The best three blends of Carpe Diem

by Anghelina-Taran
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Carpe Diem wines, once launched on the market in 2015, have captured attention by the extraordinary labels with photo portraits. None of Moldovan wineries have used such technique in label design before. The quality of wines has been set high straight away. Besides, Ion Luca has started to pay special attention to the local varieties of grapes from the very beginning. The debut series of four wines already included three from single-varietal indigene grapes and one blend containing such varieties. The wine blending story received continuation. The three blended wines described in this article were produced from grapes of the Feteasca group. Each of these wines has its own history.  

Carpe Diem Femme Fatale, 2017 

The idea of blending wines Feteasca Albă and Feteasca Regală first emerged few years ago at a meeting with Robert Joseph, a renowned wine expert, attended by Moldovan winemakers at Carpe Diem Wine Room. Of course, they were tasting wines. At some instance, Robert poured these two Carpe Diem wines in one glass and asked everyone to taste it. Then he asked whether any of the wineries was making such blends. He thought it was purely obvious while none of local experts had ever given it a thought. Ion Luca decided to fill in the gap. The name of the wine came all by itself – there were two Feteasca’s (two maidens) together, which by the effect produced compares to Femme Fatale.

The grapes were grown in the central part of Moldova and harvested in due time. As a result, the wine has moderate alcohol content of 12.5% ABV. The ratio of varieties Feteasca Albă and Feteasca Regală is 50/50. The overall number of bottles of Carpe Diem Femme Fatale produced in 2017 amounted to 8200.

The color of wine is light straw, shiny, with white flowers and citrus tinges in aroma. Gradually opening is the taste of almond, a bit greenish apricot, nectarine, and the distant tinge of honeycomb. The empty glass keeps the aroma of honeycomb for long. The wine has silky texture with a lemon tinge and lemon peel aftertaste. In a while, the aftertaste changes, bringing a tinge of barberry. It is just a smooth and pleasant wine.

Awards

Gold Medals

Berliner Wein Trophy` 2018-summer tasting

Asia Wine Trophy` 2018

The name of the wine Femme Fatale reminds me of this song.

Carpe Diem Bad Boys, 2017

The name of the wine Bad Boys purports ‘bad boys’ who invented this blend by using Feteasca Neagră and Saperavi in equal proportions.

We combined in this wine the most famous Moldovan red grape varieties with the equally famous Georgian red grape variety symbolizing two different winemaking regions and two cultures. We did something that was never attempted before, and that is just because we are the ‘Bad Boys’. To make the best wine, we are looking for some blends that were never encountered before”, Ion Luca, one of the ‘Bad Boys’, says with a smile.  

The wine was bottled in February 2019 (7,200 bottles), thus it has one year of bottle age. As soon as the bottle is opened, the aromas released are so overwhelming and condensed that I wanted to slice them. Alcohol by volume – 14%.

The wine is of deep ruby color leaving beautiful prints on the glass. First nose – black forest berries with intense black sweet cherry and black pepper. Usually, in the first nose the detailed aromas (when the wine is just poured into a glass and it was not yet swelled for aeration) cannot be distinguished, but this wine is an exclusion.   

Present in its bouquet (wine matured during 12 months in French barriques) is a pure aroma of black overripe sweet berries – tart and sweet cherry, blackberry as well as black pepper, prunes, freshly opened pomegranate topped up with a bit of black current gem. The wine has an excellent balance between alcohol, tannins and acidity. Pure taste, dry at fist sip, obvious vital acidity and mature tannins. Present in the taste is a slight bitterness of wild black overripe cherry and a transiting sweetness accompanied by light spicy tinge. Cocoa tinge is clearly present in the aftertaste. Empty glass emanates aromas of black-colored berries, noble leather and a nuance of bay leaf.

A bit later, I poured wine in my glass again. In addition to the already listed flavors, there appeared tinges of vanilla, in the wine taste at first, opening up later on in the bouquet nutmeg and a light breeze of cinnamon.   

The Carpe Diem Bad Boys, 2017 impressed me a lot; it is a rather interesting, lively, young wine. It is also one of the best Moldovan blends. Apparently so simple, just two grape varieties and a high quality barrel, but look what an impressive wine we’ve got! Interesting enough that the rampage of fruit in the bouquet was not affected by the barrel maturation. The wine could be decanted to get the best of it at once.

Awards

Gold medals

Asia Wine Trophy` 2019

Berliner Wein Trophy` 2019 summer tasting

Portugal Wine Trophy` 2019

Silver medal

Berliner Wein Trophy/ Winter Edition` 2019

The most expensive Moldovan wine in Korea

Carpe Diem Bad Boys, 2017 could be found in a wine shop in the city of Busan at $80 per bottle. The owner of the wine room decides on the mark up independently, but what makes the winemaker happy is that the orders from Korea are on permanent grounds. If the orders continue coming, it means that the price and the quality of wine are meeting the requirements of the respective market.  

