Of course Moldova is famous for it's fine wines. When I began doing research about our trip to Moldova, the name Purcari kept coming up, and so it was one of the places that we really wanted to visit. Purcari is just a small vineyard...but they have a big history!
The winery dates back to 18th century when monks were in charge of the winemaking. They built a cellar in the shape of a cross, and that cellar is still in use today. Then in 1827, the Russian tzar (king) Nicolai 1st established that Purcari will be the first winemaking household from Basarabia, the name of the area at that time. In 1878 at the Paris World Expo, their Negru de Purcari wine won the gold medal. The judges couldn't believe that this was not a French wine and that it came from the tiny unknown country of Moldova.
Since then, the wines continued to gain recognition, and the 1990 vintage of Negru de Purcarie has been a regular favorite of Queen Elizabeth II.
Vineyards at Purcari.
The area surrounding the winery is perfect for growing grapes. The slopes face to the southeast, and the temperatures are moderated by the Black Sea located only 60 kms (37 miles) away.
Purcari grows all their own grapes on 260 hectares of fertile farmland. The grapes are all harvested by hand so that they aren't damaged prior to being pressed.
We were greeted by Marta, a very pleasant and knowledgeable young lady. I had read somewhere that every Moldovan knows how to make wine, but I'm sure that she must have gone to wine university or some other school of higher education for winemakers!
But, I was not kidding about the Moldovan people. Only 5% of production is actually sold to people in Moldova because almost everybody in Moldova makes their own wine. Most households in the country have their own vineyard and their own wine cellar. And people who live in the city get their wine from relatives who live in the countryside!
The bottling line.
Some aspects of production are old school, such as the hand picked grapes. But in order to put out 1.5 million bottles of wine in annual sales, bottling is mechanized. The bottle machine can put out 4,000 bottles per hour in peak season.
Empty bottles ready to be filled.
Putting the labels on next.
In the warehouse.
Ruth and Marta.
Finally, we were ready for the big event. The wine tasting! I don't think we've ever done an official wine tasting like this. Our waiter Viktor poured out a nice sample of five different wines, including an ice wine.
Ruth, Viktor, and Marta.
Marta has a great job here at the winery. As a guide, she gets to take part in the wine tastings as well!
We each had our own tasting list!
Kevin, ready for tasting.
The white Chardonnay de Purcari was delicious. I would say it was my favorite all round drinkable wine. And out of the three red wines we tried, I liked the Cabernet Sauvignon the best. In fact, I liked it more than the Negru de Purcari which is actually quite a lot pricier. But, it's all personal preference.
Ruth enjoyed the ice wine. I did as well...it was not as sweet as the ice wine that we have tried in Canada and we both enjoyed the Purcari ice wine better.
Next up was dinner!
Blended mushroom soup with Parmesan cheese.
The soup was delicious!
And main course of chicken breast with a thick mushroom fennel sauce.
After dinner, you can relax in the lounge, or in front of the fireplace.
Them it's off to your room...
Unfortunately, they only have eight rooms at the chateau, and they sell out quite quickly. The entire month of December was unavailable, so we weren't able to stay at the Purcari Chateau which is actually very reasonably priced.
We had a fantastic day at the Purcari Winery, and thanks to Marta for looking after us so well. One thing we took away is that we want to come back... in the summertime. In fact, that's what we've said about our entire time here in Moldova...it will be more beautiful when everything is green. I think we'll come back in late September next time so that we can take part in the harvest!
You can book your own visit to Puracri here... Purcari Chateau. Currently, it costs 95 lei ($6.50 CAD, $4.75 USD) for the tour, 360 lei ($25 CAD. $18 USD) for the tasting of 5 wines, and 380 lei ($26.50 CA, $19USD) for the four course meal.
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