Dusk approaches. There is a fine light misty sprinkling falling from grey skies. All around is light, sound and motion. The massive TV screen set up in the middle of the blocked road is belting out some sort of light pop music with a really Eastern Euro feel. A local guy comes over to us plonks three plastic wine glasses before us and pours red wine. We do not speak each other’s language but he smiles broadly brandishing the wine bottle and its label before us. The wine is a pleasant fruity quaffer and in the spirit of friendship we drink, compliment and thank him for it. He comes back with some white wine and the performance is repeated. People are crowding around the various booths and marquees to taste the major produce and source of what little export wealth there is for this small Easter European backwater that is Moldova, wine. Accidentally we have arrived bang in the middle of the annual 2 day festival and wine expo in the little backwater Moldovan capitol of Chisinau.
Moldova was a tiny piece that fell out of the jigsaw puzzle of nations that was the USSR. The fragmentation of the Soviet empire in 1992 left this poor little backwater sandwiched between Romania and Ukraine. Ethnically these people are Romanian, they speak the same language, and even persist with the Romanian currency. In Soviet times they were a supplier of cheap and nasty tasting wine to Russia. Since independence the little wine industry has struggled to attract the attention of the outside world. It has been a fast learning curve for the vignerons here but they have been hamstrung by their former market’s desire for classic European grapes such as Cabernet, Chardonnay and Pinot Noir. The newer generation vignerons are increasing planting the original, indigenous grapes. The result is that the best wines here are those made with the grapes such as Feteasca Alba, Feteasca negra and Rara Negra. The very best of these are absolute knockout wines, different to anything I have ever tasted and the best of them go for the pittance price of $20 Australian. This is a wine lover’s nirvana!