast, and skin senses.
Rara Neagra is an eastern European dark-skinned wine grape planted extensively in Romania and, to a lesser extent, in Moldova and Ukraine. It has reputedly been grown in the region for 2000 years and is very popular with locals. It is also known as Babeasca Neagra, which in English means “black grandmother’s grape”.
Rara Neagra is a late-ripening variety and therefore is less-prone to damaging spring frosts. Unfortunately, its thin skins create a high susceptibility to mildew diseases. As such an old variety, Rara Neagra is the parent of multiple clonal varieties. It produces light and fruity red wine, typically high in acid and designed for early consumption. A handful of higher-quality versions of the grape are produced, however, a majority are destined for mediocre wine for local consumption.
Synonyms include Babeasca Neagra, Sereksia Noire, Sereksia Tcheurnia.
Saperavi is an acidic, Teinturier-type dark skin grape variety native to Georgia (6000 BC), where it is used to make many of the region’s most well-known wines. It is also grown in Russia, and in lesser quantities in Armenia, Moldova, Ukraine, Uzbekistan, Azerbaijan, Australia, and recently in the United States.
Saperavi is one of very few Teinturier winemaking grapes in the world. Teinturier grapes have red skin and red flesh, whereas other red grapes have red skin and clear flesh. This grape can bring intense color and marked acidity to wines. As a result, Saperavi is an ideal ingredient for cheaper blended wines.
In recent decades, it has also proved itself capable of producing varietal wines of high quality. Dry, off dry, or naturally semi-sweet, this grape is versatile for producing a host of different wines.
Saperavi is compatible with the cool-climate vineyards of the Northeast and the East Coast of the USA and was planted in the Finger Lakes, New York, for the first time in 1958.
The World’s Largest Wine Cellars
The world’s largest wine cellar is in Moldova. The Milestii Mici is a vast underground network of wine-filled “streets”, each picking a name after a different variety of wine. Milestii Mici is also the commune’s name where the cellar was founded, just 11 miles from Chisinau, Moldova’s capital city.
The Milestii Mici cellar is administered by the state. The place would be heaven for any wine enthusiast, as there are more than 125 miles of underground wine galleries and around two million bottles of wine stored within its premises. The site was initially carved out during lime mining operations.
The first bottle of wine was stored there in 1968, and new ones are being added continually. The cellar keeps stable temperatures of between 54°F–57°F year-round, and humidity levels stick to around 90 percent. Some of the most extravagant bottles at Milestii Mici can be purchased for up to $540.
And if you are now wondering where the world’s second-largest wine cellar is, the answer once again is Moldova. The wine cellar Cricova, also near Chisinau, houses about 1.25 million bottles of wine. Some of the vintages stored here were produced as early as 1902. As the Nazis attempted to invade the Soviet Union, the site also served to protect Jews who hid in the cellar tucked inside wine barrels.
CV Members Rating
The tasting took place before knowing the wines’ prices and the participants evaluated them between Good and Excellent with the following results:
1st – 2020 Gitana, Lupi Rezerva ($29)
2nd-2020 Gitana, Rara Neagra ($16)
3rd -2018 Gitana, Autograph Fateasca Regala ($15)
4th -2018 Fautor 310, Cab. Sauvignon- Fateasca Neagra ($14)
The 2020 Lupi Rezerva was rated as Best Wine and the 2020 Rara Neagra as Best Buy