Eye Openers to the Wines of Moldova


I recently tried my first wines from Moldova back in July of this year.  I was excited to get a second opportunity to taste more when our newly established group of familiar faces at #WorldWineTravel will be venturing off to explore wine from all over the world.  I have a feeling there will many more firsts to come for myself and I look forward to taking you with me on this journey.

If you’re like I was a couple months ago you may have been scratching your head wondering where exactly Moldova is.  It is after all the smallest country in Europe so it’s no surprise that you probably can’t pinpoint it’s location.  It’s landlocked in South Eastern Europe between Romania and the Ukraine with close proximity to the Black Sea.

It’s a wonder many of us aren’t familiar with wines from Moldova as their wine history dates as far back as 3000 B.C. The Republic of Moldova actually has the highest density of vineyards in the world.  Seventy three percent of the wine produced in Moldova are from international grapes like the Bordeaux blend I’m sharing below from Purcari, but they do produce about 10% of their own indigenous grapes that you will see later like Viorico and Feteasca Alba.

Moldova continues to invest in its wine industry so it will be interesting to continue to watch them develop.  In 2018 they received a large investment of $20 million to put towards vineyard plantings, modernizing their wineries and for market development.  Let’s see what the future holds for Moldova, but so far the wines have been eye opening for myself.

wines of Moldova

The Wines

2015 Chateau Purcari Rosu de Purcari – A Bordeaux blend made of 50% Cabernet Sauvignon, 35% Merlot and 15% Malbec.  This winery has a long history established in 1827.  Their wines have been served to the Royal Courts of Europe for 150+ years.  The grapes are hand harvested and this wine spends 18 months in French oak.  Deep ruby in color with garnet hues.  The nose is rich in prunes and blueberries with vanilla nuances.  A full-bodied wine with good acidity, juicy blackberries and blueberries with a velvety finish.  ABV 13.5% SRP $40

I paired the Chateau Purcari Rosu de Purcari with beef pot pie.  I had actually never prepared a pot pie with beef and had always used chicken.  This was a nice change with some added diced up celery and carrots.   During the height of the COVID pandemic we bought a 1/4 of a cow from a local farm and had lots of stewed meat so it was the perfect choice for this wine.  The Radacini I had tried in July and you can read from my previous post.

Beef pot pie with Moldova red wine

2018 Castel Mimi Feteasca Alba – Feteasca Alba is an indigenous grape to Moldova.  This wine is from the Codru appellation.  Pale straw colored in the glass with mostly citrus notes on the nose.  This wine is light, crisp and refreshing with mostly citrus and a hint of peach.  ABV 13% SRP $19

2018 Suvorov Viorico –  Suvorov was established in 1998 and the winery is named after a historical monument, the hill of Suvorov, from the Russo Turkish War.  This wine is made of 100% Viorica in the Stefan Voda appellation.  Viorica is a popular female name.  These grapes are also hand harvested.  Pale straw in color with a very aromatic nose, florally with notes of peach and a little grassiness.  Very light in body with a refreshing acidity and peach lingering on the palette.  ABV 13% SRP $18

I paired both of these indigenous whites of Moldova with lobster ravioli with some added shrimp.  Both served as a nice compliment to the dish and I kept the sauce simple with garlic, extra virgin olive oil and butter.

Lobster ravioli with shrimp

Join my fellow food and wine lovers as they deepen your discovery into the wines of Moldova.  We will be chatting live this Sunday at 11am EST on Twitter at #WorldWineTravel.  Please join in!  This weekend Moldova is also hosting their 18th National Wine Day October 3rd and 4thth at their capital in Chisinau.  It’s an opportunity to taste wines from over 60 producers and learn more about the culture and traditions of Moldova.  Although many of us are still not traveling it may be something to keep in mind for future years, but they are also hosting virtual events if you can’t make it in person.


Blog of Jennifer at Vino Travels

Eye Openers to the Wines of Moldova 2020-10-30T14:55:05-04:00

You say Feteasca and I’ll Say Moldova


Moldova is in Eastern Europe, in the South East specifically and borders Ukraine and Romania. The Black Sea basin is said to be the natural home of the grape vine. The history of Wine of Moldova starts in 3000 BC, while the first vines were recorded here 7000 years BC. It’s climate is moderately continental thanks to it’s proximity to the Black Sea and the many rivers and streams that criss-cross the country. With a varied landscape, there are three principal historic regions known for wine:  Valul lui Traian (south west), Stefan Voda (south east) and Codru (center).

The vineyards are 70% planted to white grapes and 30% to red. Much of the vineyard surface is planted to international varieties but there are also a host of indigenous ones such as Feteasca Alba, Feteasca Regala, Feteasca Neagra, Rara Neagra, Plavai, and Viorica.

While I missed today’s Masterclass on Moldova but I have tasted the wines from this interesting country recently. For this tasting I received four wines, I have opened two, Feteasca Neagra and Feteasca Alba, a red and a white.

Grape varieties in Moldova

I love this picture because it shows the breadth and diversity of what is planted in Moldova. The two wines I have tried thus far were very different. I found the white grape waxy with a lot of viscosity and akin to Chenin Blanc in some ways. Flavors of brioche, yeast and white peach and accacia flowers on the nose and palate. The red that I tried was a blend with a high percentage of Merlot and oak on the wine. It was a good pairing wine with my pizza but the oak was very present.

I received these four wines as samples. I tried the wine from Chateau Mimi and the red from Radacini Chateau Mimi was founded in the late 1800s. The huge estate was founded by Constantin Mimi. He was the last governor of Bessarabia during Russian Empire. His family were refugees in Moldova from Greece and he planted the first vines in the estate he inherited from his father. Constantin Mimi not only hosted the last Russian Czar at his winery in 1914, Nicholas II but he also supplied the Russian Army with wines during World War I. My great grandfather fought in the Russian Army in WWI. He was poor and Polish which at the time was part of Russia and Jewish and had certainly had no choice but to fight. I wonder if he tried these wines.

Back to Constantin Mimi, he eventually became the head of Romanian National Bank and his winery became a large industrial supplier of the U.S.S.R. by 1940. The winery than went through many changes throughout the years and now is having a renaissance, as is Moldovan wine in general. It has become a very important tourist destination.

The Feteasca Alba that I tasted was lovely with citrus, peach and pear notes and good acidity. It also had residual sugar. It wasva nice pairing with broiled flounder as well as alone as an aperitif.

While my castle isn’t quite like the impressive enormous Chateaux in Moldova such as Chateau Mimi, Purcari and others, it works well in this house and made me laugh as a perch for these bottles.

The second wine I tried was from Radacini. The winery is much more modern and smaller than the other wineries I have encountered from Moldova. This wine is a blend of Saperavi, Feteasca Neagra and Merlot. I love that this is a blend of caucasian, indigenous and international varieties. This wine was dark purple with red and black fruit, herbs, spice and pepper and leathery undertones.


A wine blog by Susannah Gold

You say Feteasca and I’ll Say Moldova 2020-10-30T14:51:33-04:00

Moldovan Wine – Moving forward while not losing track of the Authentic grapes of their past


I’ll be honest, I’ve not had a wine from Moldova before.  I’ve heard and read a bit about the country and its wines and when #WorldWineTravel had an opportunity to collaborate with Wine of Moldova on their National Moldovan Wine Day, I was interested to participate.  Our host for this is Lynn Gowdy of Savor the Harvest, you can visit her Invitation post here.

