Three TOP wines from Gogu Winery

by Anghelina-Taran
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Sometimes a small producer can pioneer something for the entire industry and set a trend that would be followed even by large companies. So, Ilie Gogu, the founder of Gogu Winery, taught his colleagues to launch young (already bottled) white wines to the market in the year of their harvest. Actually, he even does this long before the end of the year. However, Ilie also had something to say for red wines, which take time. Thus, here are three iconic wines from this producer.

Gogu Winery Sauvignon blanc, 2019 

There is probably no one, among W&S readers living in Moldova, who did not, at the Chisinau Wine Day, taste the young Sauvignon blanc produced by Ilie in a small batch (already in bottles) especially for this feast.  This is a perfect “bomb” exploding with the enchanting aroma of gooseberry and currant leaf. No one has such an early wine (not young wine) in early October. The first thousand bottles of Sauvignon blanc from the 2019 harvest were bottled on November 8, 2019! I think this is the first wine in Moldova from the previous grape harvest that appeared on the market.

Five years ago, our wines were definitely the first – the winemaker says – everybody was laughing at us then – why are you launching them on the market so early?” they kept asking. And now many, even large enterprises, are bottling in November-December. The majority of whites do not like ageing. The faster they get to consumers, the better. The secret of the Gogu Sauvignon Blanc success rests primarily in high-quality grapes, where 70% of a wine’s success resides. Sauvignon Blanc ripens well in the vineyard in proximity to Causeni. In recent years, we usually harvest it at the end of August and sometimes even twice – once with high acidity and lower sugar content, while the second time on the contrary, with lower acidity and high sugar content, when grapes are more ripe. We then mix these wines so that the new wine is more interesting with both pronounced acidity and a mature flavor.”

Straw-colored wine. Interestingly, in the seven months since Wine Day 2019, this Sauvignon blanc has changed markedly. It clearly “settled down” and moderated its “bombastic” nature. Currently its aroma features notes of nettle, gooseberry, elderberry, flint, pineapple peel and lime.

The taste features herbal and citrus shades emphasized by light minerality. A long, pleasant aftertaste of gooseberries. Light, drinking wine with an alcohol content of 12.3%.

We can say that Sauvignon blanc is the calling card of the Gogu Winery. Four thousand bottles were produced from the 2019 harvest.

Gogu Winery Blanc de Merlot, 2019

Ilie Gogu produced the first white wine in Moldova from Merlot grapes in 2015. Prior to this, there was only white wine from Cabernet Sauvignon grapes from another producer on the market. Ilie came up with the idea to make this wine when he had an internship in Germany and participated in an exhibition at Weinemesse Berlin (B2C). It is held immediately after the Berliner Wein Trophy competition (in February).

This exhibit displays wines awarded with medals at this competition,” says Ilie. – Among them there was one German Blanc de Merlot, which was awarded a gold medal. I tried it, I liked it and thought why don’t we produce such a wine in Moldova, since we have plenty of Merlot grapes of our own here. The same year, we produced Blanc de Merlot, and in January 2016 we sent our wine to the Berliner Wein Trophy, where it also won a gold medal. Then we became friends with the producer whose wine inspired me to create our own Blanc de Merlot, which became one of the main positions in our sales. In the early years, very little of this wine was produced, and it sold out immediately. With growing demand, we increased its volume, and produced 4 thousand bottles of Blanc de Merlot from the 2019 harvest. It is most in demand for export. An interesting fact is that importers from Sweden and the USA only chose this wine from our entire line-up. ”

In my case, the aroma of wine was closed, so the wine needed good aeration. The color of Blanc de Merlot is a gentle flesh, with a shine (it is, after all, from a red grape variety). This wine is blindly capable of misleading, since it does not have Merlot’s varietal characteristics. It is especially good when served as fresh as possible, so you need to drink it before the next release.

The aroma features fresh forest strawberries, red currant, citrus fruits. The refreshing taste – grapefruit, continued into the aftertaste. However, this wine has a denser body than ordinary white wines, thanks to the red variety. Alcohol content – 13.5%.  