The Bad Boys, smiling at us from the wine bottle label reminded of that voice and that famous song.

Carpe Diem Breaking Red, 2017        

This wine furthered the theme of breaking the stereotypes and rules as we used for this blend the varieties of grapes (Cabernet-Sauvignon – 30% and Merlot – 30%), which are traditionally used in wine assemblages. In our wine these varieties were successfully blended with the local variety Feteasca Neagră (40%)”, Ion Luca explains.

The wine was bottled in February 2019 (one year of bottle ageing). Its alcohol by volume is 14.5%. Breaking Red, 2017 is of deep ruby color, while the glass edge shows pure ruby color. The first nose – black overripe berries. The wine opens with a bouquet of dried prunes, black currant, seasoned black cherry, blackberry, black pepper and a tinge of dried tobacco leaf. These are followed by the nutmeg, cinnamon, dried fruit compote, a pinch of chocolate accompanied by the earthy nuances.   

Silky texture, soft, mature tannins, sufficiently high acidity. The alcohol is perfectly well integrated into the wine body and could not be distinguished in the aroma or taste. The flavor of berries is wrapping up the mouth giving the 3D impression. Tart cherry and plums could be distinguished in its taste followed by light chocolate aftertaste. Empty glass emanates the fragrance of fresh berries. Once the wine is saturated with more oxygen (the bottle has been kept open for three hours already), I poured it once again in my glass. Breaking Red has slightly changed in its aftertaste: it turned more tart cherry in taste. So much pleasure! This wine definitely feels perfect. 

Awards

Gold medals

Berliner Wein Trophy` 2019-summer tasting

Asia Wine Trophy` 2019

Mundus Vini Summer Tasting` 2019

Winemaker’s secrets

Ion has highlighted that he picks up the grapes in small-size boxes suitable for 5 to 6 kg, which allows to deliver intact bunches of grapes to the winery. This is especially important for white grape varieties. These are delivered from the vineyard in refrigerators cooled down to 15-16оС and then processed using classical technological methods of winemaking.

All varieties of grapes are processed separately using selected yeasts by the Champagne Institute of Enology, so as all other winemaking materials, Ion Luca reveals. All red wines are subject to malolactic fermentation with addition of bacteria. To that end I renounce on too much experimenting, just trying to stick to the winemaking rules at maximum without wild yeasts and bacteria.  

Each of the red varieties is subject separately barrel ageing. For the wines used to produce Bad Boys and Breaking Red, I used 70% of new barriques and 30% for the second or third fill. For Bad Boys – with stronger toasting and for Breaking Red – with milder toast. Then the instance of blending comes. The ratio of varieties is not repeated from one year to another. My job is to approximate the current year’s wine to the previous vintage so that the consumer could get the familiar taste that he already likes”.   

Lucky with support

I am one of the lucky people to enjoy the support granted by Moldova Competitiveness Project, financed by the USAID and the Government of Sweden under the technical assistance provided to the Moldovan Small Wine Producers Association, Ion Luca says. In fact, my enterprise received equipment for wine production – three stainless steel tanks of different capacity, a pump, and refrigeration equipment. We are also using a bottle-labeling machine, purchased for common use by members of the Association. The donors have purchased a great deal of equipment to this end. These days we expect delivery of equipment for barrel steaming. This equipment is very expensive; therefore, not every small winemaker can afford purchasing it. In addition, it is rarely used. We are also planning to rent it at fair price. Overall, it is an excellent concept of common use of equipment, allowing to save on renting and purchase something new instead.  

To develop the tourism component of our winery, we were paid almost half of the contract on fenestration of the winery, since we needed a lot of glass. We are building it from scratch with the idea of receiving visitors. In addition to production, we intend to develop tourism as well. We constructed the winery’s main building and a cellar, and this process was rather complicated and expensive. Currently we are doing interior jobs. It is our desire to place the 2020 vintage wines for storage in the new cellar.”

Casa Vinicola Luca is now producing some 100 thousand bottles per year. During the last two years we managed to change notably the assortment of our products. If in the past we used to produce white and red wines in equal volumes, then starting with the 2018 harvest the focus shifted to red wines. This is explained by the growing demand in China. As of the end of 2019, a classical sparkling wine was added to the portfolio of Casa Vinicola Luca, while currently we are preparing to launch our first dessert wine – Late Harvest, from Viorica grape variety.    

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