Wine of Moldova and Vinconnexion sent us samples of 4 wines.  All opinions are our own.  We will start out with a bit about Moldova, dive into the wines and pairings and finish with the pieces by our colleagues at #WorldWineTravel which will give you additional opinions and information on the wines of this region, as well as some spectacular pairings.

A little Moldova History

Moldova, like Georgia, was the source of wine for the Soviet Union.  The country is covered in vineyards. At one point in the 80s there were over 200,000 ha of vineyards, this in a space that is slightly larger than Maryland.

In the mid-80s as an anti-alcohol campaign began in the Soviet Union about 1/3 of the vines were pulled up.  They continued exporting to Russia through the collapse until the 2006 embargo by Russia on Moldovan and Georgian wines. Russia has since gone back and forth importing Moldovan wines, but they hold their purchases like a hostage, in an attempt to keep the country from leaning too far to the west.

Over ¼ of the country is part of the wine industry in some way.  This is their country’s bread and butter.  It has divided the country and the industry into those who look back and wish for the return of what they consider better days and those who are embracing the future and finding a way out into the great world of wine, holding on the heritage, but building anew.

The grapes of Moldova

The large wineries here have gone from bulk wines in large tanks to finding new directions with old ways and new smaller wineries are popping up.  I have seen multiple sources for vineyard coverage. The documentation from the Wine of Moldova from 2018 listed 74,200 hectares (183,352 acres) of technical varieties. This morning I heard a quote of 112,000 hectares during the My Wine Day with Wine of Moldova conversation. This may be a recent update, and could include private non-commercial vineyards. This is a country, where there are many backyard vineyards and people have a culture of home winemaking .

The most cultivated varieties are International with Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, and Pinot Noir leading the reds and Aligoté, Sauvignon Blanc, and Chardonnay leading the whites.

Still, they are also embracing the indigenous varieties like the white grapes Feteasca Alba and Viorica and red grapes, Feteasca Neagra, Rara Neagra, and the Georgian grape Saperavi.  Currently, 73% of vineyards are planted to European varieties, 17% to Caucasian grapes (which include Saperavi), and 10% to local grapes.

Moldovan wine regions

Wine regions of Moldova courtesy Wine of Moldova

Moldova is bordered by Romania to the West and South, Ukraine to the North and East. It is a landlocked country. The country sits mostly from around 140 meters (459 feet) above sea level, with its highest point at 430 meters (1410 feet).

The country is divided into three wine regions. Condru to the North in the center of the country focuses on white wines and covers the most area. Stefan-Voda below it to the southeast sits at a lower elevation and is the smallest of the 3 regions. Here you find the indigenous red grape Rara Neagra. Valul Lui Traian sits to the southwest. The climate here is warm and is influenced by the Black Sea. 60% of the wines here are red. These three regions sit within this country which they proudly point out is shaped like a grape bunch.

There are of course the two largest wine cellars in the world are located here, Cricova with 70 kilometers of galleries where they house wine collections from celebrities and dignitaries from all over the world, and Milestii Mici that stretches over 200 kilometers.

The Wines of Moldova

The four wines we received wines from Wine of Moldova as samples, included 2 white wines: Castel Mimi’s Feteasca Alba and a Viorica from Suvorav-Vin.

Castel Mimi – Feteasca Alba

Castel Mimi Feteasca Alba with flavor profile

Located in the Condru region, Castel Mimi was founded in 1893. After 50 years in disrepair a restoration project began in 2011. Today this sprawling Castle is home to the winery as well as a restaurant, gardens and terraces and has cottages for overnight guests.

Feteasca Alba is an ancient grape that has been cultivated here for years.  At one point during the Soviet era, it was banned, but some growers hid it so save the variety.

The flavor profile I found for this wine included: yellow apple, pear, ripe cantaloupe, rose petal & white flowers.

After tasting this myself, I found much more rich citrus, meyer lemon, lemon zest, a little pith and nectarine. The white flowers were there subtly in the background. Michael was reminded a bit of Fresca, so he must have been getting some grapefruit in there. I did get some briny minerality.

If you like Pinot Grigio, this might be a great wine to explore.

This wine is 100% Feteasca Alva and has notes of rose, pear, honeysuckle, yellow apple, and cantaloupe.

13% abv, suggested retail $18.99

Suvorov Kazayak – Viorica

Suvorov-Vin is named after a monument near the winery called “The hill of Suvorov” from the Russo-Turkish war.

Viorica is the name of a flower and is a woman’s name in addition to being the name of this grape variety.  It is an indigenous grape.

This wine is 100% Viorica and has notes of tea rose, candied fruit, nutmeg, lime, lemon curd, honey, peach nectar, and ripe cantaloupe.

13% abv suggested retail $13.99.

Viorica and its flavor profile Wine of Moldova

Suvorov-Vin is named after a monument near the winery called “The hill of Suvorov” from the Russo-Turkish war.

Viorica is the name of a flower and is a woman’s name in addition to being the name of this grape variety.  It is an indigenous grape.

This wine is 100% Viorica the notes I found indicated aromas and flavors of tea rose, candied fruit, nutmeg, lime, lemon curd, honey, peach nectar, and ripe cantaloupe.

The nose on this wine could not have been more different than the Feteasca Alba. My nose was filled with honey and beeswax, white peach, yellow apple, lemon curd and lime.

It hit me like a viognier with the addition of rich citrus notes.

13% abv suggested retail $13.99.

The red wines included Rosu de Purcari from Chateau Purcari and a wine called Ampre made of Saperavi, Feteasca Neagra and Merlot from Radacini.

Chateau Purcari – Rosu de Purcari

Chateau Purcari Rosu de Purcari - Wine of Moldova a Bordeaux style blend with its aroma flavor profile of black plum, blackberry, and sweet vanilla.

Chateau Purcari is located on the Dniester river and is in the Stefan Voda PGI Region. Located in the south western part of the region they are close to the Black Sea and the border to the Ukraine This historic Chateau is surrounded by vineyards and lakes.   They do supply the Queen of England with their wine.

This wine is a blend of 50% Cabernet Sauvignon, 40% Merlot, 10% Malbec, a Bordeaux style blend.  It has notes of forest fruit, plum and sweet vanilla.

When I stuck my nose in the glass I found blackberry, prune, black plum, baking spice vanilla and sweet tobacco.

13.5% abv suggested retail $31

Radacini – Ampre Saperavi Feteasca Neagra & Merlot

Radacini Ampre of Saperavi, Feteasca Neagra & Merlot and it's aroma/flavor profile - Wine of Moldova

Now we are into indigenous red varieties.  This blend leans into Saperavi the red fleshed grape originally from Georgia at 70%.  20% of the Moldovan indigenous variety Feteasca neagra, and 10% Merlot.

Suggested notes of ripe black fruits like plum and black cherry, blackberry as well as black pepper, thyme, and fruit leather.

When I stuck my nose in the glass, the first thing I got was fresh cut herbs, followed by black pepper. There was black fruits like plum and blackberry and dark cherries, then the thyme wafted through. It ended with some menthol, eucalyptus notes and a bit of barnyard that was not at all unpleasant.

13% abv Suggested retail $19.99.

2 pairings, one for the white and one for red

Rather than try to pair across all the wines, we broke our pairings into red and white, with lighter dishes pairing with the Feteasca Alba and Viorica and heavier with the Purcari and Radacini red blends.

Light and elegant lunch pairings

I was reading on other tastings with these wines to get a feel for what they would be like, as mine were arriving close to when we would need to post (they have not arrived as I type this).  My friend Liz Barrett at “What’s in that Glass” had tasted this wine and said that chicken piccata or ceviche would pair well (not together though, she warns!).  I love ceviche and have not had it in a while, so….

