Rus: Ancient Wines of Moldova

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Rus: Ancient Wines of Moldova

Wine has been identified as the rescuer of economically depressed Moldova, now ranked as the poorest country in Europe, after Albania. Wine has a history second only to that of the Republic of Georgia. Moldovan wines were knwn by Alexander the Great, Julius Caesar, Attila, Charlemagne, Richard the Lion Hearted, Louis XIV, Napoleon & may other famous people in history. The world’s bankers have identified wine as the economic means to reconstruct & salvage this small nation lying between Romania and Ukraine.

Moldovan Wine History
The culture of grape vines in the Moldova region originated in prehistoric times. Imprints of Vitus Teutonica leaves, in fossilized mud found near Naslavcea along the banks of the Nistru River are actually millions of years old. Dacians, a branch of the Thracians, discovered how to make wine out of grapes by being taught by visiting folk from what is now the Republic of Georgia. Vintners have been growing grapes & producing wines in Moldova for approximately 3500+ years. These wines or vintages, have always been known by the name of the specific area from which they are grown and produced such as,  Milestii Mici, Purcari, Romanesti and others. There is an old saying, “That once a Moldovan wine is tasted, there are never any regrets.” Truth? Most definitley!

Prehistoric Period
Moldova was the most ancient wine producer. Wild vineyards were well known on land territory since neolithic times, 7,000 years ago.

A winemaking culture existed in the period of Tripoly. On earthenware crockery shards, 2,700 – 3,000 B.C., 2 very clear marks of vine leaves & pollen grains were found. One of these belonged to a cultural sort of grape. Ancient occupations on this territory were wine producing or vine processing.

Antique Period
About 2,500 years ago Greek colonists acquainted the local population with the culture of wine-making. There is evidence for this from an archeological dig on the land territory. Winemaking was a key industry of the ancient Greek economy. Then began the “industrial”, wine production for home consumption and for converting into other products.

There was a new impulse in the evolution of winemaking during the time of prosperity of the Roman Empire, when the Moldovan territory of today was occupied by the Romans. This has a great influence and is confirmed by the extant terminology.

Medieval Period
In the Middle Ages a peculiar wine cult was established among the Moldovan boyars. It provided an additional impulse in wine-making development: large areas were taken for vines, winemaking technology improved, and the cellar household developed. There was a special establishment at the ruler’s court which oversaw vines and winemakers. The first cup-bearer, Paharnic, answered for wine quality.

From the XIV century wine export to Poland and Russia was well in hand. There was no stop to wine export during Turkish rule (XV – XVIII). Wine was supplied to Ukraine. From this period Moldovan history as a permanent wine & wine materials exporter began to be a constant.

The rise of Christianity also promoted the development of winemaking. Wine was used in devotions and day-to-day existence. The Church made great demands for wine as stated in the church “Missal”, which was published in 1699. In fact a cloister in Moscow today still orders Purcarian wines.

Unfortunately the volume in which wine was produced is not known, but it was the object of exchange and trade and brought the principality a great income.

Late & Modern Times
A new stage in winemaking began after the annexation of Moldova to Russiain in 1812, when the Russian nobility began to “acquire vine estates” and imported modern vine sorts from France. This testifies to the developing dynamics of the winemaking branch (Moldova took 1st place in wine producing in Russia (50%). If there were 13,000 dessiatinas of vine and these produced 1 million pails of wine in 1837, then in 1900 there were about 74,000 dessiatinas, which produced 15 million. 10 million went for export, including to France, which in those times suffered a shortage of wine through a loss of vines.

Vinoculture & Winemaking In Moldova
In Cricova you will discover the largest wine cellar on earth. Also located there is the underground city that runs for more than 100 kilometers all under the city above ground. It is this subterranean city that the 33,000,000+ liters of wine are stored and thus the largest wine cellar in the world!