Gogu Winery Metafora, 2018

The first Metafora wine was produced, by chance, from the Merlot, Cabernet Sauvignon and Saperavi varieties of the 2015 vintage. They were mixed in equal proportions, because there were few grapes. And the result was excellent. In 2016 and 2017 this process was already repeated purposefully. They increased the share of Merlot to 40% from the 2018 harvest alone, respectively, the other two varieties accounted for 30% each. The winemaker shared some of his secrets with us:

The age of a (rented) Saperavi vineyard is almost 50 years, for Cabernet and Merlot it is 10-12 years. The wine is produced by classical technology. Fermentation went on pulp, on wild yeast. I do not use selected yeast on either white or red varieties. Malolactic fermentation took place spontaneously (I never add bacteria) immediately, or, if it does not pass during the season, it starts in the summer, when the temperature in the cellar rises to 16-17 degrees and ends before August. After Malolactic fermentation, we sulfite a little in September-October and wait for a full aging of 12-15 months, depending on how the wine ages. We mainly use French barriques and only 10-15% from American oak. We have new barriques – 70% and 30% for second and third fill”.

The wine is very dark in color, with ruby notes along the edge. The first nose is of black overripe berries. The bouquet reveals aromas of blackcurrant with dry branches, dried cherries, blackthorn, chokeberry, plums, tobacco, coffee, tree bark and remotely – the sweetness of raspberry.

On the palate – a slight astringency, with hints of cherry and coffee. In the long aftertaste – dark chocolate and black wild cherry. Silky texture, good acidity. The alcohol content is at least 13.8%.

Metafora, 2018 is a very young wine, you can safely place it in a collection, of course, if you have the conditions for this – a clean cool cellar or a wine cabinet. However, if you try this wine on the second day after opening the bottle, its tannins will appear more mature and softer.

When the first Metafora wines entered the market, some customers scolded us that we released them too soon,” Ilie recalls. “I advised them to keep the wine in the basement themselves, because we can’t afford the luxury of storing bottled wine for a longer period.” Now consumers know that if they wait two years for it to be stored at the producer, it will simply become unavailable during this time. It goes out too fast. Three thousand bottles were produced from the 2018 harvest. We have buyers who purchased 20 boxes of Metafora 2017, but did not even try it, intending to wait for at least a year.”

These wines have not yet managed to win medals in competitions, because many of the latter were rescheduled to the second half of the year. Previous harvests were awarded at the Mundus Vini, Concours Mondial de Bruxelles, Berliner Wein Trophy, Asia Wine Trophy, International Wine Contest Bucharest. Only the components of Metafora, 2018 – Cabernet Sauvignon and Saperavi – managed to take part in the En Primeur Odessa contest (exhibits based on those held in Bordeaux), where they received gold medals. 

It’s important to receive support on time

I don’t know how successful and long would have been the independent path of this enterprise in the big and beautiful world of wines. I remember the first public presentation of Ilie Gogu wines at the Wine Vernissage several years ago. Back then they were released under the Lunguță brand name, and one could have deemed them quite decent for home production wine. But they lacked what is called competent marketing, since it is an expensive feat for a small producer, especially when they are at the beginnings of their journey.

In 2014, USAID helped us (at that time through the CEED II project), by paying for naming, branding, label development etc.” Ilie continues – So, the now popular Gogu Winery wine series came into this world, thanks to donor support. The “43 Oz” agency has developed two lines for us: premium – for assemblage wines and basic – for varietal wines. In 2015-2016 The Moldova Competitiveness Project, funded by USAID and the Government of Sweden, helped us acquire part of the technological equipment – a chiller for cooling marc during fermentation, which is very important for the production of quality wines, especially white wines, which account for 70% of our assortment. And in 2016-17 with their aid we purchased furniture to arrange a tasting room and began receiving guests.

Moreover, the Moldova Competitiveness Project, as a partner of the Association of Small Wine Producers, helps winemakers, including us, make themselves and their wines known in the world. The best way to achieve this is to participate in prestigious international competitions and exhibitions. However, it is expensive for us (registration of one wine sample at a competition costs about 100 euros or more. – A.T. note), and donors cover these costs. Respectively, the wines of Gogu Winery won 18 gold and silver medals. And in order to successfully present wines at exhibitions, you need to serve them at the correct temperature. Therefore, donors purchased refrigerators for the Association. In general, their support is very important and necessary. Since I have a technological education, I have also been helping colleagues for three years now, advising small producers who are just starting their business. In general, I get help, and I help”.  

How much does it cost?

Varietal white and rose wines cost 120-140 MDL in retail.

Metafora – from 300 to 335 MDL, depending on store markup.

Where to buy?

Wines can be purchased in the Fourchette, Metro, «№1», Dulcinella networks, in wine shops and restaurants, as well as directly from the producer.

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