We started with prosciutto wrapped cantaloupe (thanks for that suggestion too Liz!). We then did a ceviche on an avocado sauce and a salmon carpaccio.

An unorthodox pairing

Rosu de Purcari Moldovan red blend with bacon and eggs

Chateau Purcari Rosu de Purcari 2015 with Bacon and Eggs

The Chateau Purcari Rosu de Purcari 2015 is a Bordeaux style blend. We did a bit of an non-traditional pairing, suggested buy Fiona Beckett of bacon and eggs. It worked wonderfully.

This wine has mellowed with good tannin and acids that are just right and the fat in the eggs was perfect with this. I did throw on some blackberries which picked up the fruit in the wine, as well as a spinach arugula salad with a bit of balsamic.

A regional pairings reimagined

With the Radacini being a blend of Saperavi, Feteasca Neagra, and a bit of Merlot, I wanted to think more regional with flavors, but elevate them.  I had read about mamaliga which is a cornmeal dish, like polenta, so fried polenta cakes seemed appropriate.  We topped them with shards of parmesan, fresh thyme, walnuts, and arugula to pull out other flavors of the region and the wine. Of course, when you think of this region cabbage rolls or “sarmale” come to mind.  My husband won’t eat those (I grew up with them, thanks to a Hungarian mother).  We pulled in those flavors with grilled purple cabbage wedges and then grilled steak tips to bring in our protein.

Moldovan Wine – Moving forward while not losing track of the Authentic grapes of their past 2020-10-05T14:49:31-04:00

Celebrating ‘My Wine Day’ and the little country that could


Remember festivals?

I haven’t been to a festival or outdoor celebration since the pandemic started. Frankly, there’s been little to celebrate lately. All the more reason to embrace Eu deVIN sărbătoare – Moldovan for “My Wine Day,” the 2020 version of Moldova’s National Wine Day.

What? Moldova? Yes, in 2016, this small East European country had the 13th largest share (approximately 2.5%) of the global wine area and was sixth in the world for share (6.5%) of national crop area under wine grapes.

Moldova’s long history of winemaking began around 3000 BC, and the first traces of grapevines in these lands have been dated to around 7000 BC. Throughout its history, wine and grapes have been deeply rooted in the culture, myths, folklore, and legends of Moldova. Even the map of today’s Republic of Moldova is shaped like a bunch of grapes.

National Wine Day, now in its 19th year, is held annually on the first weekend of October. In years past, producers gathered on the main square of Chișinău, the nation’s capital, to offer tastings and master classes, and wineries across the country opened their doors to welcome visitors.

This year, there will be no stands in the capital city. But wineries will welcome visitors with tastings, food pairings, music, and more. Plus, the event will go international with transcontinental online tastings and events.

On Sunday, Oct. 4, a group of bloggers is raising the Moldovan flag for its first World Wine Travel (#WorldWineTravel) chat on Twitter, starting at 8 am PT/11 am ET. You’re invited to join this virtual group hug with Moldova, a little country that could – and did – revive and re-envision its local wine industry. Simply follow the hashtag.

(Please note that while the wines for this post were provided, opinions are my own.)

Quick facts about Moldova

  • Located in Eastern Europe, bordered by Ukraine to the east and Romania to the west.
  • Moderate continental climate with short (though sometimes very cold) winters and long summers.
  • Landscapes vary from steppes in the east, to forested hillsides in the central zone, to the vast Bugeac plain in the south.
  • 225 total registered wineries.
  • Highest density of vineyards in the world.
  • Over 30 types of varieties: 85% European, 10% Black Sea, 5% local grapes.
  • During the first half of 2020, the bottled wine market had a 5% increase in volume and a 0.2% increase in value.
  • 740 medals were awarded to Moldovan wines at international wine competitions in 2019.
  • Vast underground cellars at Cricova and at Mileștii Mici were established in former limestone quarries with almost 125 miles of tunnels.
  • Milestii Mici holds the biggest wine collection in the world, registered in the Guinness Book of World Records, with more than 125,000 cases of wine.

Sources: Which Winegrape Varieties are Grown Where? By Kym Anderson and Signe Nelgen (University of Adelaide Press, 2020); Wine of Moldova;

Map courtesy of Wine of Moldova

The wines

Note: All four of these wines were skillfully produced and would stack up against high-quality wines from just about anywhere in the world. Problem is, they’re not readily available in the U.S. Prices below seem high to me. You probably can get them for less – if you can find them.

2018 Radacini Ampre
70% Saperavi, 20% Fetească Neagră, 10% Merlot

Radacini winery is located in Codru, the country’s coolest wine region. The region is noted for white grapes, but red varieties can also be grown in warmer microclimates.

Saperavi is a native grape that hails from the Georgian Republic, but it’s widely grown throughout the Caucasus and in various regions of the former Soviet Union. In Georgian, “Saperavi” means “dye,” an apt name for the intense color this high-acid grape brings to wines. Fetească Neagră, which translates as “black maiden,” is a thin-skinned red grape native to Moldova and Romania that exhibits spicy, smoky, fruity characters, and good tannin structure. Grapes are hand harvested and fermented separately. Saperavi is aged in oak for 3 months.

My tasting notes: Ruby in color. Heady nose of cherry, prune, and violets, followed by cherry and sour cherry on the palate. Hints of vanilla on the mid-palate. Long-lasting and zingy high acidity. Light-to-medium body. Spicy, medium+ finish. Alcohol: 13%. Price: $19.99 (VINOvations).

2015 Roșu de Purcari, Ștefan Vodă IGP
50% Cabernet Sauvignon, 35% Merlot, 15% Malbec

Located in the Ștefan Vodă wine region ofsoutheastern Moldova, not far from the moderating influences of the Black Sea, Château Purcari has been a producer since 1827. Wines from this highly esteemed estate have been served in the royal courts of Europe for over 150 years. Purcari’s first gold medal was awarded in 1878 at the World Exhibition in Paris.

My tasting notes: Deep ruby in color. Ripe black cherry and blueberry on the nose with a hint of minty wintergreen. Bit of vanilla on the mid-palate. Chocolate notes and a long-lasting shake of black pepper at the end. Rich, medium+ body. Long finish. A bit tannic now. I recommend aging for four to five years. Alcohol: 13.5%. Price: $39.99 (VINOvations).

2018 Suvorov-Vin Viorica Kazayak
100% Viorica

Founded in 1998, Surorov-Vin is also located in Ștefan Vodă and is one of the biggest wineries in Moldova. Viorica is a Moldovan female name. Grapes for this wine are hand harvested.

My tasting notes: Pale yellow in color. Smells like summertime – nectarine and apricot with hints of grass and wildflowers. Palate is slightly grassy with plenty of lemon and lemon zest and a bit of grapefruit. Similar to a warm-climate Sauvignon Blanc. Round mouthfeel. Medium+ acidity. Medium+ finish. Alcohol: 13.0%. Price: $17.99 (VINOvations).

2018 Castel Mimi Fetească Albă, Codru IGP
100% Fetească Albă

Castel Mimi, the only wine castle in the Republic of Moldova, is a huge success story. Built in Codru in 1893, the castle was converted into a state-owned wine factory during the Soviet era. In 2011, an ambitious restoration project was initiated to renovate the mansion stone by stone. Today, Castel Mimi has been listed among the most beautiful architectural masterpieces of the winemaking world.

Fetească Albă, the “white maiden,” is a native white variety grown widely throughout Eastern Europe. The wine was not aged in oak.

