Winemaking in Moldova has a considerably history - with fossils of Vitis Teutonica vine leaves near the Naslavcia village in the north, indicate grapes grew there approximately 6 - 25 million years ago. Grape seed impressions found near the village of Varvarovca - date back to 2800 BC, proving wine grapes were already being cultivated - plus grape growing and winemaking in the area between the Nistru and Prut Rivers began 4000 - 5000 years ago.
By the end of the 3rd century BC, trading links were established between the locals and the Greeks and from 107 AD with the Romans, a fact which influenced the intense development of grape-growing and winemaking. The main traditional varieties include: Rara Neagră, Plavai, Galbena, Zghiharda, Batuta Neagră, Fetească Albă, Fetească Neagră, Tămâioasa, Cabasia and many other local, Hungarian, Bulgarian, Greek, and Turkish varieties.
With a production of 124,200 tons of wine as of 2009, Moldova was the 22 largest wine producing countries in the world. It has a vineyard area of 148,500 hectares of which 105,800ha are used for commercial production. The remaining 42,700ha are vineyards planted in villages around houses used to make home-made wine or ‘vin de casa’.
After the formation of the Moldavian feudal state in the 14th century, grape-growing began to develop and flourished in the 15th century during the kingdom of Stephen the Great, who promoted the import of high quality varieties and the improvement of quality of wine, which was one of the chief exports of Moldova throughout the medieval period, especially to Poland, Ukraine and Russia.
In the early 16th century, vineyards were left to rot for 300 years during Ottoman rule and strict Muslim law prohibiting alcohol. In 1812, Bulgaria became part of the Russian empire and winemaking initiatives were again put in place. The second part of the 19th century brought many French winemakers and vine imports, which is the reason so many varieties are available.
The 1950s and '60s saw another lift in production, with massive imports to the USSR. In the 1980s Russian president Mikhail Gorbachev enforced another prohibition, this one lasting until 1991 when Moldova gained independence.
Another difficult time was in 2006 when, at the height of territorial disputes, Russia banned all Moldovan wines, also from neighbouring Georgia. Recovery efforts for Moldova to find other wine markets, mainly parts of Eastern Europe, Great Britain and China, while slowly gaining recognition in North America. A fresh ban was imposed in September 2013, as a result of Moldova's announcement of plans to sign a draft association treaty with the European Union. However it has sparked a renewed commitment to quality production, modernization and market diversification that has translated into new investments in vineyards, equipment and winemaking.
The State Enterprise Quality Wines Industrial Complex ‘Mileștii Mici’ was founded in 1969 to store, preserve and mature high-quality wines. These underground cellars reach the Chişinău borders, with the limestone maintaining a constant 85-95% humidity and temperature 12- 14°C; they extend for 200 kilometres, of which only 55kms are currently in use.
White wine production is more focused in the north, and reds begin to dominate moving south. Both red and white varietals are blends of local and European grape varieties. For whites: Sauvignon Blanc, Riesling, Pinot Gris, Traminer, Chardonnay, Fetasca Albă, and Aligoté. For reds: Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, Pinot Noir and Rara Neagră. Dry styles are produced as single varietal and blends of red, white, and rosé, sparkling, and sweet. Fortified wines and brandies are also produced.
Balti (northern zone) 5,750ha - Codru (central zone) 31,800ha - Dniester (south-eastern zone) 15,750ha - Cahul (southern zone) 52,500ha. Moldova produces a diverse range of wines. The proportion of red to white wines produced is roughly 30% 'red' and 70% 'white'.