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WINE OF THE WEEK: Castel Mimi Animaliens Viorica Feteascā Alba 2022, Moldova

£12.50, Tanners Wines

This is only the second Moldovan wine to occupy the Wine of the Week slot and neither of the grape varieties has featured before. So, let's welcome the coming together of Viorica and Feteascā Alba in this fragrant, floral, breezy dry white.

To unpack it a bit more, the white Viorica (50% of the blend) is a Moldovan crossing of two red grape varieties: Seibel 13666, an obscure French hybrid, and Italy’s Muscat-scented red Aleatico. Although Viorica dates from 1969, it isn’t among the 1,368 varieties listed in Wine Grapes (2012), but it seems to have been gaining traction in Moldova in recent years – with good reason, it seems to me.

Feteascā Alba is also a white Moldovan variety, although there is more of it in neighbouring Romania. And like Viorica, it seems to be growing in popularity with the country’s more go-ahead wineries.

While it’s safe to say that Viorica must be responsible for at least some of the wine's distinctive, floral, slightly Muscat-like, lychee aromas and flavours, I can’t be sure which variety gives the citrus zest, the leafy-green freshness and the attractive slight chewiness. What matters is that they work well together.

Castel Mimi, the producer, is one of the country's largest, but is still in the hands of descendants of its 1893 founder, Constantin Mimi, who was the last governor of Bessarabia and also an innovative winemaker who trained in Montpellier.

In the Soviet period, the company became a giant wine factory churning out millions of litres a month, but since 2011 it has been transformed. Today, as well as 200ha of vineyards, the historic château/mansion has been restored, the winery is state-of-the-art (with more than 1,000 barrels), there's a restaurant, luxurious guest accommodation and events spaces. No wonder it pulls in the tourists.

The Animaliens wines, one of several ranges, are youthful, unoaked showcases for their grape varieties and are designed to be drunk young. I can also recommend the light red blend of Pinot Noir, Saperavi and Rara Neagra that Tanners has.

The Viorica Feteascā Alba is a perfect fit as an aperitif, but also goes very well with avocado salads (mind the dressing isn’t too sharp) and with saffron: try a saffron risotto, or seafood, white fish, chicken or pasta with saffron. You could also pair it with dim sum or sushi. 13%. Empty bottle weight: 464g.

Castel Mimi Animaliens Viorica Feteascā Alba 2022, Moldova


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