My tasting notes: Bright yellow in color. Nose is a pleasing blend of lemon, apricot, and flowers. On the palate, lemon zest, grapefruit pith, and telltale honeysuckle blend together for a tingly, slightly tart sensation. Medium+ acidity. Medium+ finish. Alcohol: 13%. Price: $18.99 (VINOvations).

The food

Last time I wrote about Moldovan wine, I was intimidated by the idea of cooking local dishes. For this post, I was determined to overcome my fears and just do it. The results? Quite good, actually – even “wow” in a couple of ways.

Mamaliga – Mamaliga (mama-leegah) is a polenta or wettish cornbread topped by a savory chicken sauce, and often served with sour cream and brinza (a salty, homemade cheese). I adapted this recipe by using leftover cornbread I had on hand and substituting sheep’s feta for the Brinza. I wondered how a simple chicken sauce – seasoned only with garlic, salt, and pepper – would taste with tangy sour cream and salty cheese on the side. But wonder of wonders (to me, anyway), it is so tasty, and the pairing with the high-acid, spicy 2018 Radacini Ampre was one of those “wow” moments.

Placinta – Placinta (pla-chin-ta) is fried bread with filling, usually brinza (homemade cheese), varza (cabbage) or cartofi (potatoes). Seasonal fillings are common, such as sour cherries in summer and pumpkin in the fall. Sometimes ingredients are mixed or the brinza is mixed with sour cream. I opted for ricotta placinta with a couple of teaspoons dill. I channeled my blogging buddy Camilla at Culinary Adventures with Camilla (did you get that vibe, Camilla?) who handles dough regularly. I do not – and my kitchen showed it. What a mess! But these “cheese pies,” as my family calls them, were a huge hit. We topped them with Za’atar and paired them with the two white Moldovan wines. The pairings were OK, but the wines seem to need salads or tomatoes (or sour cream!) to bring out their full flavors.

Lots of bloggers are on the train to Moldova this go-round. Hope you enjoy their posts and can join us 10/4 for the chat.


Written by Linda Whipple

Celebrating ‘My Wine Day’ and the little country that could 2020-10-05T14:41:53-04:00

Moldova National Wine Day Celebration


Our newly formed #WorldWineTravel group is collaborating with Wine of Moldova and Vinconnexion to celebrate Moldova National Wine Day on October 3 and 4. The event celebrates Moldovan winemaking traditions from the 15th century with cultural events and traditional foods. While the group is posting this weekend, our official start date will be later this year. Keep watching!

Moldova is located between Romania in the west and Ukraine on the east.  Moldova was behind the iron curtain until 1991 when it fell. Wineries and vineyards flourished under private ownership.

Check out this event that is happening today!

We are hosting a Twitter chat on Sunday, October 4 at 11 am EST.  Come and talk with us about all things Moldovan!  Look for the hashtag #WorldWineTravel and #WinesofMoldova.

Our sponsors, VINOvations sent us samples of Moldova Wine for us to try.  The only expectation is that we try them and pair them with food and let you know what we think!  I have done one other post on Moldova wine here.

To get into the spirit of the event, I am using my Moldova wine to pair with a couple of traditional foods that I think you will love.  The first dish is Mamaliga (so fun to say!) paired with Brinza cheese.  As unusual as this sounds, Mamaliga is simply polenta with vegetable stew and feta-like cheese!  A garlic sauce is poured over the dish for extra flavor.  I found the recipe at

We paired this delicious dish with Kazayak Viorica wine, a white wine made from Viorica grapes, indigenous to Moldova. Very aromatic with wildflowers and sweet fruit. It is rich and intense with a medium body. The finish is long, with an ending of fresh white grape. Viorica is a girl’s name in Moldova and is a flower that grows there. It is appropriate for the naming of this grape as well, as the wine is reminiscent of floral aromas.

What to expect if you get to attend:
  • Taste wines in Wine School
  • Travel in time as you watch wine being made as it was hundreds of years ago.
  • Enjoy the crafts, buy a souvenir!
  • Taste the treats of Moldova by street vendors.
  • Go on a wine tour
  • Listen to traditional music

Published by Terri Steffes

Moldova National Wine Day Celebration 2020-10-05T14:37:26-04:00

Sitting Down with Master of Wine Caroline Gilby to Discuss Moldovan Wine


Moldova is a small European country that has a history rich in winemaking. October 3rd and 4th, they will be celebrating that tradtion with their National Wine Day and my wine loving, blogging friends at World Wine Travel ( #WorldWineTravel ) are kicking off our inaugural posts centered around these festivities!

Social media is a wonderful tool. It truly makes the world a smaller place. Yes, it can have it bad points, but more often than not, it is a place that you can look to find the answers you seek. When your questions focus around Moldova, the person to look to for those answers is Master of Wine, Caroline Gilby. (thank you @quick_philip for providing the connection) 

I reached out to Caroline via of Twitter and asked if she would be willing to answer some questions about Moldova for this post. She was gracious enough to reply with a “yes.” I am so excited to share her answers and to let everyone know, that this interview will continue in the future with a podcast episode!

  1. Can you tell us a bit about yourself? You became a Master of Wine in 1992. Were you one of the first women? (how you got into the world of wine)
photo: vineandwine

I was number 167 overall to pass the exam – but not sure how many women had passed at that point. I discovered a passion for wine while studying for a doctorate in plant sciences at the university of Bath. Up to that point I’d enjoyed wine, but detailed knowledge was limited to being able to tell red from white with my eyes open.  The university had a wine society and I quickly got into arranging tastings and researching and selecting the wines. Then I won a couple of tasting competitions and a trip to stay at Quinta do Noval in the port region. The die was cast by then, so I finished the doctorate and found a job as a trainee wine buyer. When I started working in wine, Eastern Europe was big business, but not very glamorous, so I was given the region as my first buying responsibility.  I started my journey in wine around the time the Iron Curtain started its fall – we kind of grew up together in the new era.

  1. In 2018, you released a book titled, “The wines of Bulgaria, Romania and Moldova,” can you please tell us a little more about the book and your inspiration behind writing it? How can people purchase your book?

I wanted to share the amazing stories that I’ve seen in these countries, as well as telling readers about the complete revolution in wine that I’ve seen.  In the west, we are often guilty of assuming everywhere was the same under communism, but each country has emerged in different ways, shaping each country’s wines differently.  I also realized that there was very little written in English about these countries – so also wanted to write a bit of a textbook to fill in the factual gaps.  It’s available from the publishers at US/Canada other good book retailers

  1. Let’s talk about Moldova as a country first. Where exactly is the country? How big is it and how easy is it for a visit to travel there?

The country lies to the east of Romania with Ukraine on its eastern border. It’s a small country, with a population currently estimated at around 3.5 million (for comparison Romania is just over 19 million and Ukraine over 43 million). There are direct flights to Moldova’s capital Chisinau from major European cities like London, Frankfurt, Vienna and Bucharest, so not hard to get to.  Then it’s a short taxi ride into the city itself.

  1. For quite some time, it was actually under Russian rule. What triggered their ability to come out from under the Iron Curtain and what are some of the major changes that the citizens have been able to experience since it fell?

I think I have to point you to my book for more detailed information on the changes, especially about the impact on wine. The fall of the Iron Curtain gave quite few countries the chance to declare independence and in Moldova’s case it became the current republic in August 1991

  1. Can you tell us a little about the winemaking history in Moldova? As with many European countries, wine has been part of its culture since around 3,000 BC. What would you say are some of the major changes that have occurred. Major hurdles they have overcome?

