Fabian Haidekker
Tschaikowskistr. 6

D-04105 Leipzig

Budapest, 26.06.1997


1. Introduction

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

7. Mirror

8. Pollution of Soil

9. Pollution of Water

10. Pollution of Air

11. Emissions in Moldavia

12. Effects on Life and their Prevention

13. Conclusion

14. Sources

1. Introduction

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 Furthermore some statistics might be outdated due to changes in society, e.g. privatisation of state companies in Moldavia, which owned about 50% of the vine areas in 1996.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 contamination existing.

2. Geographic and Climatic Aspects

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.

3. Short History of Vine Planting in the Romanian region

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 "Cotnari".

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.

4. Terminology of grapes found in and near Moldavia

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:

5. Romanian Wine Standards

Wines for current consumption

a. Table wine (VM)

b. Superior table wine (VMS)

Quality wines

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 (DOCC)

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.

6. Cellars in Moldavia

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 in Moldavia.

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.

7. Mirror

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.

8. Pollution of Soil

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.

9. Pollution of Water

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.

10. Pollution of Air

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 were released.

11. Emissions in Moldavia, 1989, in metric tonnes, source 7 pp. 200

Carbon Monoxide 544,600
Sulphur Dioxide 237,800
Hydrocarbons 112,200
Nitrogen Oxides 82,800
Dust 79,500

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.

12. Effects on Life and their Prevention

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.

13. Conclusion

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.

14. Sources

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., June 1997

6., June 1997

7. Environmental Resources and Constraints in the Former Soviet Republics, A. Dinu and M. Rowntree, 1995, Westview Press, Boulder, USA


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