Moldovan Wine Mythology & Philosophy
It is believed that wine taken at Eucharist with bread, both purifies the soul and is a reminder of Christ’s sacrifice. Moldovans have a saying, “The vine brings joy!”  that is true only if you know the art of drinking the heavenly liquid the vine produces.

Moldovan Wine Regions & Types
Codru Region
This is where more than 50% of Moldova’s vines grow. The forests, hills and rolling countryside typical of this region protect the vineyards from winter frosts and dry summer winds. It is the best area for Feteasca, Sauvignon, Riesling, Traminer ros? and Cabernet production. There is also a famous microclimate zone in this region – the Romanesti – the former wine-making Imperial colony of Romanov dynasty. This is the place to sample the best white and sparkling wines, as well as the so-called “divines” (fortified wines) and sherries.

Purcari Region
This is a narrow strip of land stretching along the western bank of the Nistru river and home to the famous Purcari winery. Red grape production is prevalent here, particularly Merlot, Cabernet-Sauvignon and Rara neagra. The Purcari estate was famous for developing German vines and winemaking techniques, and produces high quality wines comparable to Russillions – Landnedoc.

Southern Region
This region is justly reknowned for the French vine varieties, which have adapted well to the conditions of the area: Cabernet, Muscat blanc, Traminer ros?, Pinot gris, Gamay freaux, etc. These high quality wines are grown here because the region compares to the Bordeaux region of France.

Northern Region
Most of the grape harvest from this region is destined for brandy production & includes fine white varieties, such as Feteasca, Aligote, Pinot, Riesling , Traminer, Sauvignon, and Chardonnay. Moldova’s climate, combined with the landscape of gentle hills & valleys, produces very favourable growing conditions in the so-called “cups” on the sunny slopes.

“Cups” are vines that are supported by wooden stakes. These vines are shaped like large satellite dishes in order to absorb the sun’s heat during the day. This shape allows the vine to retain the warmth of the earth overnight. These “cups” also effectively shield the vines from both hot & cold winds.

Making, Storing & Transporting Moldovan Wines
Different technological tanks are used for preparation, processing and transportation of wine materials. Oak barrels and butts, as well as, clay jugs are considered as classical containers. Recently, huge metallic, ferroconcrete, glass lined steel and plastic tanks became widely spread.

Oak butts, barrels & kegs form the base of vintage winemaking and production of divins (cognac). In oak tanks (25-2000 decalitters) takes place slow aging of wine materials and appears a fine aroma and pleasant harmonious taste of wine, at the same time salt colloids and other unstable substances settle down in sediment. Wine becomes mature, resistant to cloudiness and taste characteristic. Oak wood, which allows air to pass through in small portions, has a favorable influence on all above mentioned processes.

Technology of must making. In the grape processing process, must is divided in 4 draws: drift-must, must of first, second and third squash. Squash draws are obtained during pulp pressing by means of different pressing bodies: screws, plates etc. There is, also, a concept of first must draw, which represents a mixture of drift-must and must of first squash in the grapes processing flow lines.

In order to obtain must, crushed pulp is received by streamers, from which streams down drift-must, while remains of the pulp arrive to presses, from where is obtained must of several squashes, further, grapes husks, by transporter, are sent to re-processing.

There are 2 principles of must splitting into draws: periodical & continuous. On streamers with periodical action is obtained high output of drift-must with small content of suspensions. Further, pulp is received by presses of periodical action, where it is subjected to repeating squeezing with periodical loosening.

In case of continuous principle, pulp moves in a continuous stream through screw streamers and presses. The total must output seems to be higher, but its quality by draws is lower. In the end, output of pure drift is lower. The quantity of solid grape wastes amounts to 25%. The advantage of this principle consists in high efficiency.

Clarified must is directed to fermentation tanks, solid wastes are accumulated in a separate tank, sulphurized, and after settling, clear must is taken away.