Another huge question. Undoubtedly, being part of the Russian Empire and then the USSR had a huge impact on winemaking – indeed the country that is Moldova today changed political identity 9 times over the past 200 years.  I’m closest to the changes over recent times – from shipping almost all of their wine to CIS states towards reinventing themselves with the rise of small winemakers and premium wines with a focus on western European standards

  1. I have never been to Moldova, but I think every wine lover has seen images of Milestii Mici. Can you tell us more about this wine cellar? I read that they have been building this cellar since 1968. What was the original intention of the cellar? Do you know how many bottles it ultimately can hold – or are they continuously adding to the size?

These limestone tunnels were originally quarries for the rock that built much of Chisinau. It’s naturally cool as the cellars are around 30 to 85 metres deep and I guess someone spotted that this was a perfect environment for ageing wine. It’s often described as an underground wine town with streets named for grapes and wine styles, such as Cabernet, Aligoté and Feteasca. Around 55 km are used for wine but there are about 200km of tunnels in total.

  1. And there is a second large cellar? Cricova, which is also close to the capital of Chisinau? What can you tell us about this cellar? Why do you think they have invested so much into these massive wine cellars?

Also a limestone quarry that proved ideal for ageing sparkling wine, produced here since 1950s.  At one time every third bottle of bubbly sold in the USSR came from Moldova and much of that would have come from Cricova. Famous in particular for wine collections of world leaders.

  1. Moldova has both International grapes and indigenous grapes. What would you say are their top white and red variety? What are their tasting profiles?



Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot and other international names are the biggest varieties – but I suspect your readers will be more interested in the local varietieswhich I encourage you to go and taste. Personally, I have a soft spot for the exotic aromatic white Viorica and for the gentle berry fruit and elegance that Rara Neagra can offer, alone or in blends like Negru de Purcari


  1. Approximately how many acres are under vine in Moldova? Is wine their main agriculture? About how many bottles does the region produce and how much of that is exported?

126,000 hectares (311,000 acres) in total including all the back-garden plots. There are 62,500 hectares (154,000 acres) of commercial Vitis vinifera vines. Vines occupy 7% of all agricultural land in Moldova and 3.8% of the country’s total surface – the highest density of vineyards in the world. The 2020 harvest is about 25 to 40% down on normal due to the drought – likely to be around 1 to 1.2 million hl.  83% of Moldova’s wine is exported.

Follow Dracaena Wines on Twitter, Instagram and Facebook for special offers.

  1. Does the region have quality designations?

Yes, since 2014 there have been three Protected Geographical Indications for wine: Codru, Valul lui Traian and Stefan Vodă. 9,600 hectares (23,722 acres) are registered to produce PGI wines

11. What is the climate like in Moldova? What does their typical growing season look like?

Winter can be really cold and summers warm – it’s mostly a continental climate, though moderated a little by the black sea in the south east. Much more information in my book.

  1. What are the soils like in Moldova? Are they predisposed to any natural pests?

Deep black soils over limestone with lots of slopes.  Winter cold and summer drought would be the key concerns (this year’s drought is particularly grim) and more extreme weather events like hail.

image: premiumwinesofromania

13. The wines we were sent as samples are based on Feteasca. Can you tell us about this grape? A bit about its history? Do ampelographers know its lineage?

Nothing is known about its parentage so far. It appears to be an old variety that originated around the area of Iasi – in what was the principality of Moldavia (eventually divided between Romania and today’s Republic of Moldova)

  1. What is the relationship between Fetească Alba Fetească Regală and Fetească Neagra? Are they mutations of a single grape variety?

Fetească Neagră is not a colour mutation of Fetească Albă – they don’t appear to be related at all. Fetească Regală is the offspring of Fetească Albă and a grape called Frâncusa from the Moldovan Hills region of Romania. Fetească Albă is also an old variety with little if anything known about its parentage.

15. October 4th is The National Wine Day. The festival celebrates Moldovan wines and the longstanding winemaking traditions. How long has this festival been occurring? This year is virtual, but what is the event typically like?

You will have to ask a local – I’ve visited the country many times but only been for national wine day once when it couldn’t be held in the capital, so we visited lots of different wineries around the country. 

Thank you again to Dr. Caroline Gilby for taking the time to share your knowledge with me.

Why not join us? It will be a fun and educational experience. This group will typically meet with a Twitter Chat that happens the fourth Saturday monthly at 11am Eastern Time (ET) / 17:00 Central European Time (CET) using hashtag #WorldWineTravel. However, in honor of the Moldova Wine Day, our first get together will be October 4th! If you want to try to find a Moldovan wine to celebrate with, The US online retailer is VINOvations.

Sitting Down with Master of Wine Caroline Gilby to Discuss Moldovan Wine 2020-10-05T14:32:46-04:00

Food Pairings for Moldovan Wines


Today we share food pairings for Moldovan wines that we have had a chance to enjoy, along with some background information about wine from Moldova plus links to some other great blogs on the topic. Disclosure: the wines discussed in this article were sent to me as complimentary samples in on conjunction with Moldova Wine Day observances.

I had my first taste of wine from Moldova back in July, and really enjoyed it. So when the opportunity came to participate in a World Wine Travel group event celebrating Moldovan Wine Day today (October 4), I eagerly raised my hand!

I came up with a new recipe for this event, as well as pairing some of the wines with some familiar favorites. My focus here is food and wine pairings, so I am going to get right into that, followed by some background information on Moldovan wines .

For the July Moldovan wine event, I found that the Saperavi I had for that event paired very well with the spices in our Ground Beef Chili. So I figured a red wine blend featuring Saperavi as the dominant grape might also pair well with some spicy fare.

I cooked up Beef and Black Bean Enchiladas with the Moldovan red wine blend in mind. They came out absolutely delicious, with a hearty filling topped with a spicy chipotle sauce.

I opened the 2018 Radacini Ampre ($20, 13% ABV) to go with our enchiladas. The wine is a blend of 70% Saperavi, 20% Feteasca and 10% Merlot. An intense nose, with the scent of the woods on a warm day along with some black pepper notes.

On the palate, I got blackberry fruit and some notable acidity. The wine tasted young, and benefitted from about 20 minutes of decanting. so I decanted for about 20 minutes while finishing the enchiladas.

Tasting the wine along with our meal, I got black pepper along with the fruit, which made for a nice pairing with the chipotle enchilada sauce.

The Saperavi based blend definitely had the heft to stand up to the beef in the enchiladas as well as the spices. Definitely a great pairing for the meal!

The Ampre is made from hand harvested grapes, grown in the Stefan Voda region. Each of the three grapes are fermented separately prior to blending.

Linguine with Pesto & Tomatoes

pasta with pesto topped with tomatoes served with a white wine.
Linguine with pesto served with Castel Mimi Feteasca Alba

Our first Moldovan wine pairing for this event came about in rather serendipitous fashion.

A wine loving couple that we got to know when they started a local wine shop called Pairings has occasionally organized tastings out on their patio with small tables carefully spaced out a good dozen feet or so apart.

One late afternoon I was over on their patio sampling through a lineup of excellent wines from Mexico, brought in by Tozi Imports. While there, Lori encouraged her guests to help themselves to as much basil as we wanted from the abundance in her garden. I’m not one to pass up fresh basil!

Arriving home from the tasting, the fresh basil in the bag was a siren song calling me to make a supper featuring pesto.

As I started making pesto, I recalled the two Moldovan white wines waiting to be sampled. Let’s give one of them a try with the pesto!

I decided to open the 2018 Castel Mimi Feteasca Alba ($19, 13% ABV) to go with the pesto. This white wine is light and flavorful, with lychee and kiwi notes. Enough refreshing acidity to go very well with our linguine with classic basil pesto, topped with fresh tomatoes from our farmshare.

