Today's state was created in 1991 by the disintegration of the USSR. Its geographical roots lie in the historical landscape of Bessarabia (see history there). Numerous archaeological finds, such as amphorae and grape seeds, prove that viticulture has been practised here for over 5,000 years. To the north, east and south, the state is surrounded by Ukraine. In the west, it borders on Romania, whose influence can be felt through the long common history in viticulture. The princes of Moldova established their own wine culture in the Middle Ages. However, this collapsed again from the beginning of the 16th century under 300 years of Ottoman rule and the associated ban on alcohol.
After the Russian-Turkish war, viticulture was reactivated from 1812 onwards. In the second half of the 19th century, many French grape varieties were introduced. Towards the end of the 20th century, however, viticulture again suffered severe setbacks and losses due to the phylloxera catastrophe. After a brief recovery, the two world wars destroyed a large part of the vineyards and wineries. Reconstruction began in the 1950s. Within ten years, 150,000 hectares were planted and the vine population grew to well over 200,000 hectares. In the USSR, Moldova became the largest wine producer, accounting for about a quarter of production. In the 1980s, however, under Mikhail Gorbachev, many vineyards were cleared again, especially in the north.
Numerous legends and anecdotes testify to the ancient wine-growing tradition. One of the best-known stories is that of the storks: Once again there was a Turkish invasion; the enemy besieged a fortress near Grodieshti. The brave defenders were running out of water and food, and the fighters were also running out of strength. Suddenly, hundreds of storks appeared in the sky, using the wind and their strong wing beats to drive the enemy to the ground. The storks threw bundles of vines from their beaks down to the defenders. The warriors were thus saved from thirst and hunger. With renewed strength, they successfully defended the home fortress and the Turkish enemy had to leave. Since that time, the stork has been regarded as a symbol of happiness and contentment. The stork with grapes symbolises Moldovan viticulture and is included in the logo of the winegrowers' association (source: WIKIPEDIA).
In 2012, the vineyard area totalled 142,000 hectares, of which 1.47 million hectolitres of wine were produced (see also under wine production volumes). More than half is used for growing table grapes. Viticulture has eminent economic importance. Wine products, fruit and vegetables are the main export items. European standard varieties are cultivated to about 70%. Two thirds are white wine varieties and one third red wine varieties. The grape variety index 2010 (Statistics Kym Anderson):
The geographic and climatic conditions are very favourable for viticulture. Moldova lies on the same latitude as Burgundy in France. It has a continental climate with high solar radiation. In 1954, after extensive studies, a professor P. I. Ivanov divided Moldova into four agricultural zones with different climates. The northern region of Balti produces mainly white wine grapes for the production of brandy, fortified wines and simple wines. The central region of Codru, with the capital Chisinau, is surrounded by forested mountains. This is where more than half of the vineyards are located and the most famous wineries, such as the former tsar's estate Romanesti.
The famous 65-kilometre-long underground cellars of Cricova store the sparkling wines produced in the winery of the same name, as well as an extensive historical wine collection. Among other things, excellent red wines are produced in this region. The Cahul region in the south is climatically particularly suitable for red wines and sweet wines. In the south-east of the country, along the western bank of the Nister, lies the fourth region Purcari (also Nistreana). It is known for its ageable red wines in the Bordeaux style, such as the "Negru de Purcari" produced by the winery of the same name. Towards the end of the 19th century, Purcari wines were supplied to the English royal court, among others.
In contrast to the other former USSR states, the proportion of dry wines is relatively high, but there are also the traditional sweet dessert wines. The famous port-like Kagor has a two-hundred-year tradition. Almost two-thirds of the production comes from cooperative wineries. Well-known producers in Moldova are, for example, Acorex, Aroma, Branesti, Château Vartel, Ciumai, Comrat, Cricova, Dionysos Mereni, Milestii Mici, Purcari, Romanesti, Taraclia and Trifesti. About 90% of the wine production is exported; by far the largest part (over 80%) to Russia. In March 2006, the Russian government implemented an import ban on Moldovan and Georgian wine products. According to official interpretation, the ban was imposed because of alleged violations of health regulations (too high levels of pollutants). The embargo was lifted in November 2007. However, the high export share was strongly reduced in the long term.