Written by Thomas Gassler Sunday, 14 March 2010 15:08Moldova is undoubtedly a wine country. It seems that there is no single household without its homemade house wine. Thomas Gassler from Moldovarious.com spent two weeks in Lipcani, in the raion Briceni, to learn everything about wine production and made the "Moldovarious House Wine 2009".
What a beautiful autumn day in Chisinau and I am so excited. Now it is sure, I am going to make my own wine. There is a nice lady in her mid-fifties with a huge wine yard. The grapes are ready, but there is no one to collect them. This was my chance and I offered my manpower. She agreed, even knowing that I have no clue how the grapes come into the bottle. So, dear diary, I have to leave Chisinau and drive my red Ford Ka to Lipcani, 270 km in the north west of the country. I will write soon...
Later in Lipcani:
Wow, that is really what I call the highway to hell. Although this "road" had nothing in common with a highway. It took me five and a half hours to do 270 kilometres. Well, I am honest, I lost my way. Not once, but twice. And of course I did not drive too fast, as I am really scared of these local policemen. The roads got worse the farther I drove from Chisinau, with "highlights" in Briceni, the provincial capital, where you can find no more road at all and in Lipcani, where you jump from one hole into the other. That street looked like a Swiss Emmental. But I am so happy that I finally arrived. Doamna Ludmila seems to be very nice and she prepared dinner for us. I am starving. Poftă Bună!
What a warm welcome! That was amazing yesterday evening. This Moldovan woman is so nice, you can't imagine, dear diary. She cooked so much, I am not sure if she expected a whole bus coming from Austria. We ate a tasty soup, then several portions of delicious pui cu smântână and four pieces of cake as dessert and, of course, we drank homemade red wine. In the morning I got up early and had to learn all the theory about wine making. Well, at least I know right now that in the garden there are two different types of grapes: Lidia and Bakon. The wine yard is more than 50 years old and was planted by her father in the 50ies. The procedure of teh wine production, has not changed ever since. Let's say, the way I am going to produce the Moldovarious Wine is a decades-old family's tradition. The rest of the day I spent in Lipcani and at the nearby borders to Ukraine and Romania.
Off we go! What a lovely sunny and warm autumn day! We started early in the morning to collect all the grapes. My place is around the house on a stone-old ladder. Doamna Ludmila collects the grapes in the backyards of the garden. The grapes are so tasty. I suppose most of the time I was eating and did not work at all. Just after a couple of hours I realised that it will be more work than expected.
Damn! I have been working for three days and, I am sure, we have collected hundreds of kilogrammes. Nevertheless, I can't see an end of the tunnel. It is really an interesting experience to balance on this rusty ladder and to grab for these tasty fruits in a height of four metres. But I am so slowly. For the rest everything is fine. Doamna Ludmila, a former Russian teacher, gives me private lessons. Thus, I do not just learn how to make wine, but as well how to speak Russian.
Yeah! The first step is done. Ludmila and me have collected all the grapes in this garden. Nothing is left. What a pile of grapes! That was really a long and tiring work, which lasted several days. But now I am really enthusiastic to go on and learn more about wine making. We were so happy that we had a special dinner tonight. But, in fact, we are having special dinners each night.
After having cleaned a huge metal wine barrel for 1000 litres of wine, we started to squeeze all the grapes in the drobilka. This is a special self-made machine that has been used by all the neighbourhoods and is as old as the wine yard itself. It works perfectly, and everything we do is totally hygienic. Our Moldovarious Wine will probably not be a high quality product, but a clean biological one for sure.
We squeezed 117 buckets of Lidia and Bakon grapes. Thus, we know that we have collected approximately 1000 kilograms of grapes. Not bad! Now at least I know why it took such a long time. Doamna Ludmila, who is more than experienced in wine making, says that this will be about 500 litres of wine, as you can make one litre of wine out of two kilos of grapes.
That was nearly a day off today. Now we just have to wait for a couple of days, depending on the weather. In two, three days, according to Ludmila, we just can taste a honeysweet must, which is slightly alcoholic. But when you look at the content of the barrel, you just see the juice fermenting. We just have to stir from time to time.
We invited our neighbours and tasted the must. That was so delicious. I could not stop anymore. And the neighbours could not either. We had brînză, a special cheese, and bread. Then we continued with harder stuff, cognac and vodka. It was so funny and the neighbours are really nice. Even if I do not understand Russian or the way they speak Moldovan, we had lots of fun. Probably I will stay here and become a farmer. When I look at my hands, I have just become one.
Nothing to do but waiting. We had some nice Russian lessons in the morning. Then we moved on to work in the fields. First we collected corn in the big field, and then I climbed a couple of trees to pick the ready walnuts. All the products are natural and biological and extremely tasty. I really do not understand why I put on three kilos. This is all healthy stuff!
The big final! The wine is nearly ready. But there was still something very important to do. We had to squeeze the substance with the big press to get out the last drop of wine out of the grapes. Then, bucket-by-bucket we took the wine to the cellar. That was hard work. We stored the wine wherever we could and filtered it, before we put in huge plastic and metal barrels or directly into the bottle. After all that work it was the time to taste the Moldovarious House Wine 2009. And I have to tell you, this wine is not bad at all: a slightly sparkling young Moldovan wine. Tasty!!!
With tears in my eyes, but 20 plastic bottles of my homemade wine in my car, I have to leave Lipcani and Doamna Ludmila. It was a wonderful stay, with such positive impressions. But now I have to go back to Chisinau and organise a huge wine tasting with all my friends.
Do not miss to see the snapshots of the Moldovarious wine production!