I liked this wine right from the first sip, and would consider it a great choice to grab instead of Sauvignon Blanc, when looking for a change of pace.

Castel Mimi has a long history going back to 1893. Constantin Mimi brought back training he had in Western Europe to start the first chateau in Moldova, according to the winery website. A major restoration project in 2011 has made the chateau a great place for visitors, as well as a source for some excellent Moldovan wine.

Haddock & Pasta with Red Lentils

pasta with red lentils and ginger served with a white wine from Moldova.
Pasta with Red Lentils and Ginger paired with a Moldovan white wine

I thought seafood might be a good call for our second bottle of Moldovan white wine. So I planned on cooking up some baked haddock, along with one of my go to pasta recipes, Pasta with Red Lentils and Ginger.

The pasta with red lentils dish is a good one to serve with fish, as Jodi passes on seafood. The lentils provide protein making it a complete meal. Not to mention it is delicious! Based on a recipe from The Vegetarian Planet, with a few adaptations we have made over many times of making it.

We served the haddock and pasta dish with the 2018 Kazayak Viorica ($18, 13% ABV). Viorica is a white wine grape native to Moldova, that was certainly new to me.

This Viorica has a strong citrus element on the nose. On the palate, I tasted lime and notes of pine. As I tasted it more, other complex flavors came to mind, including white tea and chamomile.

Sometimes I will like a wine from a familiar grape right away. Other times, such as this tasting, it to a little while to warm up to the new tastes from the unfamiliar grape.

Viorica white wine served with bok choy stir-fry.
Viorica paired with a bok choy & red bell pepper stir-fry

And the Viorica turned out to be a great pairing for our meal! The ginger in the pasta dish, which I also added to our stir fried bok choy side, I think is the ingredient that really bridged nicely to the lively flavors of the wine. So if you have a bottle of Viorica to pair with, try to have some ginger in your dish!

Rosu De Purcari

Stay tuned for our pairing to go with the 2015 Rosu De Purcari! This blend of Cabernet Sauvignon (50%), Merlot (35%) and Malbec (15%) from one of the oldest wineries in the region is one I look forward to trying. A substantial meat dish would seem to be in order for this blend.

Ground Beef Chili

bowl of chili with Moldovan red wine.
Ground Beef Chili paired with Saperavi

Although not officially part of the sampling we did for this event, the Ground Beef Chili pairing we had with a Saperavi from Moldova is worth a photo and mention here, as it was an excellent combination!

We had the 2017 Gitana Winery Saperavi ($30, 14% ABV) to pair with our chili. The fruit forward aspect of the wine, with moderate tannins, helped make this a wine a good partner for the chili spices. The robust Saperavi has the heft needed to go with the beef. This pairing is definitely a winner that I would recommend!

Background on Moldovan Wines

I’m pretty good with my geography, but I must confess I definitely had to hop online to see where Moldova is located when I was getting ready to sample some of its wines. Quick answer — the former Soviet republic is located between Romania and Ukraine in Eastern Europe.

vineyard in Moldova
Wine of Moldova courtesy photo.

Wine clearly has an important place in Moldova’s culture and its economy. The winemaking history goes back some 5,000 years, with references in the Iliad to wines from the region. In the Middle Ages, vineyards owners ruled the country, according to the Wine of Moldova site.

Moldova is the country with the highest density of vineyards in the world, with 81,000 hectares planted in the relatively small country. We might not see too many wines from Moldova here in the US, as top destinations for the country’s wine include Romania, Poland and China.

But after more US customers have a chance to try Moldovan wines like we did, I expect there will be more demand for it here!

Some 2% of Moldova’s GDP comes from the wine industry. By contrast, you have to add the beer and spirits industry along with wine to get to 1.65% of US GDP, according to this source.

underground wine collection
Cricova underground wine collection. Wine of Moldova courtesy photo.

Perhaps even more distinctive are the vast underground wine collections to be found in Moldova. One of those, Mileștii Mici, holds the Guinness record for largest wine collection in the world.

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Food Pairings for Moldovan Wines 2020-10-05T14:20:31-04:00

Celebrating the Food and Wine of Moldova


I am excited to have you join us today for the first event of a new project called World Wine Travel. WWT is a group of wine lovers that will be exploring wines of the world. You will recognize many of the participants if you are a regular reader.

Many of us also belong to Italian FWT, Wine Pairing Weekend, and the French Winophiles. These events occur on the first, second and third Saturdays of each month.  That left a Saturday.  A week without wine?!  We can’t have that, so Jeff of foodwineclick began World Wine Travel where we will be virtually travelling the world, tasting the wines, experiencing the food and culture and sharing our travels with our readers.

This weekend we are travelling to Moldova where they are celebrating “My Wine Day”.  Won’t you join us?

Lynn of Savor the Harvest is hosting this month.  Lynn not only invited us to join her in the fun but she also arranged for us to get samples of Moldovan wine to taste and review.  These wines were provided by VINovations who is the online retailer for the USA.

One of my favorite things about travelling, whether live or virtually, is exploring the culture through food.  In previous years, if I were travelling to Moldova, I would be smack dab in the middle of a huge festival where they would be celebrating “My Wine Day”.  This year, due to the pandemic, it is looking a little different.  You will find no stands, no crowds, no festival, no dancing.  They are still celebrating though, just a little differently.  Individual wineries will be having special programs that include tastings, food pairings and music.

This map, courtesy of, shows this small country surrounded by Romania and Ukraine.  The food, of course, is reminiscent of both countries.  Normally over 150,000 people would be visiting Moldova this weekend in celebration of National Wine Day.  The villages of Moldova exist because of wine, having the most land dedicated to vineyards than any other place in the world according to this article from Food & Wine magazine.
Having married into a Polish family, many of the recipes I found when researching Moldova were very familiar to me.  I was intrigued by the Moldovan version of Cabbage Rolls called Sarmale.  These are different from the Polish Golabki that I make in several ways.
First you add vinegar to the water in which you are boiling the cabbage leaves.  Next you line the bottom and top of the cabbage rolls with saurkraut and you add a ham hock to the mix.  I didn’t have a ham hock so I put in a ham steak.  The filling contains all pork including bacon. At the end you add a bay leaf and dill sprig then cook it on the stove top instead of in the oven.
Like my recipe, this one contained rice in the filling.  I assembled my rolls and put them onto the stove to cook. I started cleaning the kitchen when I noticed my rice steamer with the rice all nice and cooked inside!  We had our rice on the side LOL.
I opened two bottles to serve with this dinner, a white and a red.  The Castel MIMI Feteasca Alba poured a light golden color.  I found it refreshing with a hint of stone fruit.  I thought it paired amazingly well with the Sarmale.
The Radacini Saperavi Feteasca Neagra Merlot also had a hint of stone fruit but was spicier and heavier with hints of black pepper.  It paired okay with the Sarmale but I actually enjoyed this wine more on it’s own after dinner while relaxing with a book.  It is my kind of wine, deep, dark, bold and dry.
I’m anxious to try my other two wines and share my findings with you so stay tuned.  Hope to see you at chat tomorrow, until then if you have time this weekend, this recipe is a great way to celebrate the Fall season.

