Renaissance of Moldovan Wines: The Purcari Legacy.
Recently we had the opportunity to explore the world of Moldavian wines, through the wines produced by the country’s leading winery Chateau Purcari. During a lunch at Restaurant Vermeer, sommelier Jan-Jaap Altenburg shared his stories about the Moldavian wine making scene, and his experience with the wines of Chateau Purcari in particular.
Moldova, a country with a rich history of winemaking, has emerged as a notable player in the world of wines. The transformation from selling predominantly sweet red wines to Russia to a diverse production that includes high-quality whites has been a remarkable journey. At the forefront of this evolution is Purcari, a renowned winery that encapsulates the essence of Moldovan winemaking. In this article, we delve into the captivating story of Moldovan wines, the distinctive regions that foster grape cultivation, and Chateau Purcari.
Moldovan Wine Landscape
Moldova boasts three primary wine regions—Codru, Stefan Vodă, and Valul lui Traian, each offering unique terroirs and climatic conditions. Additionally, Moldova has earned the title of having the highest density of vineyards globally, with approximately 75,000 hectares dedicated to commercial vineyards. The picturesque landscape, characterized by rolling low hills and a temperate continental climate with maritime influence from the Black Sea, provides an ideal setting for grape cultivation. Interestingly, Moldova has more vines per person than any other country in the world, emphasizing the nation’s deep-rooted connection to viticulture.
Varieties and Traditions
The vineyards of Moldova predominantly feature European grape varieties such as Sauvignon Blanc, Chardonnay, Riesling, Traminer, Merlot, Cabernet Sauvignon, and Pinot Noir. Additionally, smaller portions are dedicated to Caucasian varieties like Rkatsiteli and Saperavi. Noteworthy local varieties include Fetească Alba, Fetească Regală, Fetească Neagră, and Rara Neagră. Moldova has a strong tradition of blending these varieties to create distinctive and flavorful wines.
Distinctive Wine Regions
Moldova is divided in three distinct wine regions (PGI’s), these are Codru, Ștefan Vodă and Valul lui Trajan. Let us tell you a bit more about each of the three PGI’s.
- Central Moldova with a continental climate and mild winters. Noted for fresh, floral whites and structured, cool-climate reds that age well.
PGI Ștefan Vodă
- Southeast Moldova with a temperate continental climate influenced by the Black Sea. Famous for Purcari, producing long-lived reds, especially Negru de Purcari.
PGI Valul lui Trajan
- Southern Moldova with a Mediterranean climate, low rainfall, and well-drained soils. Known for rich red wines with warm, dry summers and mild winters.
Chateau Purcari: An Overview of Moldovan Winemaking
Chateau Purcari maintains a notable presence in the Moldovan wine industry and has historical significance for the nation. The winery produces a range of wines influenced by the local climate and soil conditions, as well as traditional winemaking practices. Its portfolio includes both local grape varieties, like Rara Neagra, and widely known international varieties.
The winery has received awards in various competitions, including a historical gold medal at the 1878 Universal Exposition of Paris. These awards highlight Chateau Purcari’s efforts in wine production and the recognized quality of their vintages.
Chateau Purcari is open to visitors, offering tours that provide insights into its history and production processes, as well as wine tasting opportunities. The estate also accommodates guests looking to experience the vineyard environment.
Chateau Purcari contributes to the promotion of Moldovan culture through its winemaking. It has plans to expand into new markets and to continue updating its winemaking techniques, aiming to integrate traditional methods with new approaches. The winery is actively working towards maintaining its place in the international wine market and to offer new experiences to wine enthusiasts globally.
Tasting the Elegance of Purcari Wines
During an excellent lunch we had the opportunity to taste a number of Purcari wines. Below a personal description of the wines we tasted.
