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2011 Purcari Estate Freedom Blend, Moldova
Purcari Estate is located 120 kilometres from Chisinau, in the vicinity of the Nistru River, and only 30 kilometres from the Black Sea. Bessarabia, as Moldova was known in the 19th century, quickly acquired a reputation for its wine, particularly from the south-eastern region where Purcari was founded in 1827.
As early as 1847, during an agricultural exhibition held in Bessarabia, Purcari wines were exhibited for the first time and tasters were impressed by its delicate bouquet and dense, full taste. Negru de Purcari, was awarded its first gold medal. In 1878, the Purcari winemakers brought their wines to the Paris World Exhibition. During the closed-doors tasting session, the majority of the jury gave preference to a dry, densely-coloured red wine – they were sure it was a new wine from the famous Bordeaux region. They were surprised to learn that the drink came from a tiny, unknown village called Purcari, situated on the Nistru River. Negru de Purcari earned the highest form of recognition on the international arena by being awarded the Gold Medal at Paris World Exhibition.
The most recent step in the history of Purcari starts in 2003, when the Vinaria Purcari company was created. The main purpose of creating the company was to revive the production of unique, historic blends, such as Negru de Purcari and Rosu de Purcari. The Purcari production facilities were upgraded, and the old cellars, built as far back as 1827, were renovated. Today the cellars are among the oldest and most famous in Moldova.
There are over 200 different grape varieties used in modern wine making (from a total of over 1000). Most lesser known blends and varieties are traditional to specific parts of the world.
Moldova or Dacia has been making wine for at least 4,000 years, and flourished as a winemaking area under the influence of the Greek, Roman and Byzantine empires, becoming well established with the foundation of the Principality of Moldavia in 1359. Wine-making suffered a major setback when the area became part of the Ottoman Empire in the 16th century, and did not prosper again until Moldova became part of the Russian Empire in 1812. This led to a dramatic increase in vineyard planting, initially with indigenous grapes such as Rara Neagra, Feteasca Neagra and Feteasca Alba, but in the latter half of the 19th century with French varietals. It was at this time that the estate in Purcari was planted in the south eastern region, and quickly established an international reputation for its wines. After recovering from the ravages of phylloxera in the late 19th century, Moldova became one of the major wine-suppliers to Russia throughout the 20th century.
After the dissolution of the Soviet empire and subsequent 1991 Declaration of Independence, investment in wineries and vineyards raised the quality of the wines to levels last seen in the golden age before phylloxera, using both international and local grapes. The moderate continental climate, ameliorated by proximity to the Black Sea, and rolling countryside make this ideal terrain for growing grapes for wine. In certain areas winters are cold and dry enough to enable Ice Wine to be made. Moldova has the distinction that figures for 2005 from the World Health Organisation show it had the highest per capita consumption of alcohol of any country in the world, so perhaps we should be grateful that they can spare some of their wines for export.
Martin Hudson MW, Wine Buyer
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