MOLDAVIAN VINES AND THEIR POLLUTED ENVIRONMENT
2. Geographic and Climatic Aspects
3. Short History of Vine Planting in the Romanian region
4. Terminology of grapes found in and near Moldavia
5. Romanian Wine Standards
6. Cellars in Moldavia
8. Pollution of Soil
9. Pollution of Water
10. Pollution of Air
11. Emissions in Moldavia
12. Effects on Life and their Prevention
First of all this "Vine and Pollution" essay paper is
meant to give a short overview on the agricultural industry and
its interdependence with the environment in the case of Moldavia.
The first part tells about the relation between the wine in the
Romanian Cotnari region and the neighbouring country Moldavia.
The former part of Romania was taken into the Soviet Union by
Stalin in 1940 and released in 1991. Nowadays it is independent.
I have chosen this comparison, because very little information
about wine in Moldavia was available in English, so that common
things of both countries might help to understand. Furthermore
some statistics might be outdated due to changes in society, e.g.
privatisation of state companies in Moldavia, which owned about
50% of the vine areas in 1996. The second part names the quantity
and area of the pollution and tries to illuminate the difficulties
between developing or exporting of higher vine varieties and the
The Republic of Moldavia (RoM) lies on the same latitude (45°28
- 48° 29' north) as the wine-giant France. But it is not
only smaller by its wine production, also by its diameters, 350
km north to south and 150 km west to east, and with the highest
elevation of 429.5 m near the Romanian border and the mean height
of 147 m above sea level, decreasing from west to east.
The area of RoM is 33,700 km². 8% of the territory is forest,
mostly located in the centre at the Kodry region and other scattered
areas. Forest types consist of broad-leaved tree species. Oak
woods are found almost everywhere. While national parks and hunting
preserves total at about 150 km², elsewhere nature became
seriously damaged. For example there is a threatened region of
80 km² of oak forest in the north. In the last quarter of
the century no natural seed reproduction occurred and abundant
fruit was not produced. The place of the disappeared plants were
taken by all kinds of weeds such as nettle, catchweed and bedstraw.
Reasons will be named later.
Two other natural zones exist: forest-steppe and steppe. One third
of the overall territory is covered by plains and fluvial terraces.
The climate is moderate continental and semi-arid, little snow
and rainfall occurs, the humidity is generally low. Precipitation
is rather sporadic and mostly between April and October. Out of
the past 110 years 43 were drought years. Probably we will find
a warm autumn between a hot summer and mild winter.
The total area designated for vine farming comes up to 1,800 km²,
while the centre and the southern regions offer the best conditions
for wine-growing due to 190-200 frost free days and a mean rain
fall around 350 mm annually.
Vine areas in Romania are split up into many different regions.
Four of them are Târnave, Dealu Mare, Murfatlar and Cotnari.
The one I would like to draw the attention to is the so called
The about 20 km² on the Romanian side used for wine-growing
lie on the same latitude as Chisinau (Kishinev), which is located
at the northern border of the Moldavian wine area. Being protected
from cold winds by high hills in the north and profiting from
southern exposure and dry, hot summers, the grapes accumulate
a high sugar percentage inside and are sensitive to the noble
rot, botrytis, which also gives us the remarkable Tokaji wine.
The limestone hills provide a good drainage and a special taste.
Unfortunately, the wines of Romania and RoM were used to supply
the Soviet Union with cheap, sweat productions, inferring that
nowadays a lot of space is left for improvement from quantity
to quality. Investment in production units should enable the wine-farmers
to press more precious wines. The historically known sweet dessert
wine "Cotnari" is made from local grapes - Feteasca
Alba, Grasa, Tamâioasa. Historically, because wine was made
here probably during the last 6,000 years. Viticulture has been
reported since the 7th century BC, and many peoples besides the
Romans (in their Province Dacia Felix) used the advantageous features
there. Nowadays a large amount of foreign grapes is found in the
region, mostly French. What are the reasons?
The phylloxera, which came from North America to Europe in the
sixties of the last century and struck Romania in the last decades,
destroyed most of the traditional vine, while living from the
roots of the plants. To rescue what was left of the European vine
culture, further research was done and it was discovered, that
American grapes developed a resistance against phylloxera. A simple
solution was found. Wine farmers began to stick the European vine
plants onto the American vine stocks and roots, to gain resistant
hybrids with the old type of grape. The so treated mostly French
grapes were later imported to Romania.
