Moldova’s key white grape varieties
On the white front, Moldova's climate really suits grapes with aromatic characters. Sauvignon Blanc delivers some great results here: fresh, appetising and nicely expressive. And there’s good Pinot Gris/Grigio too. Among the local grapes, both Fetească Albă with its delicate apple blossom and white peach characters, and its offspring the richer Fetească Regală both appear, with Moldova's climate giving both a fine appetising freshness. Then there are a couple of uniquely Moldovan varieties such as Viorica which is exotic and grapey with crisp mouth-watering acidity. Even rarer is Alb de Onițcani which is only produced by Novak winery – via a lucky accident. Andrey Novak planted this grape when the nursery didn't have enough of the vines he ordered.
Don’t miss the sparkling and sweet wines...
I can't talk about Moldovan wine without mentioning sparkling wines and sweet wines. Sparkling wines have a history dating back to the 1950s as the deep limestones quarries at Cricova and Mileștii Mici proved ideal for bottle ageing traditional method sparkling wine, and fortunately the climate gives base wines from Pinot Noir and Chardonnay with beautifully lively acidity. The first ice wine of the new era only appeared in 2003, but with Moldova's chilly winters, gorgeously luscious ice wines are possible pretty much every year. There are superb examples of Riesling, Muscat Ottonel, Traminer, Viorica and even Chardonnay to be found (look for Fautor, Ch Vartely, Vinaria Purcari and Kvint). There is also a long tradition of sweet red wines. Originally called Cahor or Kagor due to connections with settlers from that part of France but today called Pastoral. Traditionally this is was a christening wine, made from reds sweetened with honey, though today’s versions are produced in a similar way to port - though a little lighter - fortified while still sweet.