Since I last posted on this blog many things have happened between me and my adoptive country Moldova. I celebrated my one year anniversary here. I was away for over two months, so long to actually miss ‘home’. And most of all, my husband and I bought a house in the Moldovan countryside. But I will say more about that in another post.
What I want to focus on here is the fact that we actually now own real grapeyards, which produced lots of grapes. One of the varieties we have is a grape locally called Baku, or Bako. We borrowed a plastic barrel from a neighbour the other day – together with a lot of home wine-related wisdom and tips – and got to work. We collected just a small amount of grapes during a couple of hours. Enough to fill the 150l barrel.
A day later I drove around the city of Chisinau to get what we needed – a red large plastic ‘cadă’ and a small press to crash the grapes. In the evening we got down to business in our garage to have the grapes start their fermentation.
We are not yet sure about the next steps, which seem to involve regular blending, waiting, tasting, filtering and then a still unknown sequence of transfers from container to container and finally to bottles.
We are learning by doing the art of making Moldovan wine.
Back from holidays, it gave me a small pleasure today going back to my favourite café, the Tucano Coffee at the corner of strada Puskin and Bucuresti, and later even finding a new one – the newly opened, beautifully decorated Propaganda, on strada Susev close to the corner with Puskin. They were both open on Christmas day! (Today, 7th of January, is a national holiday, the traditional Eastern Orthodox Christmas celebrated by most families).
I am rediscovering the culture of cafés here – since I don’t have a fixed office, I meet most people in one café or the other – and it seems like a lot of people does the same. Feeling a bit like Simone de Beauvoir and Jean-Paul Sartre setting their office at Café de Flore in Paris in the 1940s before the concept of shared office space was invented.Chisinau offers plenty of nice places, all with free wi-fi and delicious cakes and drinks – you’ll find me in either of the three Tucano Coffee in the centre, or in the highly popular Delice d’Ange and Crème de la crème, and more rarely at Robert’s coffee or Café de Italia.
This last week was definitely my wine week: I enjoyed a visit to the famous Cricova wine cellars, and I was at the National Wine Day celebrations in the city centre eating local food, tasting local wines and chatting with locals – overall having a great time in the sun.
Moldovan wine is very much in the spotlight recently – Russia has just banned its imports, supposedly on food safety grounds, while the EU Commission has announced a possible opening of the EU market as a solidarity gesture to Moldovan wine-makers and to the country’s economy.
So what’s the truth about Moldovan wines? Well, I was disappointed at the beginning by the average supermarket bottle, but after some investigation I now know there are several excellent labels. Locals have a sweet taste and many wines on the cheaper end of the market, or some of those I tasted at the wine day, are hardly drinkable for my average EU palate. The ones I like so far (but I am no expert) are the Etcetera wines including the local Feteasca Neagra (for about 10 euros a bottle), some good Cricova reds and whites and sparkling dry white wines which I tasted at the winery, and a very good Lupi from the Gitanes Winery.