At first it was just an idea that was born on a trip to France and Italy, where we struggled to book anything effectively online. We had to browse so many websites for hotels, wineries and restaurants and in the end, we gave up as the information was not updated and it was almost impossible to book anything so last minute.
If I were to look back at my journey, I think it was much more complex than that. I was born in a winemaking destination and experienced my grandfather making wine as a child. I have vivid memories of my cousins and I picking and stomping grapes. It was that and my desire to create something that can have a long lasting impact that motivated my departure from the financial world into entrepreneurship. It has been a journey of professional and personal discovery, and there is no better industry than the Wine and Food Travel world to create the perfect environment for both of these to happen!
What is your favourite foodie destination?
I simply adore Italy and its versatility. It is so extraordinary when it comes to its food culture. I love the pizza in Napoli, the burrata in Puglia, the seafood in Sicily and the angel hair pasta with truffle in Tuscany.
What is your favourite wine?
This is an impossible question for me! I love to discover new wines, and there is nothing quite as special as going to a wine region and being introduced to a new wine. One of my favourite recent discoveries was the Cerasuolo di Vittoria in Southern Sicily. I love wines!
Being from Moldova, what is your favourite Moldovan wine? What is your favourite Moldovan dish?
I could not choose a favourite wine, but there are some new producers to watch at the moment as they are creating extraordinary things - Chateau Cristi and Aurelius, to name a couple. Moldovan food is so pure and it's all about the ingredients, their freshness and origin - straight out of your grandmother's garden. Placinta - which is a pastry stuffed with cheese or sweet cherries is one of my favourites. I adore visiting Moldova in the summer as I love all of our fruit and on cold winter's evenings like this one, I dream of warm summer evenings, a large bowl of cherries, raspberries and apricots, all picked in my parents' garden paired with a cold glass of aromatic Viorica. Moldova has also recently had many more flights from across Europe so easier than ever to discover.
What destinations do you hope to add to the Winerist portfolio?
Hawaii and Morocco are next. I love adding the sense of surprise when it comes to wine travel. Especially if that destination offers a combination of adventure, culture, food and wine.
What are the most underrated wine destinations? Those that are most surprising?
Moldova is most certainly at the top of my list. Moldova is easy to navigate, and so easy to access with daily flights leaving from London. It also offers great accommodation, incredible restaurants and so many cultural and foodie experiences - whether you are travelling on a budget or are looking for something more premium. I think England, which is my second home, is also very exciting and a region that gets overlooked. I feel us Londoners in particular need to explore the Cotswolds, Hampshire, Kent and Sussex and uncover the amazing wineries that can be found here.
What are the most popular Winerest experiences?
The Douro Valley and Bordeaux remain our top sellers. Anything from Biking in St Emilion followed by a lunch at the chateau to visiting exceptional Port Houses and lunch overlooking Pinhao is going to be extremely popular for many years to come.
What is the hottest wine destination for 2021?
Porto without any doubt. There is so much to do there, in the city and in its neighbouring wine regions. With WOW opened this year, you can explore the country's culture, wine and food in so many exciting ways.
What plans do you have next for the business?
To keep growing and consolidating our extraordinary wine and food experiences at winerist.com. As a specialist in our industry, the only way in which we can stand out is by offering the most unique, best executed and memorable experiences. We are on an ongoing adventure to find these for our global travellers.