Moldova Mash-up: Wines of Moldova & Foods of the World
Yep, you read that right: wines from Moldova! When our Wine Pairing Weekend wine writing group was offered samples, I said “Da!” (which means “yes” in Moldovan, which is a language very similar to or possibly even exactly the same as Romanian, but probably v. similar to Russian, too.)
I received three bottles, and I. MEAN! The Moldovans know how to make some excellent wines! I’m going to tell you about them and some food pairings that worked – and some that were just plain God-awful, too, because you know me – I’m full service!
But First: Where in the World is Moldova?
Moldova is a land-locked country in Eastern Europe, between Romania and Ukraine. For centuries, Moldova was the scene of seemingly constant invasions and annexations, being tossed between Romania and Russia like a rag doll. But in 1991, Moldova proudly declared its independence, as the dissolution of the Soviet Union was underway.
With a population of 2.6 million, the country is named after the Moldova River, and is sadly, the poorest country in Europe. But happily, it’s on its way up with its wines! Moldova has 360,000 acres under vine and grows 50 different varieties of grapes, including a the native white grape, Viorica, and the red grape, Saperavi, which has made a name for itself in Georgian wines. Moldova also grows many international varietals like Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, Sauvignon Blanc and Chardonnay. Most of their wine is exported to Romania, China, Russia, Czech Republic and Ukraine, but happily, some of it is now making its way to the U.S.
Let’s Get Sippin’!
Suvorov (that’s the name of the producer) Viorica 2018 –This is one of Moldova’s native grapes. The wine unleashes a tidal wave of lime and lemon curd aromas, followed by honey, peach nectar, ripe cantaloupe and an alluring, subtle funk of beeswax. It is medium-bodied and somewhat creamy (which I think comes from aging on the lees). Oh, it is so good! And it clocks in at, like, $10 a bottle! Look for it on Winesearcher.
Food pairings: A friend and I were nibbling on some Parmesan shards but when we tried that cheese with this wine? Ack! Horrible. Blech. So I pulled out an aged white cheddar. Now we’re talkin’! The flavors of the wine, combined with its slightly rich texture, means it wants to be paired with something that has a bit of fat to it. The robust white cheddar was excellent, and we decided that Prosciutto-wrapped cantaloupe would be a HUGE homer as well (sadly, I had cantaloupe, but no Prosciutto. And even tho I thought for a hot minute about subbing salami for Prosciutto with melon, I wisely said, ‘Liz, no! That would be gross.’) The other two dishes we think would be amaze-balls with this wine: chicken piccata and ceviche. (Not together!)
Chateau Vartely Sauvignon Blanc 2018 Well, well, well … the Moldavans are positively crushing it on Sauv Blanc. This is a perfectly balanced wine, gushing with bright lime zest, lemon peel and subtle floral notes. Excellent acidity plays well against the sunny fruit notes and it’s a wine you could drink all day. Find it on Winesearcher $15.99 is the SRP, but looks to be a bit less at some U.S. retail outlets.
Food Pairing: So you know how sometimes you just make a spastic pasta mish-mosh because you need to use up things in the fridge? Yeah, well, that’s what happened here, and while not pretty – it was freaking delicious. Penne with caramelized onions and green beans. Yes, I know it sounds weird, but it was GOOD! The umami of the onions and the freshness of the green beans worked with the citrusy notes of the wine and you know what? I’d make it again! I think this wine would also be dreamy with sautéed shrimp in garlic butter.
Gitana Winery Lupi Rizerva 2016 – Hello! We’ve got a big, bold red blend here that could easily stand up to its cousins in California or Chile. The wine is 55 percent Cabernet Sauvignon, 20 percent Merlot and 25 percent Saperavi. The wine is not shy with its black cherry, chocolate-covered dried cranberry and spice notes. Oh, wait … here’s some mocha pulling up a chair to the table. And some dried violets just knocked on the door, too. There is a lot going on in this wine! It’s one of those wines that you could have your nose in the glass for 10 minutes trying to identify all the aromas! And the tannins definitely make their presence known, though not in an obnoxious or over-done way. And the oak influence is strong, as well.
Food pairing: There is, I think, only one food pairing made for this wine and that is meat, with a side of meat and meat on top! I’m thinking specifically of beef, but a nice leg or rack of lamb could definitely work, as could some juicy pork sausages.
In summary, I was really blown away by these wines from Moldova! The country that no one really seems to think about – I mean, it’s rarely in the news, there aren’t exactly a slew of celebrities who hail from Moldova. But they know how to make some exceptional wines and I hope they are able to make some more inroads into the U.S., because I would love to be able to introduce more people to them!