Starting in October we started to notice little rivers of wine making their way down the streets. This meant the time for cleaning wine barrels, harvesting grapes, and making wine was approaching. By mid October our host parents started making their house wine. They made the red wine first, and then about a week or so later, they made the white wine.

Basically the processes seems to be as follows:

First, clean all the barrels to prepare for the new wine, and harvest all the grapes. Then dump the grapes into a grape press to squeeze out all the juice. Once all the grapes are pressed, let the wine sit for several days to ferment. Depending on the temperature outside and the varietal, this could take anywhere from five days to two weeks. When it is no longer sweet, the wine is pumped into buckets and transported into the barrels in the wine cellar. There it will continue to ferment for up to several months until finally it becomes the finished product.

They did something interesting with the white wine after it was pumped and transported to the wine cellar. It seems like it’s cheating to me, but we’re no wine experts to really know. When all the wine was pumped out of the barrel, they added a bunch of sugar and water to the grape peels. They stirred it several times a day until it fermented like wine. They say it tastes like wine, but it’s not technically wine.

It is probably important to talk about a certain aspect of the alcohol culture here in Moldova. Some Moldovans give a little wine to children because they believe it helps them grow and prevents disease. I’ve (Susan) heard this thinking is the same in most parts of Europe as well. This is not something I understand. In fact all the research I have read on the subject is conclusive that alcohol negatively affects an undeveloped brain, so it has been hard for me to watch children being served alcohol.

I had a discussion one night with my host parents about it. While in the end we agreed to disagree, I am at least glad I was able to share with them my opinion and the research supporting it.

Alcohol is a huge part of Moldovan culture and hospitality. They take great pride in their wine, so it is expected that wine is offered to and accepted by guests. Just about every house has a barrel or two of its own house wine in its cellar. 9 out of 10 people we meet in the street offers us a glass of wine, and refusing it can be tricky (but not impossible). Curt met a man on his way to work  the other day, and regardless of the fact that it was 9:00 am, he was still offered wine. Noroc!