Yield: 12 servings

Author: Wendy Klik
Sarmale (Moldovan Cabbage Rolls)

Sarmale (Moldovan Cabbage Rolls)

These cabbage rolls are filled with a ground pork and bacon mixture and then smothered in sauerkraut flavored with ham. They are amazingly delicious.
Prep time: 1 HourCook time: 3 H & 30 MTotal time: 4 H & 30 M


  • 1 large head of cabbage
  • 2 T. Kosher salt
  • 1/4 c. white vinegar
  • 2 large onions, small dice
  • 2 stalks celery, small dice
  • 1/2 lb bacon, diced
  • 8 oz. mushrooms, diced
  • salt and pepper, to taste
  • 2 T.  finely chopped parsley
  • 1 1/2 lbs. ground pork
  • 1/2 c. water
  • 1 qt. sauerkraut
  • 1 smoked ham steak or small ham hock
  • 1 (15 oz) can tomato sauce
  • 1 c. tomato vegetable juice
  • 1 bay leaf
  • 1 sprig dill weed


  1. Remove core from cabbage.  Bring a large pot of water to a boil.  Add the kosher salt and vinegar to the water.  Immerse the cabbage and cook for about 5 minutes.  Use tongs to remove the leaves from the cabbage as they soften, placing them onto a baking pan to cool.
  2. Place the bacon into a large skillet over medium heat along with the onions, celery and mushrooms.  Season with salt and pepper.  Cook and stir until bacon is browned and vegetables are tender.  Stir in the parsley, set aside.
  3. Use a paring knife to remove the main vein from the cooled cabbage leaves so they lay flat.  Set aside.
  4. Combine the ground pork with the cooled bacon and vegetables and a 1/2 cup of water.
  5. Place about 2 Tablespoons of filling onto the cabbage leaves and fold them like an envelope.
  6. Drain the sauerkraut and place half into the bottom of a Dutch Oven or other heavy pot.  Place the ham on top of the sauerkraut and then layer the cabbage rolls on top.  Cover the rolls with the remaining sauerkraut.  Mix together the tomato sauce and juice and pour over all.  Add the bay leaf and dill sprig to the top.
  7. Place the lid onto the Dutch Oven and bring to a boil over high heat.  Reduce the heat to medium low and simmer for 2-3 hours, until very tender.
  8. Serve over rice, if desired,  garnished with sour cream.


Adapted from a recipe found at The California Wine Club website.



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Created using The Recipes Generator
Celebrating the Food and Wine of Moldova 2020-10-05T14:12:38-04:00

Two Indigenous Moldovan Grapes – Fetească Albă and Fetească Neagră – Paired With Colțunași Harnici (Hard-Working Dumplings)


Where in the World is Moldova?

Can you find Moldova on a map or globe? My boys could. Thankfully. But we did cook some Moldovan food back in 2013 during our cooking around the world adventure.

Back then, I made a Moldavan Beetroot Salad which wasn’t a hit, then, but I suspect R’s palate has developed since then! Also, back then, we discovered Sarmale, Moldovan Cabbage Rolls. I’m including the link to that original post because my Enthusiastic Kitchen Elf was pretty adorable and helpful.

In case you are unfamiliar, landlocked Moldova lies between Romania and Ukraine and consists of hilly grasslands flanked by the Prut and Dniester Rivers. Mostly pastoral lands, Moldova was part of Romania before World War II, and a majority of Moldovans still speak Romanian. Soviets annexed Moldova in 1940, and Russians and Ukrainians settled in the industrial region east of the Dniester (known as Transdniestria). After Moldova gained independence in 1991, Transdniestria seceded, making Tiraspol its capital.

The #WorldWineTravel Bloggers

So, today, the #WorldWineTravel crew is looking at wines from Moldova and sharing ideas for food pairings. If you are reading this early enough, feel free to join the live Twitter chat on Sunday, October 4th at 8am Pacific time. Follow the hashtag #WorldWineTravel and be sure to add that to anything you tweet so that we can see it. In the meantime, all of these posts will be live by early morning on Sunday.

I hope you’ll join in the Moldova Wine day and weekend celebration! You can also find more information at the links: Wine Day Wine of Moldova; Wine of Moldova; YouTube Wine of Moldova; Wine Of Moldova USA; The Wines of Bulgaria, Romainia and Moldova; and Exotic Wine Travel.

Two Indigenous Moldovan Grapes

I have tried these grapes once before, but I was excited to receive four bottles of wine from the event sponsor, Wine of Moldova*. And I really wanted to shine the spotlight on two of Moldova’s indigenous grapes: Fetească Albă and Fetească Neagră. These are also referred to as ‘maidens.’ Well, Feteasca means ‘maiden’ in Romanian, the state language of Moldova, and the name of three distinct, indigenous grape varietals: Feteasca Regala (royal maiden), Feteasca Neagra (black maiden), and Feteasca Alba (white maiden).

I received two of the maidens to sample along with another indigenous grape that I’ll feature at another time. The ‘white maiden’, Castel Mimi Fetească Albă was one I have tried before. I hope you’ll read more about Castel Mimi from the #WorldWineTravel founder. Jeff of Food Wine Click! posted A Moldova Phoenix Story – Castel Mimi after attending a press trip to Moldova that included Castel Mimi in 2019. What a treat. I’m jealous!

This 2018 Fetească Albă, true to its name, pours a beautiful white wine with flecks of green and gold. Fresh garden aromas lean towards citrus and herbs with notes of lemon zest and rosemary. But on the palate the wine is decidedly softer than its scent. I detected more summer stone fruit with a subtle acidity.

My ‘black maiden’, Fetească Neagră, was actually a blend of 70% Saperavi, 20% Fetească Neagră, and 10% Merlot grapes from Radacini Winery. Made from hand-harvested grapes, all of the varietals were fermented separately and then blended to create this hearty red wine. This 2018 pours a rich reddish purple with a bouquet of red stone fruits and a tinge of black pepper.

I had initially planned to pour the two Moldovan white wines I received. But this wine made me switch directions and serve both Fetească bottles with a traditional Moldovan dish: dumplings.

Colțunași Harnici

Hard-Working Dumplings

In Moldova, I discovered that dumplings come in two types: colțunași harnici, which translated literally means ‘hard-working dumplings’, and colțunași lenoși or ‘lazy dumplings.’ The former consist of unleavened dough wrapped around a filling such as cheese, potatoes, or cabbage. And as far as the hard-working part, I had my Kitchen Elves do most of the work! They certainly did work hard for this dinner.


makes approximately two dozen dumplings


Dumpling Wrapper

  • 2 cups flour plus more for rolling
  • 1 cup hot water
  • 1 egg
  • 1 t salt
  • oil as needed
  • Also needed: rolling pin, bowl approximately 4″ diameter, butter knife, water for sealing dumplings

Cheese Filling

  • 1/2 cup sliced leeks
  • 1 Tablespoon butter
  • 1 teaspoon olive oil
  • 1 cup ricotta cheese (I used one that was made of buffalo milk)
  • 1 cup shredded parmesan cheese
  • 1 cup mashed potatoes (this is a great way to use leftover potatoes)
  • freshly ground salt, to taste
  • freshly ground pepper, to taste
  • 2 eggs, beaten

Braised Beef (you will have leftovers!)

  • 1 Tablespoon olive oil
  • 2  pounds beef (you can use whatever you have on-hand), cubed
  • 1 cup onion, peeled and diced
  • 6-8 cloves garlic, crushed
  • 1 cup broth (I used beef broth)
  • 2 cups red wine
  • 2 to 3 Tablespoons tomato paste
  • freshly ground salt, as needed
  • freshly ground pepper, as needed

For Serving

  • fresh herbs
  • olive oil
  • freshly ground salt
  • freshly ground pepper


Braised Beef 

Heat the oil in a large pan or pot. Stir in the garlic, then add the beef meat into the pot. Sear on each side for 3 to 5 minutes – until a nice brown begins to appear.