Drift-must is used, mainly, for sparkling wines, first draw for table white and rose wines. For production of desert white and rose wines, second draw must is added. Red wines are produced by adding part of the third squash must, while for strong wines, mixture of all draws is used. After-processing must, of lowest quality, is used for grape spirit production.

Wine Must Fermentation
The essential principle of wine-making consists in a complex biochemical process of glucose transformation into ethyl alcohol – it means alcohol or spirit fermentation in anaerobic conditions. The essence lies in the fact that fermentation process takes place due to yeast and enzymes participation, which have the ability to disintegrate glucose into ethyl alcohol and carbon dioxide, generating fermentation by-products, such as glycerin, succinic, acetic, citric and lactic acids, aldehydes, ethers, acetone, superior spirits, which, consequently, determinate taste and fragrance of wine.

Yeast is unicellular organisms of different form, which belong to ascomycota division. They reproduce through budding and through formation of ascospores. In nature, there are many species of wild yeast, which can be used for must fermentation. However, scientists isolated, so called, pure yeast specimen, which determines controllability of this process. Application of pure yeast specimen, of alcohol-resistant, acid-enduring, sulfite-resistant races allows fermentation even in extreme conditions.

Normally, fermentation takes place at an optimal temperature of 20o? and lasts for 2 weeks. At a lower than 15o? temperature, fermentation is delayed, while at 30o? fermentation passes very roughly. Wine quality depends on fermentation intensity. For production of table vintage white wines and sparkling wine materials, required fermentation temperature, ranges from 15 to 18o?. In case if fermenting must temperature increases considerably, cooling in heat-exchanger with cold water or refrigeration is applied. The best conditions for fermentation are provided during continuous must fermentation in stream-line by means of special devices.

Wine Industry Is Heavily Subsidized
Since the time of the Imperial Russia, French, Swiss & German vintners and munufacturers have been asked to come to Moldova with open allocations of free vineyards. These entities brought grape varieties that are favored by wine-drinkers in Western Europe. Now Australian & South African vintners have come into Moldova and are manufacturing products that are superior to the locally produced products of the Moldovan vintners. These new products are now winning awards and are becoming known fr their superior quality. In the future you will begin to see Moldovan wines appearing on shleves in western Europe, the US, canada & other nations. These wines will be compete in quality, taste & price with other wines.

Moldovan Wine Coming Into Its Own
Chisinau, the capital of the Republic of Moldova, has in the last decade become a renowned international exhibition centre. The international exhibitions “Moldova Wine”is held annually in February & the Wine Festival, is held annually in October. Both of these vents have an excellent reputation and are visited by thousands of people from around the world.

There are competitions for wines, sparkling wines, cognacs, vodka & other liquors that are conducted at these exhibitions. Wine producersfrom Germany, Italy, France, Georgia, Armenia, the Czech Republic, Slovakia, Romania, Russia, Ukraine, Azerbaijan, etc., participate. The most popular drinks are offered to the public for tasting, and the public can buy prize-winning drinks. Excursion trips to visit famous vineyards, wineries, monasteries & medieval castles are put on for foreign visitors tot hese events..

Along with presenting an informative insight into Moldova’s culture and traditions these events also bring in necessary foreign money to boos the economy of Moldova. Every year the economic impact of these annual events is seen and felt all over Moldova. Truly wine is the savior of Moldova’s weak but recovering economy.


POLIPROJECT Exhibitions Ltd.
Str. M. Cibotari 19, MD-2012, Chisinau, MOLDOVA
Phone: (373 22) 243-118 Fax : (373 22) 222-070

“Winemaking with oenological essentials”
Association of Moldovan Wines Exporters
NIVandW Kissili

Copyright © 2006-2013 Donald R Houston, PhD. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed without the author’s consent.

About the Author ()

Viet Nam vet with the usual baggage but mine is now packed away. Public health specialist & medical anthropologist have worked all over the globe, most recent work since 1988 in the former Soviet Union (now the CIS/NIS) & based out of Flo

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