Cotnari is a commune in Iaşi County, region of Moldavia. It is located north-west of Iaşi and south of Hârlău, in a major wine-producing region of Romania, and is famous for some wine varieties.
Proofs of habitation in the area go back to the Cucuteni culture; a fortress dating from the 5th or 6th century BC was discovered on the nearby Cătălina Hill (nowadays a nature reserve). It seems that the vineyard have been known since times immemorial. In this area there have been dug out wine cups of the Cucuteni-Tripolie as well as Cătălina and Băiceni civilizations, from the Getic-Dacian epoch. Likewise, Middle Ages Moldavian wine cups and vessels date the old vocation of wine making in the area. Cotnari was first attested in 1448. The establishment of vineyards is attributed by local tradition to an initiative of Moldavian Prince Stephen the Great, under whose rule the village rose to the status of alternate residence, while stone structures and roads to serve the wine trade were built in the area.
The name Cotnari originates from the words “cotitul butoaielor” (“hollowing the barrels”). In 1599 there were 3,500 “smokes” (houses) in Cotnari and the place was one of the largest boroughs of Moldavia, after Suceava and Bacău. Beginning with the latter half of the 16th century, the vineyards started to be parceled out and the population of the settlement decreased more and more, so that in 1832 there were only 230 houses in the borough. Phylloxera gave the finishing stroke to Cotnari in 1891 when, as an ultimate measure, there were cut all the vineyards. In the 19th century, the local vines (Grasa, Feteasca, Tămâioasa, Frâncuşa) were engrafted on American mother plants that were resistant to Phylloxera. This is, in fact, the rebirth of the Cotnari vineyard.
This vineyard is the only one in Romania that has not altered the autochtonous sorts of vine, after the invasion of Phylloxera. At present, the company Cotnari S.A. holds an area of 1316 ha vineyards, of which 1200 ha are in bearing, and the rest consists of young plantations. In the Romanian wine growing landscape, Cotnari is unquestionably one of the most important vineyards. The wine made here is unparalleled in our country and unsurpassed by the wines of Sauternes (France) or Tokay (Hungary) with whom it resembles. Many people still ask about the Cotnari miracle, well known and deeply rooted in the layers of memory. The calcareous soil and the marvelous effect of the “noble rot” (Botrytis cinerea), as well as the selective harvest when berries turn into raisins, contribute to the exquisite quality of the Cotnari wine (D.O.C.C.), known from the Middle Ages as the “Pearl of Moldavia”.
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