Add the onions and let them cook until the onion is translucent and beginning to caramelize.

Pour in the broth and red wine. Stir in the tomato paste. Bring to a boil. Then, reduce the heat to a simmer and cover. Let the meat braise for 1 hour – longer is fine, too. Once the beef is tender. Use a fork to shred the meat slightly. Raise the heat to reduce the sauce to your desired thickness. Season to taste with salt and pepper.

Dumpling Wrapper

Place flour, salt, and water together in a medium mixing bowl. Whisk together until a shaggy dough forms. Turn the dough onto a clean work surface or cutting board and press a hollow into the center. Crack the egg into the hole and knead it until the egg is incorporated and the dough comes together. Add 1 Tablespoon of oil and knead the dough into an elastic dough. Add another splash of oil to a bowl and place the dough inside. Cover loosely with a towel and let rest for at least 30 minutes. While the dough rests, make the filling.

Cheese Filling

Place butter and olive oil in a skillet over medium heat until the butter is melted. Stir in the leeks and cook until the leeks are softened and beginning to caramelize, approximately 6 to 8 minutes.

Place the ricotta cheese, parmesan, and mashed potatoes in a large mixing bowl. Add in the leek and stir until well-incorporated. Season to taste with salt and pepper. Then fold in your eggs. Stir everything together until well-combined.

After the dough has rested, divide it into quarters. Use a rolling pin to roll the dough into a thin rectangle. The dough should be 1/8″ or thinner.

Use a bowl as your guide to cut the dough into circles.

Spoon 1 Tablespoon of the filling onto one side of the circle. Moisten the edge of the wrapper and fold the dough over the filling.

Roll edges together. Crimp the edge with a fork.

Repeat until you run out of wrappers or filling. You can also re-roll the scraps and get more circles.

Place on a parchment paper-lined baking sheet until you are ready to cook.

To cook, bring a large pot of water to a boil. Place 5 to 6 dumpling in the water at a time. As soon as they all float to the top, let them cook for an additional 3 minutes. Remove with a slotted spoon and set aside.

I served these hard-working dumplings two ways. the first was with a sprinkle of salt, pepper, and chopped herbs and a drizzle of olive oil.

The second way I served them was on a bed of the braised beef with a few spoonfuls of the beef on top. Season to taste with salt and pepper.

That’s it for our Moldova wine pairing event. I hope you’re inspired to track down some wine from Moldova and make some traditional dumplings! They do take a little bit of work, but they are well worth the effort.


Two Indigenous Moldovan Grapes – Fetească Albă and Fetească Neagră – Paired With Colțunași Harnici (Hard-Working Dumplings) 2020-10-05T13:20:30-04:00

Moldova National Wine Day is Here!


Get excited, everybody, because Moldova National Wine Days are here! Every year, on the first weekend of October, wineries throughout Moldova fling open their doors and host tastings, master classes, food and wine pairing events and more. It has become a national festival of Moldovan wines and while this year – the 19th annual Moldova Wine Days – is a little different (#stupidcovid), the good news is that it is going international!

There is a major online webinar and tasting on Saturday, Oct. 3 at 11 a.m. Chicago time, hosted by Jamie Goode, international wine expert and prolific author, and Michelle Williams, of Rockin’ Red Blog and Forbes contributor. If you want to sign up, register here for free. And the fabulous folks at VinConnexion (a France-based press agency) have engaged the new World Wine Travel blog group with more delicious samples. We’ll be gabbing on Twitter on Sunday, Oct. 4 at 11 a.m. Chicago time, learning more about these beautiful wines. (Use #WorldWineTravel on Twitter and join us!)

You might remember I wrote about Moldovan wines in July with the Wine Pairing Weekend blog group. Having tasted these newest bottles, I will stake my wineglass on this: Moldova is the next Georgia, when it comes to wine regions on the rise. Come on – I have some fun new wines to share with you!

Castel Mimi Feteasca Alba 2018 This is a glorious white wine made from the Feteasca Albã grape, which has been cultivated for centuries in Moldova. If you like Sauvignon Blanc or Pinot Grigio – lighter-bodied white wines with nice, zingy acidity – you will love this one. You’re going to get a nice gush of pear, followed by peaches and some lovely floral notes.

Castel Mimi is quite historic and well over 100 years old. It is located about 45 minutes from Moldova’s capital city of Chisnāu (which is located smack in the center of the country). I haven’t been to Moldova – yet – but judging from Castel Mimi’s website, it is quite the tourist destination, with a resort, a swish-looking restaurant, fancy gardens – the works!

I paired it with vegetable fried rice, which was a surprisingly delicious pairing! The rice dish had a nice gingery/garlicky bite to it with fresh green vegetables in and the two made fast friends! (I adapted this salmon fried rice recipe from Bon Appetit magazine, subbing in broccoli, asparagus and water chestnuts in place of the salmon.)

Suvorov-Vin Viorica 2018 This is a glorious white wine and I was elated to see another bottle, because I loved it when I first tasted it in June! The grape is called Viorica and it is a cross between Seibel and Aleatico that was developed in 1969 to withstand cold weather. The wine is busting loose with lime and lemon curd, honey, peaches, ripe cantaloupe – it’s a freaking cornucopia of fruity freshness in a bottle. But it is a dry wine – let me be clear on that. And has a nice creamy texture. I adore it and it clocks in at $9.99 – WHAT? Talk about over-delivering on quality for the price!

Purcari Rosu de Purcari 2015 This sexy minx of a red is 50% Cabernet Sauvignon, 40% Merlot and 10% Malbec. The wine immediately unleashes aromas of bramble berry, spices, dried herbs and dried violets. The first sip made me a fan and I was immediately worried that I would finish the whole bottle in one sitting – that’s how delicious it is! It has well-integrated tannins and is perfectly balanced between fruit, earth, alcohol and freshness, with a peppery finish. I loved it! I would drink this with mushroom dishes, red meat or pulled pork with barbecue sauce.

Except I didn’t have any of those things! I had left-over chicken Parmegiana and it was actually kind of perfect with the wine!

Radacini 2018 This fun little blend of 70% Saperavi, 20% Feteasca Neagra and 10% Merlot is a real beauty. Aromas of bramble berry, blueberry, cranberry and cake frosting (mmm hmmm) hit me before the fresh n’ fruity black and blueberries and cherries tumbled onto my tongue. There is great structure to this wine and excellent freshness. It leans lighter, rather than heavier – so I would not pair it with beef, but it would cozy right up to a plate of lamb or venison, or pork tenderloin, or hearty vegetarian dishes like lentil stew. Mmmm.

I’ve just been so gobsmacked by the quality of the wines coming out of Moldova. I’ve tasted quite a few wines from Georgia (southeast of Moldova, more in the Caucasus region) and they have a totally different style – more rustic, earthier. Moldova is making wines that wow for sophisticated wine drinkers across Europe – and now the U.S. It’s worth asking your wine shop if they can bring these in for purchase. (Share the Wines of Moldova USA website with your wine shop.) Thank you again VinConnexion for the samples – it is so much fun trying well-made wines from far-away lands!

On top of the quality of the wines, Moldova is really stepping it up with the tourism programs and marketing materials. Moldova’s wines have, in fact, won 740 medals and international wine competition over the last decade, from big fish like Decanter’s World Wine Awards, Mundus Vini, Concours Mondial de Bruxelles and others. Moldova wines are now sold in 63 countries!


Written by Liz Barrett

Moldova National Wine Day is Here! 2020-10-05T13:10:05-04:00