Chişinău to Purcari
After breakfast N arrived with her driver and we set off for Purcari in the southeast of the country.
As the geography of Moldova is not generally well-known (and that may be an understatement), here is a map.
|We travelled from Chisinau to the village of Purcari in southeast Moldova|
The village of Purcari is 110km from Chişinău, a journey of some 2 hours, including a coffee stop. Once out of the capital we rolled sedately along a well-maintained two-lane road through rich agricultural country with fields of maize and sunflower, and the occasional open meadow.
|Geese in a meadow on the way to Purcari (and sorry about the reflection!)|
The smaller town of Ştefan Vodă lay just off the road and even after leaving the highway we missed Purcari village, driving straight to the winery. 'Chateau' Purcari nestles among trees, surrounded by a sea of vines.
|Purcari wine from the royal collection|
The grapes come from the surrounding 260ha of vineyards.
|Lynne and the Purcari Vineyards|
|Purcari wine resting in new French oak barrels|
|Gyropalettes, Purcari winery|
During our tour the sun had conveniently found its way above the yardarm, so our guide took us for a small tasting and proved to be as knowledgeable about the products as she had about the process – and she spoke excellent English, too.
|Lynne and our friendly and knowledgeable local guide, Purcari Winery|
The accent at Purcari is on quality rather than mass production and this was evident throughout the tasting. It is also reflected in the prices, those quoted are mail order (in Moldova only) from the winery’s website and UK prices for wines available from Romanian-wine.com. For comparison, you can buy a very decent (though not Purcari!) bottle in any mid-range Chişinău eatery for £6-£7 and for far less in supermarkets.
Pinot Grigio did not sound a promising start but although it was as colourless as any other Pinot Grigio it shone in a way most do not. It also had a strong fruity/spicy nose where most smell of nothing. Italian Pinot Grigio is harvested early to increase acidity and often over-cropped to keep it cheap - that is why it tastes of nothing This was fresh and clean on the palate with autumnal notes of apple and pear – if only all Pinot Grigio was like this. (120 Lei - £5.45) UK £11.95
Left to right, Pinot Grigio, Rosé, Rosu and Ice Wine
Rosé de Purcari is a blend of Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot and the local Rară Neagră. A pale salmon pink with a wild strawberry nose, it has good acidity (more than the Pinot Grigio) but is disappointing on the palate as it offers little beyond crispness until the Cabernet kicks in at the end. (120 Lei - £5.45) UK £11.95
Roşu de Purcari is made using the classic Bordeaux Cabernet Sauvignon/Merlot/Malbec blend. The 2014 vintage still looks young and purple, the nose is an immense blast of fruit very much in the Bordeaux style. This is a rich, premium wine with abundant plummy fruit, solid tannins and an excellent balance. If I had been told this came from the Haut-Médoc I would have believed it. Maybe they should be pushing their own style not aping somebody else’s, but they do it so well I forgive them. (295 Lei - £13.40 and it would be £25 if it really was Haut-Médoc.)
|I'm taking this seriously, Tasting at Purcari Winery|
Ice Wine. A pale gold, viscous (almost oily) blend of Muscat Ottonel and Traminer, with an aroma of lychees, honey and roses. The spicy Traminer (which I like) tempers the flowery Muscat (not so keen) and the intensely sweet, luscious whole is greater than the sum of its parts. (380 Lei - £17.30 for ½ bottle).
Lunch at the Purcari Winery
A good tasting is a perfect prelude to a good lunch and the winery had arranged a three-course meal showcasing traditional Moldovan cuisine.
We started with Plăcintă, a usually circular flaky pastry case with various fillings. A favourite in Romania and Ukraine as well as Moldova, it can be sweet or savoury, but for a starter we had cabbage and dill in one, and soft cheese in the other. The pastry was excellent, if a little filling, I liked the cheesy one but shredded cabbage would not be my first (or second) choice of filling.
|Placinta, Purcari Winery|
|Ciorba, Purcari Winery|
|Pork and mamaliga with grated branza, Purcari Winery|
There was no desert – we were stuffed anyway – but we had been royally entertained and thoroughly enjoyed the best of Moldovan wine (we had started right at the top) and typical Moldovan food, and now it was time to leave.
As we left a young waitress scurried after us bearing another half bottle of Rară Neagră. Unfortunately, her English matched our Romanian and it was unclear whether she wanted us to pay for the bottle we had drunk (we had assumed it was ‘complimentary’) or give us this one as a gift. She ran off to find someone with better linguistic skills. It was a ‘gift’ (though we undoubtedly paid for everything we ate and drank at some point) and gratefully received. We cracked it the next day before going out to dinner.
|Rara Neagra de Purcari in our hotel room, Chisinau|
Leaving the winery we headed into Purcari village, pausing to admire a family of storks in their nest.
|Family of Storks, Purcari|
|Purcari War Memorial|
With no time to stop on the outward journey, our return to Chişinău was punctuated by photo stops. The first was at the bus stop on the main road past Ştefan Vodă. The Soviet Union chose strange things to decorate, some of Moscow’s metro stations resemble temples, there is a huge semi-circular mural on a specially erected wall on the Jvari Pass through the Caucasus in Georgia which is far less beautiful than the mountains it obscures, and here there are bus stops. Like the Georgian mural, this painting has seen better days.
The main themes on the bus stop are storks and sunflowers. I have already shown you the storks, so here are the sunflowers.
|Stefan Voda bus stop|
|Sunflowers near Stefan Voda|
|Antique tractor on a plinth, somewhere near Causeni|
|Abandoned collective farm, near Causeni|
Evening in Chişinău
We reached Chişinău in the early evening. Later, deciding that we did not need a meal but a snack might be nice we repaired to one of the pubs across the pedestrianised road from our hotel where we shared what the menu described as ‘fried anchovies’ but I would call ‘whitebait’.
I had been an excellent day and I shall finish by noting that while Purcari is justly famous for its wine, Chişinău is proud of its brewery.
|Fried anchovies in Chisinau|
Moldova (and Transnistria)
Part 1: Chisinau, a Modest Capital
Part 2: Purcari, Fine Moldovan Wine