Shaped as a bunch of grapes, the Republic of Moldova is situated in the South-East of Europe, between the Ukraine and Romania. The country has a fragmented relief with low hills, sunny plateaus and plains, crossed by a lot of streams which flow into the two big rivers, Prut and Dniester.
The climate of Moldova is moderately continental with influences from the Black Sea. The agricultural and picturesque countryside proposes various attractions for individual tourists wishing to stay in the middle of the nature.
And it is famous for its wines and wineries. Although the country has a very small area there are about 112 thousand hectares vineyard planted in 4 historical wine regions: Valul lui Traian (south west), Stefan Voda (south east), Codru (center), and Balti (North); first three are destined for the production of wines with protected geographic indication.
Over the last decade the priority forms of tourism in the Republic of Moldova have been wine and cultural tourism. As a wine country it offers visitors opportunities to choose their favorite itineraries: huge underground cellars, wine storage facilities, wine processing factories, production processes of sparkling wine. Combined with the vineyards that surround them into the tourist route „The Wine Road of Moldova„, the wineries represent a substantial reason to visit the country.
Generations of winemakers
The history of Wine of Moldova started already in 3000 BC. In ancient times wine used to be utilized as a medium of exchange and a trophy awarded after fights, which has made the wine a national product. Over centuries Moldova has gained rich traditions of growing grapes and wine production. Today there are about 140 wineries, of which about 20 have experience and facilities to receive visitors. Here tourists can experience and learn about the complex production processes, see bottling and of course sample the final product. Moldova’s wine enjoys a real good reputation for its quality.
The largest cellars in the world
Moldova’s underground cellars are legendary! Their big wine collections are recognized by the Guinness Book in 2005 – the biggest wine collection in the world with over 1.5 million bottles belongs to Moldova. This “Golden Collection” is stored at over 80 meters depth, in gothic style cases, in the underground galleries of Milestii Mici. The oldest wine in the collection dates back in 1969; thousands of bottles of fine, white and red, dry and dessert wines are added to the collection every year. The cellars secure an ideal microclimate for wine ageing, keeping a constant temperature and humidity.
Cricova, the underground wine city
Cricova is situated 11 km away from the capital Chişinau. It has galleries stretching on 70 km. The cellars of this state vinery are an attraction for tourists and also for famous people and politicians all over the world. It was visited by Iurie Gagarin, Vladimir Putin, Angela Merkel, John Kerry, etc.
A shuttle train brings visitors into the underground system that is located at 35-80 m depth. “The cellars are housing 30 million liters of wine at a constant temperature of 12-14 ˚C and 97-98% humidity and our winery is the biggest Moldovan producer of sparkling wine using the traditional method – the wine ageing is done fully in the underground cellars”, explains the guide of the winery. There exists also a „National Vinotheque” that is an outstanding collection of legendary wines, both local and foreign. The oldest wine in the collection and the only one of its kind in the world is the wine „Easter Jerusalem”, produced in just one batch in 1902.
There are also privately run wineries in the rural regions that are welcoming visitors and are offering wine tastings and nice cuisine, fe. Poiana Winery in Ulmu, Château Vartely in Orhei or the family run winery Et Cetera Winery in Cocmaz.
“By the support of USAID from the American People it was possible to develop a project for competitiveness enhancement with a big wine vernissage in Chişinau and to invite journalists from international media to visit all these places”, said the tourism industry manager Natalia Curnic. “And there is an important word when you drink wine – Naroc! – that means Cheers.
Moldova has a rich cultural heritage which may be of great interest to tourists as well. Cultural heritage sites may be included in the tourist circuit. The earliest visible remains of the built heritage are Geto-Dacian sites and Roman fortifications. The remains of medieval fortresses, archaeological complexes such as Orheuil Vechi and cave monasteries offer a diversity of visitor attractions. Part of the national tourist product is the variety of cultures represented in different parts of the country. This country is a real melting pot of several ethnics with many traditions, languages, folklore, cooking and nice hospitable people.
I have realy enjoued Moldova and it’s very nice wine!
Find more information and my travel report about the capital city Chisinau (Kishnev)
Text and photos by ©Sissi Munz (pub. 2015)