I’d be willing to wager that most people in the UK, and even more so in the States, have not tried Moldovan wine. And further, I’d suggest they would not be able to point to where Moldova is on a map. Sure, most of us know it’s a former Soviet satellite state in eastern Europe, but which countries border it? The answer, if you didn’t know, is Romania to the west and Ukraine to the north.
You might also be unaware that Moldova has a well-established wine culture, dating back thousands of years. In fact, it’s the 11th largest European wine-producing nation (around 20th globally), and many families also brew their own blends, the recipes for which have been passed down through the generations.
Wines here are 70% white, and there are three protected geographical regions: Valul lui Traian (south-west), Stefan Voda (south-east) and Codru (in the centre), while much of what’s produced has traditionally been exported to neighbouring nations Romania, Russia and Poland, as well as the USA.
Despite its long history, Moldovan wine has at times endured a reputation as standard-issue Soviet table wine. However, a Russian import ban towards the end of the last century turned out to be a blessing in disguise, and Moldova’s reputation for fine wines has emerged on the wider stage once more during the new millennium.
The three I’m tasting here are from Chateau Purcari, one of Moldova’s finest wineries, with a history dating back around 200 years, when French settlers and local monks to began planting Bordeaux varieties alongside the indigenous grapes. Its location, near the Black Sea in the south-east of the country, looks pretty stunning. Check out the image of the winery above and you can almost taste the terroir.
Enough Background For Now. Let’s Taste Some Moldovan Wines!
Chateau Purcari Negru de Purcari 2018
Apparently, Negru de Purcari is known as the “Queen of England’s wine”, because Elizabeth II is partial to a tipple. Whether this is still the case at the age of 95, who knows, but it’s a great endorsement nonetheless.
Made with Cabernet Sauvignon (70%), with the Georgian grape Saperavi (25%) and Moldovan Rara Neagră (5%) adding a layer of complexity, this famous and powerful brew is one of Moldova’s flagship wines, with a long and noble history dating back to the early 1800s.
I am assuming (please let me know if I am wrong) that Negru means “dark”, or something along those lines, and this red comes packed with the sort of intense cherry fruit flavour you often get with eastern European wines. At 14% volume, it’s also strong, creating a pleasant alcohol kick on the tongue and a reassuringly warm fire in the belly.
French-oak ageing has been used to take the edge off the tannins, producing a beautifully soft and spicy red worthy of the Chateau Purcari name.
Negru de Purcari, 14% volume, €25.35/£21.50 at the time of writing
Chateau Purcari Chardonnay De Purcari 2019
We know that, as one of the world’s most versatile grapes, Chardonnay is produced all over the globe. But, of course, not everywhere has the terroir to get the most out of it. This classy Chateau Purcari Chardonnay picked up a platinum at the Decanter World Wine Awards. And it’s easy to see why.
Six months maturation in French oak has resulted in a soft and buttery Chardonnay, where white fruit and citrus flavours meet with honey, stone fruit and floral characteristics on the nose. For the sake of comparison, these characteristics mean it has more in common with a wine from the sun-kissed Languedoc-Roussillon region, rather than, say, a Burgundy.
Chateau Purcari Chardonnay de Purcari 2019, 13.5% volume, €12.50/£10.74 at the time of writing
Chateau Purcari Alb De Purcari 2018
Our final offering from Chateau Purcari had me fooled at first. With its thick, dark glass, I initially assumed it was a red wine. But no… this is very much a white — and a Decanter World Wine Awards silver medal winner at that.
I’m not sure if this is a common blend in eastern Europe, but to me it’s an unusual one — mixing Chardonnay with Pinot Grigio and Pinot Blanc. Hand harvested and matured in French oak for six months, there’s a lovely mix of freshness and complexity here, with white and stone fruit flavours pouring in from the Pinots and body and softness from the Chardonnay. This one could definitely become a summer favourite chez Ninja.
Chateau Purcari Alb de Purcari 2018, 13.5% volume, €24.35/£20.93 at the time of writing
All of the above Chateau Purcari wines can be purchased online from 8wines.com, who, at the time of writing, offer a selection of 22 Moldovan wines.