- Cuvee de Purcari Brut NV
Blend of Chardonnay, Pinot Blanc and Pinot Noir. An ambitious sparkling wine with refreshing and lively character. Dosage is on a higher size (9 g/l) but it is seamlessly integrated in the wine and well balanced by the wine’s acidity. 12 months of maturation in the bottle on the lees gives the wine hint of brioche note. This was the most exciting wine we have tasted today and sadly the only one which is not available in the Netherlands.
- Sauvignon Blanc 2022
The Sauvignon Blanc stands out with its zesty acidity that seamlessly intertwines with balanced flavours. The wine concludes with a smooth finish, showcasing the varietal’s characteristic freshness without overwhelming bitterness.
- Viorica 2022
Viorica doesn’t shy away from generous aromas. Basil notes add a unique touch to the pronounced floral characteristics. The wine’s moderate acidity enhances its round and oily texture.
- Rara Neagra 2022
Embracing Moldova’s indigenous grape, the Rara Neagra is a light and elegant expression with a subtle spiciness. The pale color and delicate tannins allow the wine’s character to shine through, revealing nuanced hints of rosehip for a distinctive local touch.
- Freedom Blend 2021 Tribute Edition
This blend was launched first time in 2014 as a manifestation of resilience and a tribute to 20 years of freedom from the Soviet Union for Moldova, Ukraine, and Georgia. The current vintage: Freedom Blend 2021 Tribute Edition serves as more than a homage; it stands as an act of gratitude for the courageous fight and resistance of the Ukrainian people. All profits generated from the sales of the Freedom Blend will be dedicated to supporting Ukrainian children and families in need.
Embodying the essence of three indigenous grape varieties—Saperavi from Georgia, Rara Neagra from Moldova, and Bastardo Magarachsky from Ukraine—the Freedom Blend 2021 Tribute Edition is as bold as the story it represents. This wine unfolds a rich profile, characterized by black fruit and spice notes that intertwine seamlessly.
The dominant oak presence imparts a Bordeaux-like feel that adds depth. As each sip unfolds, the wine’s density becomes apparent, a testament to the strength and resilience embedded in this distinctive blend.
- Negru de Purcari 2020
Offering a Moldovan twist, the Negru de Purcari brings together Cabernet Sauvignon, Saperavi, and Rara Neagra. Chocolate notes and a soft mouthfeel define the experience, showcasing the boldness of Cabernet Sauvignon complemented by the native charm of Saperavi and Rara Neagra.
- Icewine 2017
Crafted from freezing temperatures, the Icewine 2017 delivers a tropical fruit start that defies its chilly origins. Surprisingly, the finish takes a savoury turn, balancing the sweetness of over 100g/l of residual sugar. Muscat Ottonel and Traminer grapes create a nuanced and contrasting flavours.
Chateau Purcari: A Perspective on Moldovan Winemaking Progress
In summary, Chateau Purcari represents a key component in the evolution of Moldova’s winemaking industry. It reflects the region’s potential and the commitment of its vintners. The range of Purcari wines, developed from the diverse terroirs of Codru to Ștefan Vodă, demonstrate the adaptive transformation of the industry.
The sampling event at Restaurant Vermeer provided an overview of Moldova’s winemaking capabilities. Chateau Purcari’s offerings, such as the Cuvee de Purcari Brut and Freedom Blend, serve to highlight the country’s winemaking history and current direction. The Negru de Purcari, a blend of local and international grape varieties, and the Icewine, with its innovative approach to traditional methods, are indicative of the winery’s portfolio.
The event concluded with an acknowledgment of Moldova’s emerging prominence in the global wine market, with Chateau Purcari contributing significantly to this growth. Moldovan wines, previously less recognized, are gaining attention, marking a new chapter for the nation’s wine production that Chateau Purcari is helping to shape.
This article is written by our own Barbora Peterikova. Purcari wines are available in the Netherlands through Vinify. We would like to thank Vinify and Pitch PR for their invitation to this event, Jan-Jaap Altenburg for sharing his experiences and Restaurant Vermeer for the excellent lunch.