Golden Land Sauvignon $18.50

A friend in the wine industry dropped off this bottle of wine the other day. “Do you want to try some Moldovan wine?” she texted. That damn auto-correct, I thought. Of course I wanted to try some Mondavi wine, I thought. “You bet,” I texted back.

It wasn’t auto-correct. To be fair, I was broadly aware of a country called Moldavia. And to be honest – there’s no country called Moldavia. There’s a country called Moldova, which incorporates parts of the old region of Moldavia, but we’re in serious Ken Jennings territory here. My guess is easily a third of the citizens of Moldova think they live in Moldavia.

In any event, it’s near Romania. When I grew up, wine from Romania was something to be feared. And by grow up, I’m talking about starting to act like an adult, so five years ago. A wine from a place less “lauded” than Romania. Double yikes. But these past few years has laid bare a lot of wine prejudices. Georgia, once a similar punchline of a region, has actually shown itself to be, in reality, a place of great history and interest for wine. Ditto Slovenia. Heck, ditto Romania. So why not….wait, I got this….Moldova?

But when the wine arrived, I was not buoyed. Instead of some cool native grape, it was Sauvignon Blanc a grape with some lovely peaks and plenty of valleys in terms of interest. Weirder€”it didn’t say Sauvignon Blanc on the label, it just said Sauvignon, which looks extremely odd just sitting there all alone.The wine was patently white, so I guess they figured, why waste extra embossing on superfluous information. It also said€”this time in gold€””High Quality Wine,” a phrase that is sort of like saying “I’m not a sex offender” in terms of comforting information. Even if it’s true, it’s not reassuring that you felt the need to even bring it up.

But by now I was in for a penny, in for a pound so I pulled to cork, and before the wine even his the glass I knew something unique was happening. A herbal, green-y, lightly medicinal smell was getting serious about taking over my immediate vicinity. I wasn’t concerned per se€”all those notes can in some measure can be really enjoyable. So I put my nose into the glass for a bigger hit….

Like many people I frequently struggle to properly identify the exact smell of a set wine. The smell is right there, you know it, but vocalizing it seems impossible. This was not one of those cases. This wine smelled exactly like those red jalapeño peppers that you often see in deli cases, stuffed with feta and then slightly pickled. One sniff and I was in Bosa Foods ordering for a lovely antipasti platter on a Friday night before guests arrive. I tasted it and it was also supremely odd€”like no other Sauvignon Blanc I’ve tried. It had some real greenness, like freshly sliced hot peppers without the heat, and an acidic backbone that was pretty serious, but not out of sorts (or volatile, as they say in the biz). My friend said he got marzipan on the palate, and I can see that. All I can say there was a lot going on. A lot of crazy but a lot of memorable too.

I ultimately kept the open bottle in my fridge for a week and half and I must have had 8-9 people smell and taste it. Some people liked it, some not so much (especially once it had been open for a week), but I can promise you they all remember it.

One of the great things about the ongoing democratization of wine is that we have the chance to try oddities like this. A Moldovan wine, made with a French grape, shipped halfway across the world to surprise and maybe delight us. So no it wasn’t Mondavi, but to tell you the truth I’ll remember this wine much longer than I would have a perfectly thought out Oakville Chardonnay.

Hail Moldova!