Moldova, a small yet significant wine-producing country, is located in Eastern Europe, nestled between Romania to the west and Ukraine to the north, east, and south. This geographical positioning places Moldova in a zone with a moderate continental climate, characterized by warm summers and mild winters, an ideal setting for grape cultivation.
The country's winemaking regions are primarily spread across its central and southern parts. Notable regions include Codru, known for its hilly terrain and forests which moderate the climate; Valul lui Traian, featuring warmer and drier conditions, conducive for red wine varieties; and Stefan Voda, which benefits from the Black Sea's influence, creating a unique microclimate.
Moldova's terroir is diverse, with a mix of limestone, chalk, gravel, and clay soils, each imparting different qualities to the grapes. The country's rich black soil, particularly in the central part of Moldova, is especially favorable for cultivating a range of grape varieties, both indigenous like Fetească Neagră and Rară Neagră, and international varieties such as Cabernet Sauvignon and Chardonnay.
The combination of favorable climatic conditions, diverse soil types, and the influence of the nearby Black Sea contributes to Moldova's unique terroir, making it an intriguing and diverse wine country with a long history of winemaking that dates back thousands of years. Moldova's wine industry is also distinguished by its extensive wine cellars, like the famous Mileștii Mici, which holds one of the largest wine collections in the world.
The country's wine industry is in constant development. According to data provided by the Observatory of Economic Complexity (OEC), in 2020 Moldova exported $134 million worth of wine, making it the 20th largest exporter of wine in the world and wine the 3rd most important export product for Moldova. The Top 5 importers of Moldovan wine in 2020 were Belarus, Romania, the Czech Republic, Russia and Poland. Not exactly indicators of coveted wines but with this level of production, quality is bound to edge higher and higher.
According to Statista, in 2022 there was a decrease in per-capita income from wine sales (US$331.42 in 2021 versus US$297.23 in 2022), during 2023 the figure is expected to increase to US$350.57.
Moldova's rich winemaking heritage is reflected in its diverse grape varieties. From the classic reds like Cabernet Sauvignon and Merlot to the aromatic whites such as Rkatiteli and Chardonnay, and the unique indigenous grapes like Feteasca Albă, Moldova offers a tapestry of flavors that delights wine enthusiasts from around the world.
Moldova's winemaking tradition is deeply intertwined with a wide range of grape varieties, each distinguished by its unique characteristics and specific cultivation needs. These grapes thrive in diverse regions, shaping Moldova's vibrant viticultural landscape. Here's an overview of some prominent grape varieties:
These grape varieties collectively contribute to Moldova's dynamic wine scene, offering a range of choices for both winemakers and enthusiasts while adapting to the country's various terroirs and microclimates.
Moldovan wines, reflecting the country's rich viticultural heritage, offer a diverse range of flavors and aromas, with distinct characteristics in both red and white varieties. Here's a closer look at some of the most common wines from Moldova:
These wines, each with their unique aromatic and flavor profile, embody the diversity and richness of Moldova's wine heritage. Whether it's the floral and fresh tones of Fetească Albă or the rich and fruity notes of Fetească Neagră, Moldovan wines offer a distinct and memorable experience to wine enthusiasts.
The Moldovan wine industry is actively engaging in various sustainability initiatives and certifications to enhance its environmental practices and global market presence.
A significant step towards sustainability was taken through the collaboration with Fair’N Green, a German association promoting sustainability standards in vine-growing and wine-making. This collaboration aims to align Moldovan winemakers with European sustainability standards. More than a year of effort under the Sustainable Wine of Moldova initiative, backed by USAID, has seen Moldovan wineries receiving assistance to implement sustainability standards. This initiative involves an audit based on 150 criteria from the Wines’ Sustainability Code. The Fair’N Green certification process, which involves a comprehensive audit and a five-step procedure, helps wineries adopt sustainable practices, such as promoting biodiversity and implementing good plant protection practices.