Besides Cotnari there are about 12 regions in Moldavia, where
different vines are grown, but generally one says, that the home
of white wine is in the centre and the red wine in the south and
west. Most important areas are the Iasi, Panciu, Focsani (which
can be subdivided into Cotesti, Odobesti and Nicoresti), Vrancea,
Galati and Vaslui where the following grapes and wines can be
found and enjoyed:
Wines for current consumption
a. Table wine (VM)
b. Superior table wine (VMS)
a. Wine of superior quality (VS)
b. Quality wine with controlled appellation of origin (VDOC)
Wine with controlled appellation of origin (DOC)
Wine with controlled appellation of origin and quality degree
Harvested at full maturity (CMD)
Late harvest (CT) or Selected harvest (CS)
Noble harvest (CIB)
Harvested when the grapes turn into raisins (CSB)
Harvested at noble maturity (CMI)
According to the sugar content, wines can be classified as follows:
dry: up to 4 g/l
medium-dry: 4-12 g/l
medium-sweet: 12-50 g/l
sweet: over 50 g/l
(-> source 6)
Moldavia is preparing a wine classification system, an Appellation
of Origin, for which the Romanian Wine Standards could be useful.
Until then wines are sold using the viticulture centre and grape
variety names. The latter can be given to wine made of no less
than 85% of the specific grape.
In this paragraph, cellars in Moldavia are named, which already
produce high standard and quality wines, the most successful ones
being tasty especially for Western tongues. While French investors
are more likely to be found in Hungary - Australia (Penfolds since
1993), Germany, Italy and England improved wine pressing techniques
First of all Purkar with Negru, Cabernet Sauvignon, Saperavi and
Rara Negre pressed and kept in oak barrels for 4 years like an
extraordinary production of Negru '63. Another cellar is Krikova
with Kodru "Claret", Krasny Reserve Pinot Noir, Merlot,
Malbec and sparkling wine. Then Românesti with wine from
French grapes and Yaloveni "Flor Sherrys". Cabernet
from Tarakliya can be a pleasure for both body and soul. Certainly
a speciality is the Abrodsov sparkling wine with bottle fermentation
and Ryman's Chardonnay.
While the rediscovery of one of the most interesting and potential
vine areas in Europe is slow, but with increasing pace developing,
one is forced to keep in mind the enormous pollution of soil,
water, and air which took place during the industrialisation period
of Moldavia in the 1950s and continued until nowadays. Environmental
protection organisations could only be formed and founded after
the break-up of the Soviet Union in 1991, and are still in need
of means and methods. On the other hand civil disturbances in
the past years led to a decrease in morality, followed by industrial
damage, increase in accidents and non-operating of cleaning plants,
e.g. the sewage works at Dubasari. To state the Observer: "Air,
soil, and water pollution is common and is the attributed cause
of Moldavia's high incidence of abnormal births, infant mortality,
and lowered mental abilities". In 1990 infant mortality was
measured with 2% and live expectancy with 65 years for male and
72 years for female. While the former political communist structures
are disappearing, the contamination is not.
During the last half of the century, Moldavia's agricultural land
(74% of the entire country) was heavily overworked to produce
low price goods for the Soviet Union. Creating new agricultural
grounds, careless cultivation and contamination lead to strong
soil degradation and salinisation. Nowadays not more than one
quarter of the arable land has a humus content greater than 3%,
while on the other hand erosion by wind (deflation) and water,
as result of deforestation, is increasing. While Moldavia is only
self-sufficient in steel, it lacks oil and coal and has an energy
deficit. Despite these resources, 35 million metric tonnes of
minerals are extracted, per se coming along with massive destruction
of arable land. But nevertheless, the greatest pollution derives
from over fertilisation. The application of mineral fertiliser
increased from 28 kg per hectare in 1965 to 196 kg per hectare
in 1989. During those years the average usage of pesticide culminated
over 17 kg per hectare, which is even under one tenth of the dose
used in Western countries and thirteen times higher than the Soviet
average. Few efforts are made to reduce the dependence on chemicals
in agriculture. In 1990 25% of the food produced was polluted
with nitrates. The maximum content of DDT (officially banned in
1970) in the soil is still at a 9.2 mg/kg. In means of allowance,
92 times the Maximum Permissible Concentrations (MPC). Usually
10-15% of the DDT soil concentration are found inside the plants.
Large amount of herbicides, e.g. Simazine and Atrazine, are also
inside the soil, although their amount is decreasing, because
of rain taking the contamination to ground water, rivers and lakes.
Despite the above mentioned water pollution caused by soil erosion
and soil washing, 660 livestock farming enterprises produce over
40 million m³ of wastes annually polluting water and air
with nitrates and ammonia, due to the fact that no high standard
cleaning systems are in use. This puts the agriculture into the
first position of polluters before the industry. About 8% of the
water comes from aquifers while only half of it fits Soviet drinking
standards. Many of the rural wells are either drying up or are
contaminated with high mineral concentrations and bacterial counts.
(Just buy a bacterial cleaning liquid based on silver ions
at your nearest outdoor shop before taking off ...)
