Subscriber login Close [x]
remember me
You are not logged in.

Moldova lands in London via Purcari

Published:  05 February, 2024

The UK trade was offered a dive into the somewhat lesser-known wines and varieties of Moldova, Romania and Bulgaria in London last week via the wines of Purcari Wineries Group – one of the region’s largest exporters.

Wines from the three countries took a step closer to the UK market during Thursday’s (1 February) event, which was attended by trade press, sommeliers and special guests such as Wine Chateau – a Nottinghamshire-based importer whose list is boldly 99% Moldovan.

Regional expert Caroline Gilby MW led the proceedings, which included a presentation and tasting of the group’s wineries. These consist of Château Purcari, the oldest winery in Moldova, established in 1827, and the larger and more modern Bostavan Winery, also in Moldova. Across the border into Romania (which shares a border with Ukraine) there is the Crama Ceptura winery in the heart of the Dealu Mare wine region and, lastly, Angel’s Estate in Bulgaria’s Thracian Valley.

“You can see how close the Black Sea is to this little country, which locals like to say resembles the shape of a bunch of grapes,” Gilby said of Moldova, where Purcari is the largest exporter of bottled wine. “I think you have to drink a few glasses of wine to see that. But there are more grape vines per capita in Moldova than anywhere else in the world. So it’s literally a country and economy built on wine roots. Great wines are everywhere you go in Moldova.”

Further exploration into the unique soils and zones followed. As of 2013, the country’s regions were divided up into three PGI zones: Codru in the centre of the country and Ștefan Vodă, where the Purcari winery offers views into neighbouring Ukraine. Valul Lui Traian (Trajan’s Wall) completes the trio, where Roman remains linger in vineyards which enjoy some the country’s warmest and most Mediterranean climate.

The continental weather here based largely on hilly terrain (79% of Moldova is hills) is perfect for viticulture says Gilby, who adds that the soils “tend to be quite rich in chernozem with fertile top soils, but underneath it’s limestone bedrock. If it was just the chernozem on top, it wouldn’t be so good, but because you’ve got the bedrock, you’ve got the slopes, you’ve got air drainage, there’s a lot of potential”.

In terms of varieties, the country is very much a mixed bunch, with international varieties used as benchmarks for overall quality. These include Aligoté (5,013ha), Sauvignon Blanc (4,601ha) and Cabernet Sauvignon (5,013ha). From here, wineries are able to showcase their indigenous offerings led by whites Fetească Albă (732ha), Fetească Regala (669ha) and reds Rara Neagra (172ha) and Fetească Neagra (336ha).

Fetească Albă made for a refreshing traditional method fizz at the tasting, which maintained its delicate white peach and apple blossom notes via restrained lees aging. Meanwhile, Fetească Regală, which is planted much more substantially in Romania and is the country’s leading variety in terms of plantings (12,289ha), showed real promise via Crama Ceptura’s Alb de Ceptura. Fetească Regală makes up 30% of the blend along with Chardonnay (70%) and was praised for bringing freshness and structure to the final product, underpinned by a signature white pepper character.

Meanwhile, the standout reds were led by Château Purcari’s Freedom Blend, which deserves a mention due to its recent rebrand in solidarity with Ukraine.

Launched as a symbolic wine in 2014 (2011 vintage) to commemorate 20 years of freedom from the Soviet Union, since 2021 the label now bears Ukraine’s signature yellow and blue, with profits going to charities supporting children impacted by the conflict.

A powerful blend of 65% Saperavi from Georgia, 20% Rara Neagra from Moldova and also 15% Bastardo Magarachsky, the label will revert to its original design “when the war is over… hopefully very soon”, said Atur Marin, Purcari’s commercial director.

Elsewhere, intrigue and promise were to be found in the new Academia Collection from Château Purcari, made by going back to ‘ancient technology’ via amphora and minimal intervention methods such as no added yeast, all put together in an interesting port-like bottle. The glass is also black to help preserve the wine long-term, with tests now underway to see how long things can develop.

Last but not least, the spotlight swung onto one of Moldova’s most famous labels, Negru de Purcari (55% Cabernet Sauvignon, 40% Saperavi, 5% local Rară Neagră). Dating back to the 19th century, the blend was recreated in the 1950s and then found a new lease of life in Château Purcari’s new private era from 2003 onwards. The 2019 edition lived up to its reputation as a blend of the best fruit of the winery, with a supple bramble character leaving a lasting impression of what Moldovan wine has to offer.