World’s Largest Wine Cellar, two underground cities, a visit to Chișinău and a magical day spent in a traditional village are just a few reasons to visit Republic of Moldova.
But the experience to go after in Moldova is the tour of its top wine cellars.
If someone would have told me about these attractions (hint: my partner, who is born in Moldova), I would have probably visited them during my first journey in Moldova. Still, it’s great that I got the chance of touring these stunning places (in May 2016).
Wine Tasting Tour in Moldova – Top 4 Wine Cellars
Mileștii Mici – World’s Largest Wine Cellar
Mileștii Mici is the largest underground city with a wine cellar in the world!
With 200 km of underground tunnels (yes, you read that right), out of which 55 km are used for storing wine in huge oak barrels, Mileștii Mici also accommodates a traditional restaurant, a tasting room and the wine reserves.
The interesting thing is that you can actually drive a minivan through the limestone tunnels, but bear in mind that all tours have to be guided.
Mileștii Mici abodes the largest wine reserve in the world!
In 2007, this wine cellar entered the Guiness World Records Book for the 1,5 million bottles in its collection.
The fascinating part of the tour is the Golden Reserve and its hidden room, both storing the old and the collectible wines. It’s also the place where many international politicians store their private wine reserves.
The most expensive wines in this collection go for 1000 – 2000€ per bottle, but you can also buy good old wines (10-25 years) for around 20€ per bottle from the wine shop outside.
Hundreds of bottles covered in thick dust layers and spider nets offer great photo opportunities. It was the first time I used the flash on my phone, and I think it did a pretty decent job. These old bottles look like they’re on the bottom of the ocean, don’t they?!
I also found out why nobody cleans the bottles :). The spider nets and the dust help preserve the old wines in optimal conditions.
When you get outside, you’ll surely be stopped on your way by the „wine fountains”, a quirky element at Mileștii Mici (unfortunately, you’ll not find real wine in those fountains).
The red wine varieties are pretty good, and I recommend you try the Pinot – Franc and the Merlot with its soft cherries and blackberries flavor.
If you’re planning a trip to Moldova, then a visit to Mileștii Mici should be on top of your list.
Address: Milestii Mici Village, Ialoveni District, Republic of Moldova, MD-6819 – 18 km and 24 minutes from Chisinau.
Entrance fee, wine tasting included: 22 Euro/person for one hour tour (guided tour for at least 5 people).
Opening days/hours: Monday to Friday, 9.00 – 17.00. Website
Asconi Winery, the place for Rosé Lovers
The main reason to visit Asconi is to taste the exceptional wines, so we tried 6 or 7 varieties before deciding on which we loved best, all accompanied by a good lunch.
My favorites are the Moscato and the Cabernet Sauvignon (ice wine rosé), so I highly recommend you try them when visiting this winery.
The memory of that great Cabernet Sauvignon (ice wine rosé) made me go far beyond tasting it at Asconi – I’ve recently “imported” a whole case of it with a little help from my Moldavian friends, and shared it with my family.
Asconi Winery is a magical place for all those in love with interior design because each vintage item carefully displayed in the attic looking restaurant tells a story about people and places in Moldova.
The complex is made out of a winery, two restaurants with terraces where you can enjoy a nice meal and wine tasting, and a wine shop. If you visit Asconi, don’t forget to take some samples home.
Address: Stefan Cel Mare nr. 1, Puhoi, Raionul Ialoveni, MD-6824 -28 km and 32 minutes from Chisinau
Entrance fee, wine tasting included: 17 Euro/ person for a complete tasting tour, but only if the tour is booked for at least 2 people.
Opening days/hours: Monday to Sunday, 11.00 to 17.00; better book your tour in advance. Website
Wine shop prices: 6 bottles of Ice Rosé Cabernet Sauvignon go for less than 50€.
Since my wine tour in Moldova, I’ve acquired the habit of bringing a few traditional wine bottles home with me from every wine-worthy destination.
Then I organize a wine tasting night with my friends and family, a themed get-together and, if you accompany it by a variety of cheese, fruits and board games, you’ll have yourself a great Sunday night.
Cricova, an impressive wine cellar for sparkling wine lovers
4 impressive tasting rooms, long limestone underground tunnels, and a small cinema hall make Cricova a stunning place!
It’s enough to see the interior design of the tasting rooms to acknowledge the effort these people have put in turning a wine cellar into one of Moldova’s main tourist attractions.
To make the wine cellar tour even more interesting, they offer a little train ride through some of the most interesting corners of the 80km of tunnel out of the 180km total.
The temperature inside is low, humidity levels pretty high, so I was glad to find a warm puffy vest on each passenger seat. Love this attention to the finer details!
Another quirky detail I’ve admired at Cricova is the collection of flowers resulting from the mold used in preserving wine, some kept right on the bottles. The oldest bottle in Cricova’s wine collection is called „Jerusalem of Easter”/ „Evreiesc de Paști” and dates back to 1902.
The wine tour guide at Cricova is a storyteller, an important part of the job especially when it comes to sharing a passion for wines with tourists who have little knowledge about the wine making industry.
Cricova produces sparkling wines in accordance with the classical French method, purportedly invented centuries ago by the monk Dom Pierre Perignon – “Methode Champenoise”. (1)
Therefore, Cricova prides itself for making a great sparkling wine, and this tour guide shared some interesting things to say about the process:
– Each sparkling wine bottle is frequently turned on a side by hand. Yes, the process of turning sparkling wine bottles is automatized in most wineries, but Cricova does this part manually, thus adding a personal touch to the whole wine making process. It’s amazing, if you think that this wine cellar produces a few million bottles each year!
