Dayton – When you ask even the most ardent wine enthusiasts about the most historic wine producing regions in the world, chances are they will quickly mention traditional favorites like France, Italy, California and South America. Australia, New Zealand and Oregon might even enter the conversation. Brandon Snell is passionate about ensuring oenophiles develop an appreciation for one of the oldest wine making nations around the globe. That is Moldova.
Nestled between Romania and the Ukraine, Moldova is an eastern European country of three million residents, of which 25 percent work in the wine industry. Moldovans consume the most alcohol per capita in the world, and their country – which is shaped like a bunch of grapes – is the 13th largest wine producing country in the world. Moldova also boasts the largest underground cellar in the world, 124.2 miles in size, composed of old caves that were once used for limestone mining. Now, the country’s wines are making their way to the United States, and Snell’s Centerville-based Soroca Imports is leading the effort.
Soroca Imports features one of the largest assortments of Moldovan wines in North America, and one of their most devoted advocates is Snell, who earned a master’s degree in international and comparative politics from Wright State University in 2009 and calls himself a “a connoisseur of new experiences.”
“My family has Moldovan roots, and I have a deep interest in wines,” Snell explained. “Since only a small percentage of Americans know about Moldovan wines, it presents an opportunity that is still in its early stages. The exciting part is educating the market about the rich heritage and the premium quality of Moldovan wines.”
Moldova is situated on prime grape growing land, and wine has been produced there since the 1400s. Vineyards cover more land in Moldova than in any country in the world. In fact, around seven percent of Moldova’s geographical area is adorned with vines. There are some indigenous Moldovan grapes that are still raised, such as Feteasca Alba “White Maiden,” Feteasca Neagra “Black Maiden,” and Feteasca Regala “Royal Maiden,” among others, and all three of these unique varietals are supplied by Soroca Imports. However, the bulk of the wine production features grapes brought in from France, Italy and Romania after World War II.
Moldova was home to the largest grape-growing area in the Russian Empire until the vineyards suffered during the two World Wars. The Soviet Union restored the wine-growing regions after World War II, and wine production returned to pre-World War II levels by the 1960s. In fact, of the wines imported by Snell, Castel Mimi, was among one of the largest wine producers during the Soviet era.
Recent history contributed to Snell’s efforts to make Moldova a widely known name in the North American wine circles. Wine production emerged as one of Moldova’s most prominent economic engines after the dissolution of the Soviet Union, reaching 7.5 percent of the value of all exports. In 2013, when the country announced it would join the European Union, Russian President Vladimir Putin banned the importing of Moldovan wine. At the time, Russia was the largest importer of Moldovan wine.
“That presented an opportunity for North America to experience Moldovan wines since there was a need for a new market,” Snell said. “I have an entrepreneurial spirit, and the market for Moldovan wines in the United States especially is mostly untapped.”
Over his 26 years in the wine industry, Rumbleseat Wine owner Chris Holloway has become savvy to the nuances of wine regions and wine drinkers alike. Moldovan wines, which Rumbleseat carries, offer customers intrigue beyond the compelling tastes.
“Wine enthusiasts like learning about new wines, regions, grapes and history,” Holloway said. “Moldovan wines offer something intriguingly different than what is provided by traditional wine producing areas like California, Italy and France.”
Currently, Soroca Imports distributes its selection of Moldovan wines to specialty shops like Rumbleseat, A Taste of Wine, Brunings, and the Cellar, and online at www.sorocaimports.com.