Eat and Drink Like a Local in… Moldova

15 Feb, 2019


Tucked away in Eastern Europe, Moldova draws much of its cultural and gastronomic heritage from its neighbour, Romania. Nestled between Ukraine and Romania, Moldova is a small country perhaps best known for its rich culture and unspoiled landscapes. But between the hiking, kayaking and exploring caves, there are a few must-try delicacies crucial to keeping yourself fuelled on your holiday there – and a few tipples to complete the experience, of course! For a taste of Moldova’s most proud native food and drink pairings while you visit, here are my top 3 food and wine pairing suggestions you should be on the lookout for.

Mamaliga. Credit:

Mamaliga. Credit:


Historically renowned as cheap, peasant food, mamaliga to Moldovans is what the baguette is to the French. Best compared to porridge or polenta, yet with a more robust texture of fluffy bread, this maize-based staple is incredibly versatile and synonymous with home cooking. Either as an accompaniment to other dishes or as the core of a main dish, mamaliga goes beautifully with eggs, ham, sausages or fish, but traditionally would be served with sour cream and cheese alongside a pork dish.

What to drink with it?

Fetească Regală – best compared to Chardonnay with huge versatility in wine-making, white wines made from this grape can range from crisp, fresh and zingy to age-worthy, rich and full-bodied.

For the sour cream and cheese topped mamaliga, I would go for the latter of the two styles; an oak barrel aged, nutty, round and intense Fetească Regală will have enough body and concentrated flavour to stand up to the hearty dish, yet has enough acidity to balance the flavours.

Sarma. Credit:


Typically served as a main dish with a side of mamaliga or sauerkraut, a sarma is a cabbage roll typically filled with minced pork for the meat eaters, or with nuts and spices as a vegetarian option, combined with caramelised onions, rice and seasoning, served alongside tomato sauce. With sour cabbage cutting through the hearty, feel-good fillings inside the roll, these little parcels pack an explosion of flavours.

What to drink with it?

This meaty main calls for a red. Rară Neagră (also know as Băbească Neagră) is most easily compared Pinot Noir in terms of weight and body with the flavour and aroma of Italian and Austrian wines (such as Sangiovese, Zweigelt and St Laurent). The sour cherry notes will marry beautifully with the sour cabbage while fruity, light floral notes and an earthy undertone keep the wine fresh yet structured. The other key to this grape is the very light, velvety tannins: it’s well suited to white meat with a lively acidity to cut through the fat.


Most easily translated as ‘pie’ in English, plăcintă refers to a traditional pastry that resembles a cake; the perfect excuse to crack open your bottle of sweet wine or sparkling! The pastry comes with either sweet or savoury fillings, such as potatoes, soft cheese, apple, sour cherries, or even chocolate. For the purpose of popping the cork of a sweeter number, I would recommend going for a plăcintă cu mere (apple pastry) or the more adventurous plăcintă cu urdă (ricotta and dill filled sweet pastry).

What to drink with it?

Tămâioasă Românească (Muscat) offers fresh, aromatic and light wines ranging from semi-sweet to sweet. Sweet as a result of abbreviated fermentation, where the fermentation process is cut short to prevent the yeasts from converting all of the sugar to alcohol, the wines produced are a deep yellowy-gold with honeysuckle aromas and flavours of apricots, melon and pineapple.

For those of you with a really sweet tooth, step it up to a regional ice wine, where grapes (typically Muscat or Riesling, or even sometimes red varieties!) are left on the vine through to winter. With the grapes being frozen when harvested, very little water is extracted to dilute the concentrated sugars and flavours during the pressing process. As a result, ice wines are lusciously sweet and intense with a racing acidity for a clean finish.

If you love the sound of these Moldovan wines then have a look at some of our recent recommendations you can find in the UK – you won’t be disappointed! And learn more about one of our favourite Moldovan wineries, Et Cetera. Cheers!




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