The first Moldovan ice wine from a small producer

by Anghelina-Taran
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Not all large wineries adventure to produce “ice” wine, particularly from grapes picked after having been frozen on the vine, so much the less are the small ones. But, like many other interesting wines, Minis Terrios Ice Wine 2018, produced by Dan Prisacaru (Familia Mea SRL), was born by chance. 

One year ago, he told me that, because of the lack of storage capacities in tanks, he had not managed to process timely the grapes. Cabernet Sauvignon, when it was its turn to leave the vineyard for the winery, had already gained high sugar content. The prospects of making semi-sweet wine from it did not suit Dan. Therefore, he decided to take a chance, leaving the grapes to wait for the frost that came quite early last year – in November.

It was not a joke

I was very worried that the birds could peck the grapes, – the winemaker says. – I’ve called Ion, our supervisor, asking him to see if there was still something to pick in the vineyard. He replied that there were grapes. – So, tomorrow, at 7 o’clock in the morning, I’ll come for the harvest. Call everyone you know and ask them to join, because we need to do it quickly, so that the ice in the berries does not melt. – At seven, I was in the village of Haragâș, district of Cantemir, where my vineyard is located. Ion, his wife and his neighbor were waiting for me. I ask him: “Where are the people?” The supervisor says: “They did not believe me. How come, pick grapes in the cold? They thought it was a joke».

We were lucky that day – November 30, fell on Friday. Together with Ion, we went to the kindergarten. Moms were taking their children to the kindergarten. They recognized me and realized that the supervisor was not fooling them, and they started to call their husbands and other relatives. So, about 30 people joined us. If it was Saturday, we wouldn’t have succeeded. We began to harvest at 8.30 and it was done by 11.00. We had a crop of 3750 kg of grapes from which we produced 2700 bottles of wine».

Photo – Calin Laur.

If whoever had said, I wouldn’t have believed

The production process was very difficult. That was the first experience for Dan Prisacaru. According to him, if whoever had said in advance that it would be so difficult, he simply would not have believed it. The frozen grapes were brought to a winery in Chisinau and a long pressing process began, the Bucher Vaslin press is very good but has a low capacity.

Photo – Calin Laur.

It’s like a Mercedes, but an Atlas one, so we had to press outdoors, in several shifts of six and a half hours”, the winemaker recalls. – We started on November 30 and finished in the evening of December 2. In nighttime, the air temperature dropped to -16°C, and inside the winery it was +7°C. We were worried that the press membrane could fail. Fortunately, it withstood. By the way, our company received the press as a grant from the Moldova Competitiveness Project (funded by USAID and the Swedish Government), which supports small winemakers. Also, mobile equipment for joint use was purchased for the Association of Small Manufacturers. We use the bottle capper».

Due to the high sugar level, the fermentation of the must obtained from frozen grapes takes a very long time. In our case, the fermentation lasted one month and a half, because the must had 485 g/l of sugar. Dan had a lot of questions – what yeast to use, how long to have it fermenting, how to stop the process, etc. Colleagues said to him it was necessary to make at least two filtrations and use some technological methods to achieve microbiological purity. However, at his own risk, Prisacaru followed just one of all the recommendations – he performed filtering before bottling. And the wine turned out to be stable, what was repeatedly confirmed by the laboratory analysis.  

Many years ago, another small producer had also tried to make ice-wine, but, a month and a half after bottling, the fermentation began again and the bottles started to “shoot” like champagne. After bottling in July, Dan kept the wine for several months at the winery – just to be sure. Finally, it went on sale and it was officially presented at the winter edition of “Wine Vernissage”.

Minis Terrios Ice-wine, 2018

It should be noted that producers of ice wines rarely use red grapes; usually white varieties are used. In this case, Cabernet Sauvignon showed itself very well. A beautiful rosé, of shiny carmine color, was produced of it. Alcohol by volume – 10.9%, residual sugar concentration – 163 g/l.

For an ice wine, it is better to use a small tulip-shaped glass, because such a wine is not consumed in large quantity. Therefore, ice wines are placed into 375 ml bottles.

The first nose – ripe red berries. The flavor primarily opens an aroma of ripe cornel fruits. There are also notes of wild strawberries, red currants, pink cherries and raspberries.

A wonderful balance between sugar and acidity. A pleasantly bitter taste, with notes of cornel fruits. A long pleasant aftertaste – candied fruit and marmalade.

One should better drink a wine with such a rich flavor and taste without food. It is very self-sufficient as a dessert. At the same time, it can be matched, for example, with foie gras or with a delicate chicken pâté, with moldy blue cheese (but not with a strong smell). In my opinion, one should fully enjoy such a wine, paying tribute to the enormous work of all those who contributed to creating it.   

As you know, a genuine ice wine is very expensive to make, therefore, the retail price of Minis Terrios Ice Wine, 2018 is approximately 550 leis. Or, it is not a wine to drink every day, but on special occasions. Therefore, it would be a wonderful gift for a woman. Men, take note of it. Anyway, you will drink it together.   

Even before entering the market, this wine had won a gold medal at Berliner Wein Trophy` 2019 Summer Tasting. By the way, the participation of the Moldovan wines in prestigious tasting competitions is financed by the joint program of the National Office of Vine and Wine and the Moldova Competitiveness Project.

Better to see once

In Moldova, quite a lot of companies (for a southern country) produce ice wine, but very few from grapes frozen on vine. Anticipating many doubts that the grapes were harvested in the cold, Dan decided to make a video about how his wine was born. Not using a phone, but professionally, what turned out to be an expensive pleasure for a small producer. The Moldova Competitiveness Project came again with help and funded the work of a film crew led by Calin Laur, which makes documentaries. He and his team created a video about Minis Terrios Ice wine – an interesting way to promote this wine.  

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