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On November 21, at Poiana winery, the National Office of Vine and Wine organized a specialized seminar on “Auditing the quality of wine stocks and the potential of 2019 harvest”. The event took place in a context in which 6 world-class experts from 5 countries tasted more than 200 varieties of local wines.

These analytical and comparative wine tastings took place in the following sections:
- 2019 wine (bulk and destined for bottle);
- 2018 and older bulk wine;
- 2018 and older medal-winning bottled wine;
- "Experimental" wine (new styles/blends).

The goal of the visit of these famous experts was to identify strategies for the sale of bulk wines in the EU and in the world in the context of large stocks as a result of three consecutive high yields registered worldwide. In addition, the recommendations of international experts and their conclusions should be taken into account in the process of developing the strategy “Wine of Moldova 2030”, which NOVV is working on with the support of external development partners.

The six experts who rated Moldovan wines are: Alex Berkley, former director of the Chilean company William Cole, specializing in the marketing of bulk wines; Justin Howard Sneid, wine master, consultant for the British importer "Direct Wines"; Catherine Mendoza, a wine broker with 14 years experience on the European market; Gerd Step, former Marks & Spencer winemaker, Inge Straetmans, Vinex Wine Exchange Regional Manager, and Robert Joseph, international wine expert.

Conclusions of the international experts

Experts tried to find solutions for positioning the Moldovan wine product in order to develop a strategy for the sale of bulk wines on world markets, as well as to provide consultancy. After the tasting, Robert Joseph said: “I was impressed with the quality of the wines of the 2019 harvest, especially red wines, but I believe that Moldova should determine its own style, which is likely to be the perfect blending of red wines made from European and local varieties. Thus, it will be something unique for the international market."

During the seminar, experts presented their findings on each type of tasted wine:

Merlot - often a deeply-colored success, with some very interesting, commercial and premium wines;

Cabrenet Sauvignon - also very successful, but most impressive were Merlot/ Cabrenet Sauvignon blends, but this is a crowded market;

Feteasca Neagră - some very good wines with great potential, especially for blending;

Saperavi - very good wines with great potential, especially for blending. An increasingly interesting variety, thank to Georgia.

Rară Neagră - some very good wines, again with potential for blending;

Pinot Noirs - too few samples, the experts din not see enough;

Malbec - few tasted, but interesting potential;

Syrah/Shiraz - few tasted, but interesting potential;

Feteasca albă/ Feteasca regală - attractive wines with distinctive character;

Viorica - attractive wines when yields are not too high, with distinctive character for a niche market;

Pinot Grigio, Pinot Gris - not many tasted, but some very good examples;

Sauvignon Blanc - some good commercial examples, but too many "green", Bordeaux-style examples, rather than New World fruit, which raised questions about clones.

Chardonnay - some good commercial examples, but too many were light and green, rather than rich, or fruity, or mineral;

Riesling - too few tasted, but the market is limited (compared to Chardonnay and Sauvignon);

Muscat - some good commercial examples, but again, the market is limited. Potentially good for blending;

Aligote - not likely to find a big market globally. Possibly T-graft to their varieties.

In conclusion, the experts noted that they were impressed by some blends, especially those that combine local and international varieties. An example in this regard is Negru de Purcari, the most popular wine of Moldova on the international market. International buyers or retailers are not looking for another Merlot or another Cabernet Sauvignon, they are interested in blends, new experimental wines containing local varieties. Thanks to these fine blends, Moldova can be differentiated on the international market.

Key issues identified by experts

- harvest: in some wineries there are too many vineyards per hectare, especially in case of vineyards planted several decades ago. This leads to a decrease in the quality of grapes. Another important factor is the optimal use of the country's best soils. Often, vineyards are planted on highest quality soils and the result does not live up to expectations.

- packaging of white wine: it is scientifically proven that light directly affects the quality of wine, so clear (transparent) glass is not the best option for white and rosé wines. In fact, international practice shows that white wines sold in clear glass spoil faster.

- the use of oak: in some cases, experts question this practice. This is a difficult issue, because in Eastern Europe, China or the United States, oak-aged wine is quite popular, while in Belgium or the UK consumers do not prefer the oak flavor. Oak quality is also very important: in case of some local producers the used oak is not dry enough.

- corks: another problem is the malfunction and quality of corks. One expert noted that he had seen many Moldovan wines spoiled due to poor quality of the corks. It is recommended to use screwcaps for white or rosé wines more often.

- sustainability: this is a global trend that comprise activities that are carried out without exhausting available resources and without damaging the environment, thereby not jeopardizing the ability to meet the needs of future generations. This concept is becoming popular in the process of wine production, especially in the context of the development of organic winemaking. For example, in Scandinavian countries, sustainability is very important. Retailers and distributors from these countries usually require specialized European certificates (BRC or IFS), especially for bulk wines. The availability of these certificates will make it easier for retailers to work with new companies or countries. In the USA, on the other hand, the sustainability factor is not as important as in Scandinavia or the UK.

- new sales markets: NOVB representatives and international experts consider that Moldova should diversify its markets. If we want to sell competitive wines at good prices, we must forget about traditional markets such as Ukraine, Russia or Belarus. Experts recommend that we continue to conquer the European market, but pay special attention to new markets such as China, Vietnam or African states.

Based on the recommendations of experts, a portfolio will be developed with proposal for bulk wines of the Republic of Moldova, which will be presented as part of World Bulk Wine 2019, the world's largest exhibition dedicated to bulk wines. The event will be held from December 2 to 3, in Amsterdam.

This seminar and its preceding audit were organized by the National Bureau of Vine and Wine and the Moldova Competitiveness Project, funded by USAID and the Swedish government.