That only little or no cleaning exists is shown by the 21 million
m³ untreated water, including 610 metric tonnes of petroleum
products and 19,000 metric tonnes of organic compounds, which
were led into the Dnestr basin in 1989. Every year 8 million m³
of water run through livestock farms and return to the water system
contaminated with nitrates, parasite eggs and pathogens.
Because most of the river valleys (Prut and Dnestr) and lake areas
are under massive agricultural production, they simply have no
natural system to intercept and filter the water rich in chemicals
and salt. In 1990 samples were taken out of the Raut River in
the north and centre of Moldavia. In 95% of its water pesticides
were detected, besides high concentrations of ammonia and nitrogen.
Air pollution is mostly found in large cities as Balti, Ribnita,
Chisinau and Tiraspol. For example out of the 132,000 metric tonnes
of pollution emitted in Chisinau during 1988, three quarters were
coming from motor vehicles. This emission source can be told as
the reason for the high Formaldehyde concentrations in Balti and
Chisinau, where it reaches four times respectively once the average
Maximum Permissible Concentration (MPC). Ribnita can be named
as high in Sulphur dioxide (SO2) with four times the average MPC,
while dust is as high as two to three average MPCs in Tiraspol
and Chisinau. Since the Chernobyl disaster in 1986, local power
plants have had to increase their production, especially the huge
coal-burning power plant close to Dnestrovsk, which causes about
half of the air pollution from stationary sources by emitting
SO2 and dust. Moldavia has neither a nuclear reactor unit nor
a nuclear research centre. While no atomic testing or bombing
occurred, radioactive waste was buried in this region. A few accidents
happened in the past, each of them adding to the contamination,
for example an explosion in the biochemical part of a weapon manufacturing
complex near Tighina (Bender), where ammonia and chlorine gases
Out of those 1.06 million metric tonnes, 424,000 originated from
stationary sources and about 636,000 from vehicles.
DDT is genetically harmful, formaldehyde is carcinogenic, Sulphur
dioxide causes acid rain, while the rest is toxic for humans.
The only natural conservation of animals and plants from extinction
is found in the reserved areas. Furthermore, some organisations
like the Institute of Genetics Academy of Sciences Chisinau or
the Research Institute for Breeding Techniques in Horticulture
have some plant genetic resource (PGR) collections. The National
Institute or Grape and Wine Industry (Chisinau) is the only one,
which samples about 27 genetic codes of vine species. A country
PGR Institute or Gene Bank is lacking existence yet.
Still, there are about 260 bird, 80 fish, 400 other vertebrate
and 4,500 invertebrate species existing, while eight mammal, seventeen
bird and four reptile species were listed as protected in 1990.
Conservation areas are the Kodry State Zapovedniki (close to the
highest peak), the Yagorlyk Zapovednik, and the Redensky Les Hunting
Preserve. By 1989 two zoological and nine botanical "sanctuaries"
or partial reserved areas, called Zakazniki, were in existence.
The exclusive control over natural resource administration and
nature preservation lies absolutely in the hand of the State Department
for Environment and Natural Resource Protection formed in 1990.
The first important NGO, the Moldavian Green Movement, was formed
in Chisinau in November 1988. A second natural protection group
is the Ecological Movement, which holds ties to the Moldavian
Popular Front represented in parliament. Latter are publishing
a newspaper called "Ave natura".
Besides this, very little was done to reduce the environmental
pollution of the past and future, partly because of missing means,
partly because Moldavia is highly relying on their old industry
and power plants. In fact, most of them are located in the Transdnestr
region, which itself is inhabited by a large number of Russians
and Ukrainians, who slowly develop self governing.
Wine making and pollution are closely linked in Moldavia. The
Transdnestr Region, which was taken from Ukraine in exchange for
the territory between the Black Sea and the contemporary Republic
of Moldavia, was used by Stalin for heavy industrialisation. Because
of the large number of Slavic people being in favour for control
of energy and production plants it could soon split away from
RoM. The industrial and energy deficit existing could be filled
with closer links to Romania or through economic self development.
Not being in need to produce cheap goods and energy as a republic
of the Soviet Union, Moldavia could also create quality improvements
in environmental standards. Until then, pesticide usage will be
common to maintain the agriculture.
1. Westentaschen Weinkenner, Ernst Meier, 1995, Diogenes, Zürich
2. Der kleine Johnson, Hugh Johnson, 1996, Hallwag, Bern
3. Observer, Jan 15, 1989; Ziegler, 1992, p. 27; Feshbach and Friendly, 1992, p. 67
4. State Committee on Nature Protection, 1990, Moldavia
5. http://www.ecnc.nl/doc/europe/country/moldova.html, June 1997
6. http://www.bucharest.com/vinexport/regions.html, June 1997
7. Environmental Resources and Constraints in the Former Soviet Republics, A. Dinu and M. Rowntree, 1995, Westview Press, Boulder,