Sunday afternoon brought a wine tasting party with the lovely ladies and a couple gentlemen from Cuisine Noir Mag.com to celebrate the launch of the first print issue in September. As our publisher Sheree Williams finished some last minute cooking, I made tasting sheets for the guests to write down their comments.
I shouldn’t have been surprised — but I was — to come across a pretty pink bottle of Moscato from Moldova. The aromatic Moscato grape is most famously made into aromatic, fruity, sweet-tart wines in Italy, but it gets around. It’s not unusual to see Moscatos from all over the world such as the organic Makulu Moscato from South Africa and the memorable Two Hands Brilliant Disguise Moscato from Australia.
And if you like your moscato to be refreshingly fruity, then you’ll enjoy the Exclusiv Rosé Moscato that was just released in the U.S. in June. It’s bursting with peach and berry aromas and flavors, but the sweetness is balanced by enough acid to make you want to take another sip.
According to the Moldova Wine Guild’s website, wine has been produced in Moldova — a boot shaped country between Romania and Ukraine — for more than 4,000 years. The Greeks and Romans helped the Moldovan wine industry along, but things really took off in the 15th century. That’s when the ruler Stefan the Great established a government position of chief wine steward or cupbearer (paharnic in Moldovan) whose job it was to make sure the vines were flourishing and winemakers were keeping quality up.
Moldova experienced a Prohibition in the 16th century when the Ottomans took over and forbade wine-making. The industry bounced back when Moldova became part of the Russian empire. Affluent Russians established winemaking estates growing native varietals like Rara Neagrā and Feteascā Albā, a white grape. Later, French experts brought in many noble grape varieties like merlot, cabernet sauvignon and aligoté. By 1837, Moldova produced 1.1 million cases of wine a year. While part of the former Soviet Union, Moldova made a third of all the sparkling wine and half of all still wine consumed in Russia.
Moldova’s wine industry had other setbacks in a phylloxera outbreak, both world wars and the Gorbachev era when many vineyards were ripped out. But each time, the industry has rebounded and now they’re producing a range of dry and sweet wines that use indigenous and international grape varietals.
And judging from the quality of the Exclusiv Moscato, Moldova will be sending plenty of well-made and affordable wines our way.