If you visit the Republic of Moldova, you can not miss a visit of most famous Moldovan wine cellars. Probably, in your tour in the country you plan to stay some days in Chisinau, the capital. The capital of the country can be an excellent base for wine lovers who want to visit the historic and very famous Mileștii Mici and Cricova.
Moldova is a wine country. The wine has been one of the most important resources of its economy and especially critical during the soviet period. The country has 4 regions for the production of wine products with Protected Geographical Indication. Those regions are Codru, Ștefan Vodă, Valul lui Traian and Divin. There, Moldovans crop and process plenty of local and european varieties of grapes.
So, Moldovan wines are much more than these two cellars we will introduce to you in this article but they are the most iconic and famous ones. Definitely, those ones you shouldn’t miss as a wine lover in your visit to Moldova.
What is Mileștii Mici about?
Mileștii Mici is the biggest wine cellar in the world. This is a winery located about 20 kilometers from the capital, Chisinau, whose foundation dates back to 1969.
It was once a limestone mine with a depth ranging from 30 to 85 meters. In the 1970s, the mine became a winery, as its conditions were perfect for wine conservation. Nowadays, it has more than 200 kilometers of limestone tunnels of which 55 are currently in use for storage. The cellars have a huge wine collection of 1,5 million bottles which is the largest wine collection in the world according to the Guinness World Records Book.
In Mileștii Mici all wines are produced following ancient Moldovan traditions, as they bear the title of National Heritage and Culture of the Republic of Moldova. The temperature inside is stable around 12-14 degrees Celsius and remains constant throughout the year, while the humidity ranges from 85% to 90%.
It is possible to visit the cellar on a guided tour using a touristy train as a vehicle. There are some different tour options and different prices depending on what you are getting. You can check all of the options on Mileștii Mici official website.
Our personal opinion about Mileștii Mici
We got the most basic option which included the guided visit, the transport and a gift of a bottle of sparkling wine.
The visit is interesting and you will be able to understand the importance of the wine in the country and its relevance during the soviet period and after it.
They offer the chance of tasting wines and even to have a full meal in the tasting room, which is a nice saloon. These options are quite overrated in terms of price. The basic visit was 450 Leis per person which is very expensive for local prices.
If you don’t have enough time for more than one cellar in your visit to Moldova, definitely choose Mileștii Mici as your first priority. Nevertheless, if you want to get deeper into Mileștii Mici wines, get some stuff at the very nice wine store of the cellar and enjoy it once you are back in Chisinau.
How to arrive to Mileștii Mici?
The most convenient option is to go by taxi. Always use Yandex to call a taxi. This app is really intuitive and you will know the approximate price in advance. To go to Mileștii Mici was 70 Lei and to come back (without Yandex since there are no cars available there) it was 200 Lei, three times more for the same path.
There are direct buses departing from Chişinău and arriving at Mileștii Mici. Services operate every day from the main bus station in the center, the departures are frequent and the journey takes approximately 45 min.
What is Cricova about?
The Cricova winery is located 17 km north of Chisinau. This is the second biggest wine cellar in Moldova and a must-do visit if you are in the capital of the country. You may hear that it is not as authentic as Mileștii Mici, just go and find it out by yourself.
The Cricova cellar was created in 1954 and has more than a million bottles stored along the 120 kilometers of tunnels. The temperature remains constant between 12 and 14 ºC, with humidity between 97-98% all over the underground cellar. The pearl of the collection is a wine called Easter Jerusalem which dates to 1902.
The wines are neatly arranged in a series of white-painted niches. The most valuable collection in Cricova is the one that belonged to Hermann Goring. It is made of more than 2000 bottles from the 1940s. After the war it passed to the Soviet troops and a large part of the wines were drunk or taken. Fortunately, what was left is currently visitable in Cricova.
Our personal opinion about Cricova
Cricova looks nicer and better renovated than Mileștii Mici, but it is far from being new. That is an asset since you can find as a visitor all the magnet of its history.
We went there on a sunday of february 2022, without reservation and we were the only visitors, so we got the guide just for us. We paid 350 Lei for the English tour they nicely offered (cheaper than the most basic in Mileștii Mici). The visit is made in the winery’s own electric vehicles, going through the tunnels with barrels on the sides. The vehicle makes specific stops to give you explanations and see details of the winery.
We started watching a video with a courtesy sparkling wine. We visited after the saloons, the corridors and the national collection. In this area there are niches reserved for private bottles, such as those of Angela Merkel, Vladimir Putin or Jose Manuel Barroso, among others.
Overall, we got a very good feeling about the tour. We would recommend going to Mileștii Mici, if you have only time for one cellar, but don’t miss Cricova if you have a chance to get to it.
How to arrive to Cricova
The best option is to go by taxi. As everywhere in Moldova, use Yandex to call a taxi if you can. This app is really intuitive and you will know the approximate price in advance. To go to Cricova was 100 Lei as the final price (a bit more than it was supposed to be on the app).
Once we finished the visit we couldn’t find a car on Yandex so we asked at the reception. They recommended walking five minutes to the center of the village. Just straight ahead from the cellar you will find in the same street a little square and the bus stop. Just for 4 Lei we could arrive to the Circus (end of the line) in Chisinau.
Where to stay on a wine tour in Moldova?
Chisinau is the most convenient place to stay close to the most important cellars of the country. We chose the Wine Hotel in Chisinau which is a regular hotel friendly to this subject. It has regular rooms with nice street views, a wine shop, friendly and helpful staff and a glass of wine on the house per person and per day.
It is not bad. We can recommend it since it is not very expensive and it is good value for your money. We have read it is one of the most recommended in Chisinau, but probably that definition was too much.
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