The National Office of Vine and Wine (ONVV) plays a pivotal role in these efforts. The ONVV, in collaboration with the Ministry of Agriculture and Food Industry and USAID, has been working on registering vine plots and aligning with global sustainability trends. This alignment is crucial for increasing the visibility of Moldovan wines in the international market. The winemakers are keen to adapt to these new trends and overcome the challenges posed by regional crises and environmental factors.
Moreover, the Moldovan wine industry is embarking on an ambitious program for sustainable development, seeking significant investment in new vineyards, increased capacity, and technological innovation. Key stakeholders of the industry discussed this vision at ProWein 2023, focusing on building Moldova as a national wine brand and a world-class tourism destination. This initiative includes increasing the international appeal of Moldovan wines by emphasizing sustainable winemaking practices and capitalizing on the country's unique grape varieties and ideal growing conditions.
These efforts reflect Moldova's commitment to sustainable wine production, adapting to global consumer preferences, and enhancing its position in the international wine market.
The history of winemaking in Moldova is a journey through time, beginning as far back as the Neolithic Period, approximately 7000 years ago. This ancient tradition started during the Cucuteni-Trypillia culture, one of the oldest civilizations in Europe, which included the territory of modern Moldova. Evidence from this period reveals the domestication and cultivation of wild vines, along with the cultivation of crops like wheat, barley, millet, and others.
The 6th century BC marked the arrival of Greek colonization along the north-western coast of the Black Sea, which played a significant role in advancing the local winemaking knowledge. The Greeks introduced new vine varieties and winemaking technologies, such as dense plantations and short pruning, greatly enhancing the quality of local wines. This period saw an integration of Greek and local wine cultures, leading to the development of new grape varieties and improved winemaking techniques.
From the 9th to the 14th centuries, the spread of Christianity brought a new dimension to winemaking in Moldova, as wine became a significant element in religious rituals. Monasteries and churches started cultivating vineyards and producing quality red wines for use in communion. This period saw the establishment of the first vineyards specifically for winemaking within monastic settings.
In the later medieval period, particularly from the 12th century onwards, winemaking began to play a more crucial role in Moldova's economy. The country's strategic geographical location facilitated the export of wine to neighboring countries like Russia and Poland. By the middle of the 14th century, Moldova had established itself as a prominent wine-producing region, with a well-developed infrastructure for vine cultivation and wine storage in the cellars of the nobility.
The 15th century witnessed further development under the reign of Stephen the Great, with the introduction of Hungarian grape varieties such as Hars Leveliu and Furmint. The Cotnari vineyards became particularly famous during this period, with their wines gaining recognition for their aging potential and quality. The vineyards of Odobesti, Husi, and Focsani also gained fame, and the vineyards of Iasi developed significantly under the reign of Alexandru Lapusneanu.
However, the Moldovan winemaking industry faced challenges during the Ottoman occupation, with a significant decline in winemaking activities until the Bucharest Peace Treaty of 1812. This period saw a halt in the development of the wine industry until the annexation of the region by Russia, after which the wine market expanded considerably. By the early 20th century, Moldova became a significant wine producer in the Russian Empire, with a substantial increase in vineyard areas and wine production.
The 20th century brought its own set of challenges and advancements. The Basarabian Winemaking College, established in the late 19th century, played a pivotal role in educating specialists and advancing research in viticulture and winemaking. The pre-phylloxera period saw a boom in wine production, but the advent of diseases like oidium powdery mildew and phylloxera in the late 19th century caused significant damage to the vineyards.
During the Soviet era, Moldova experienced mass vine cultivation and significant growth in wine production. By the 1980s, the Soviet Republic of Moldova ranked sixth in the world in terms of vineyard areas and wine production. This period saw the development of several winemaking enterprises, an increase in the production of sparkling wine, and a focus on cultivating both European and local grape varieties.
In summary, the history of winemaking in Moldova is a rich tapestry of cultural influences, technological advancements, and economic shifts. From its ancient roots to its modern-day prominence, Moldovan winemaking reflects the resilience and adaptability of its people in the face of changing historical circumstances.