– Old wines are drinkable over a period of 50 years, but only if they’re kept in a certain position and in special storage conditions (light, temperature, humidity).
Tasting the 6 or 7 wine varieties also came with a series of interesting insights about Cricova wine, so I highly recommend you take a detailed guided tour, wine tasting included, of course. And, as with all the other wineries, take a bottle of Cricova’s sparkling wine home with you.
Address: Str. Petru Ungureanu 1, Cricova 2084, Moldova – 20 km and 24 minutes to get there from Chișinău
Entrance fee, wine tasting included: 24 Euro/person for a tour of 1 hour and 30 minutes.
Opening Days/Hours: Monday-Friday, 8.00-17.00, Saturday-Sunday, 10.00-16.00. Website
Castel Mimi, a majestic castle with a wine cellar
Castle Mimi is a 120 years old castle with an imposing architecture and a wine-making history dating back more than one century (since 1893).
Its founder, Constantin Mimi, was also the last governor of Basarabia region (Republic of Moldova used to be called Basarabia). He brought the first vine variety of Aligote into Moldova and made it accessible throughout the country.
In 1914, Castle Mimi was visited by the last Russian Emperor, Nicholas II of Russia (Nikolay Aleksandrovich); in 1925, it was visited by Carol II of Romania (King of Romania – 1930-1940).
These last few years, Castel Mimi underwent major renovations with the purpose of restoring the impressive building to its original architecture, but also to add new outdoor spaces for recreational purposes.
Today, Castle Mimi is open to the public, after many years of being closed for restorations, so you can enjoy a wine tasting and a tour of its cellars while admiring an architectural beauty.
They also organize weddings – an important detail, if you want to visit this wine cellar. Most weddings happen on the weekends, so it’s best to take your wine tasting tour of Castle Mimi by appointment and during the work days.
My visit to Castle Mimi was a few months before the official opening and on a rainy day, so not many pictures here. But you can check their site for beautiful photos.
Some of the best wine varieties to taste at Castel Mimi are Chardonnay, Merlot, Cabernet Sauvignon Rose, Roșu de Bulboacă (red wine) and Fetească Albă (white wine).
Address: Str. Dacia, Nr. 1s.Bulboaca, r. Anenii Noi, MD-6512 – 40 km & 45 minutes to get there from Chișinău
Entrance fee, wine tasting included: 24 Euro/person for 90 minutes tour
Opening Days/Hours: You must book your tour in advance and make a note of their opening hours: Wednesday to Sunday, 10-18 hours, last entrance at 17.00 hours. You must be at least 18 for the wine tasting part of the tour. Website
Travel Tips for Taking a Wine Tasting Tour in Moldova
Taking a Wine Tasting Tour in Moldova is pretty easy, if you organize it a bit in advance. Here are top things you need to know before visiting the top wine cellars in Moldova:
When to go: Spring or autumn
I took this wine tasting tour during the first week of May (2016), and the weather was perfect, with the exception of a rainy afternoon. I think autumn is also a great time to visit, if you want to see some of the beautiful Moldavian countryside.
How to get there and how to get around
Fly to Chișinău, Moldova’s capital, and set your “camp” here. The best way to visit these four impressive wine cellars in Moldova is to book a hotel in Chișinău because they’re all located just 30 minutes outside the city (by car).
Rent a car with a driver in order to fully experience the tour. It’s the wine tasting you’re going after, so even if you’re not going to drink too much, you’re going to want a glass of wine with your meal.
Organize your Wine Tasting Tour in Moldova
Best way to organize this trip is to split the wine tour into two or three days, one or two wine cellar visits per day, in order to fully enjoy the experience.
I went there for 5 days, but also spent some time in Chișinău and at Eco-Resort Butuceni in Orheiul Vechi (a traditional village in Moldova).
Book your wine cellar tours in advance and keep their schedule in mind (otherwise it will cost you extra or you won’t be able to do it). If you’re under 18, you won’t be able to experience the wine tasting part of this tour.
Bring a warm sweater and/or jacket to each cellar tour no matter the season. Most wineries have underground cellars, temperatures are low (sometimes even 100C) and humidity is high (85-95%), so wearing warm cloths will make your visit more pleasant.
Accommodation: We stayed at Aria Hotel in Chișinău, 55 Euro/night/room.
Where to eat in and around Chișinău: Asconi Winery, Kiku, Uptown, Eco-Resort Butuceni, Propaganda Café.
Disclaimer: My tour was part of a tourism campaign aimed at promoting Moldova as a wine tasting destination – Descoperă Moldova/Discover Moldova. Therefore, the visits to all wine cellars mentioned in this article, as well as the hotel and meals were sponsored.
Wine-making Industry in Moldova – Top Insights
Moldova has the biggest density of vineyards in the world – 3.8% of the country’s territory, 30 thousands hectares. 67 millions of wine bottles are exported annually in more than 30 states of the world, of which 55% are red wines. (2)
Winemaking is a major part of the Moldovan economy, accounting for 18%-20% of GDP, employing around 27% of the country’s labor force. (3)
Good to Know: Moldova is a name frequently used to describe both a country and a region. The country’s full name is Republic of Moldova while Moldova region is part of Romania. This article refers to Republic of Moldova, the country.
Republic of Moldova: Wine Tasting Tour Around Chișinău | May 2016 | Mobile Photography ©Ana Matei > Instagram: @MateiAna
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