It should come as no secret that Kylee and I are huge fans of wine. We’ve tasted wine all around the world, travelled to dozens of wine regions and have even worked in wineries. So during our time in Moldova, taking in some of the incredible wine the country is producing was a must.
Moldova is a tiny, landlocked country in Eastern Europe. Wedged between Romania and the Ukraine, it’s rarely on the radar of most travellers. But whether you’re a sommelier expanding your palette or a curious traveller who enjoys a quality glass of wine – Moldova is calling.
First a little Moldovan Wine History
Moldova has produced wine for over 3000 years, so it’s confident to say they’ve got experience. Yet, the wines of Moldova haven’t made a mark on the world stage until very recently. Today, close to one quarter of the countries population works in the industry in some form. As well, they’re the only country in the world to celebrate a national wine day!
With wineries dating as far back as 1827, it’s clear they’re not new to the game. So why did it take so long for the wine of Moldova to grab international attention? In short, it was Communism.
The Slow Years
The quality of Moldovan wines have been recognized as early as the mid-1800’s. Several had even won international awards in France. When communism arrived and Moldova became part of the USSR, things developed into a story of quantity over quality. The tiny republic grew to be the wine producer for the entire empire, pumping out sub-par wines to ensure a bottle on every household table.
Fast forward a few decades to the years following the collapse of the Soviet Union. Moldova has regained independence and still exports most of its wine to Russia. Yet, when Moldova began showing interest in joining the European Union, Russia stopped imports. This created a crushing effect on the local economy.
Moldova began focusing on producing wines of high quality, aimed at the European market. They knew very well that the potential was there. In the years since, Moldovas wine has become a contender across Europe. Some even rivalling the wines of Spain, Italy and France.
Moldova Grape Varietals
Given its geography, Moldovas growing climate is much like wine regions of Canada, New Zealand, Tasmania and New York. The cooler climate reflects the grapes grown in such regions. Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, Sauvignon Blanc, Pinot Noir and other familiars are wide spread.
On top of that, a little over ten percent of production are local varietals, indigenous to Moldova and the surrounding regions. These include bright, fruity and floral whites like Feteasca Alba and Feteasca Regala. Reds, such as Feteasca Neagra, with fruity notes of plum and chocolate, and the softer Rara Neagra, often displaying flavours of vanilla and cherry are also quite common.
Onto the Good Stuff!
Because the wineries are quite spread out in Moldova, the easiest way to visit them is with a tour. During our visit, we were fortunate enough to be visiting with a wonderful friend who was there visiting family. She was kind enough to drive us around for a few days and show us some of her favourite spots.
When the time came for our friend to return home, there was still more to see. We reached out to Wine Tours Moldova, who were kind enough to show us a little of what they offer. I’ll get into that a little more later on, but first, here are three of our favourite wineries! And while we did visit several other wineries in Moldova, this post is focusing on some highlights.
First up was Chateau Vartely, in the town of Orhei, about an hour north of Chisinau. For those of you familiar with wine tours or wineries in general, this place will feel the most familiar. The facilities are modern and their restaurant and tasting room have a more traditional vibe.
If you’re looking for the full experience, there are also four rentable vacation homes on site. Each one representing the different wine regions of Moldova. The chalets are set in the beautiful surroundings and make a perfect spot to rest after a day of indulging.
The facility tour is quite standard, so it may not surprise anyone who is already familiar with the winemaking process. But the wines themselves were some of the best we tasted in the whole country.
As a bonus, after our tasting, they sent us home with the bottles! We aren’t sure if this is standard practice or because we went later in the evening, but we more than got our moneys worth!
Stop number two is the cavernous Cricova, famous for their sparkling wine. Now, I’m going to be completely honest here, we were all feeling a little rough for this tour. Thanks in part to our decision to enjoy our tasting leftovers the previous night. That said, there are few things better for a hangover, than a cold glass of bubbly.
As mentioned above, though Cricova produces many different styles of wine, what stood out for us were their sparkling. Many of these are even produced using the méthode champenoise; meaning everything about them is, in essence, “Champagne.” The only difference is that they cannot be labelled as such unless produced in said region.
On top of their outstanding wine selection, Cricova is also home to the second largest wine cellar in the world. This subterranean city houses tasting rooms, production facilities and a modern wine ‘laboratory.’
This is the big one. I mean, massive. Miliestii Mici is the winery most visitors to Moldova choose to experience. And I mean experience in every sense of the word.
The thing about Moldova is, they not only have the second largest wine cellar in the world – but the largest as well. Though Cricova boasts 120 kilometres of tunnels, Milestii Mici almost doubles that at a little over 200! They’re also recognized by the Guinness Book for the worlds largest wine collection!
We arrived on site and drove down into the dark, barrel-lined tunnels. The roadways are laid out in a grid and even have their own street names. At one point we accessed the legendary Golden Collection. Here you’ll find close to two million bottles tucked in the caves collecting decades of “noble dust.” If you’re serious enough, you can even rent a private storage enclave to store your personal collection.
The tour finished with a fantastic tasting in the tasting room found through a secret entrance in a wine barrel. We enjoyed a wonderful sampling followed by a lunch of traditional Moldovan cuisine and even some live folk music!
Wine Tours Moldova
Though we were unable to visit Miliesti Mici with our friend, she made it clear we could not miss it. This is where Wine Tours Moldova comes in.
Kylee contacted them and they, along with Milestii Mici, were able to put together a private tour for us. This included not only the tour, tasting and lunch, but also a driver who picked us up from our AirBNB!
Getting around Moldova for wine tasting on your own can be challenging at times. Though we were fortunate enough to have a local for some of our visit, it’s rarely the case for others. Wine Tours Moldova is perfectly set up to get you around to all the top wineries in the country. They’ll set up everything for you, from pickup, to tour and drop-off. They can even organize tours to the Kvint distillery in nearby Transnistria, a country that doesn’t technically exist!
When we find ourselves in Moldova in the future, we’ll definitely be getting in contact with these guys again. There are so many wineries still to visit, and many more will be popping up soon.
So next time you’re considering an interesting destination for wine touring, be sure Moldova is on that list. Impress your friends with a newfound knowledge of this emerging wine destination. Not only are they producing some top-quality wines, they’re also quite inexpensive.
Special thanks to Winetours Moldova and Milestii Mici Winery for providing the incredible experience. As always, our opinions are our own. Read more in our Affiliate Disclosure