Wine Chateau is the first shop in the UK to exclusively sell Moldovan wines.
Its owners – native Moldovan Cristine Paunoiu and her Romanian husband Constantin – launched their Wellingborough venture last October. They currently import direct from two of the largest state-owned wineries, Cricova and Milestii Micci, and last month added wines from Chateau Vartely to their portfolio.
The couple, who are also in their final year of studying for degrees in business and management at Northampton University, had always wanted to start their own business.
Cristine explains that the idea came from their friends’ enthusiasm for the wines they would bring back from Moldova.
“They were always asking if we could get them some too,” she says, “so we thought this would be a good way to share our love of Moldovan wines. It’s a good opportunity to showcase the quality of the wines produced in my home country.”
The independent trade is becoming more open-minded about wines from eastern Europe, though Moldova has yet to make a major breakthrough.
Wine Chateau hopes to change perceptions through the development of its wholesale arm.
“We now have our AWRS licence, so Constantin is busy travelling around Northampton and beyond introducing our wines to restaurants and other shops,” Cristine says.
“Since we opened Wine Chateau, many wineries have been in contact with us and we intend to work with more, but we have to do this step by step. The wineries are hoping to work with us on an event in the UK, so they want to come over and present their wines to our customers.”
As the past couple of years have demonstrated, many consumers are keen to expand their wine horizons and try new things. Moldova offers an element of exoticism and mystique, but some of the grape varieties are familiar.
“We are working mainly with the European varieties like Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot and Chardonnay,” says Cristine.
“We have three main indigenous grape varieties, and our customers are keen to try those and compare the wine to European grape varieties.
“For example, if I’m talking about Rara Neagră, customers will often ask what grape I could compare it to, so I would liken it to Pinot Noir and then they have an idea of what to expect in terms of taste and aroma.
“We’ve had great feedback and many customers have said that we have brought something new to the town and they are really happy to have a specialist wine shop here.”