A visit to Cricova and Mileștii Mici, Moldova’s underground cities of wine

JUAN MARTINEZ

March 24, 2019

A visit to Cricova and Mileștii Mici, Moldova’s underground cities of wine

I visited Cricova and Mileștii Mici. These are the two largest wine cellars in the world and are located in the eastern European country of Moldova

In Moldova, where 25% of the population is involved in wine production and 5% of the country are covered in vineyards, the most interesting contribution to the wine industry does not lie on the surface. Up to 80m below the Moldovan town of Cricova a complex limestone cave system offers the perfect conditions for wine aging. Visitors can tour parts of the 120km of underground streets in a small electric train, admire the incredible wine cellar or even watch a movie about the wine history in a small cinema. And of course with Pinot Noir, Feteasca or Cabernet-Sauvignon as some of the street names in these underground caves, a visit to Cricova or Mileștii Mici is an obligatory stop for every traveler.

Wine culture is such a big part of Moldova heritage, that this underground city is not even the largest in the country. The Mileștii Mici winery, only 30km from Cricova, is known for having tunnels over a total length of 200km and the largest wine cellar in the world.

Moldova´s underground cities of wine. Cricova or Milestii Mici?
One of the many undeground streets in Cricova

Visit Cricova for its cultural importance

As a visitor, it´s difficult to decide which winery is better. Cricova and Milestii Mici offer a unique experience. However, if you ask a Moldovan where to go, he will probably say without hesitation you should visit Cricova.

It´s true that the underground passages in Cricova are not as long as in Milestii Mici, but as a visitor you are not able to see all 200km of Milestii Mici´s underground caves. Cricova is also known as the winery Moldovans are most proud of. It has been declared national cultural patrimony in 2003 and right now is under consideration to be declared UNESCO World Heritage site.

Moldova´s underground cities of wine. Cricova or Milestii Mici?
Cricova´s beautiful cellar

Cricova not only attracts locals interested in learning more about their most popular wine, but also personalities from all over the world. At the entrance of Cricova´s wine cellar, you will see dozens of photographs of politicians and leaders from different countries. German Chancellor Angela Merkel, Ex Secretary of State John Kerry and there is even a rumor that Vladimir Putin celebrated his 50th birthday in Cricova and astronaut Juri Gagarin got completely wasted in Cricova´s underground passages.

Yet, what makes Cricova the most special winery in Moldova is that visitors can take a look at the production of traditional Champenoise method for Cricova´s sparkling wine. Tours will include a short stop in their factory, where it will be explained how the traditional method is done and see step by step the whole process. Of course, you will also get a glass of Cricova´s sparkling wine.

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Moldova´s underground cities of wine. Cricova or Milestii Mici?
Cricova´s wine tasting menu

Visit Milestii Mici for its size

On the other side, Mileștii Mici might not receive world leaders or produce sparkling wine, but there is a unique sense of wonder when you think you are inside the largest underground city in the world.

Wine tours in Mileștii Mici have a few differences in comparison to the tours in Cricova. Visitors are only allowed to enter in their own vehicle and drive with a tour guide. As well, the number of guided tours for visiting Milestii Mici is limited, so its recommended to book in advanced. Although these aspects make a visit to Mileștii Mici more difficult and a little bit annoying, it also gives you a more personal and extraordinary experience.

Additionally, you will be able to visit the gigantic barrels used for wine storage, see the largest wine collection in the world with over 2 million of bottles and get a taste of some of the best wines in the country.

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 Cricova´s undeground tunnels while touring around the winery
Cricova´s undeground tunnels while touring around the winery

Insider Tip: Be prepared to drink! In all wine tours offered at Mileștii Mici or Cricova you won´t get 1dl wine samples, as in most tastings in America or Europe. Here in Moldova you get half a glass and sometimes you can even keep the open bottles to take home.

A visit to the wineries of Mileștii Mici and Cricova is simply an amazing experience and definitely a good reason to visit Moldova. They are something you won’t experience anywhere else and with tours starting 20 EUR including visit and sampling, Moldova is probably the best country in the world for tasting some of the best wines in Europe and at the same time keeping your budget low. My love for wine has grown in this country and after visiting more than four different wineries, I had to take home at least two bottles of wine. Guess what, they cost me less than 5 Euros!

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Dining area at the underground caves of Cricova in Moldova
Dining area at the underground caves of Cricova in Moldova

Additional information for visiting Cricova or Mileștii Mici

How to get to Cricova and Mileștii Mici?

Both wineries are located relatively close to Moldova’s capital Chinisau and are possible to visit either with a private vehicle or with several tour operators.

In the winery of Cricova is not possible to drive your own vehicle inside the underground caves. Driving through underground tunnels filled with wine barrels is a unique experience and totally recommended.

Driving in Moldova is not as bad as in other eastern European countries such as Albania or Romania, so don’t worry about it. There are not many vehicles and roads are in a relatively good shape. Renting a vehicle in Moldova is also very easy and inexpensive and many companies at the airport in Chinisau offer several options at competitive prices.

How much is the entrance fee to the Crivova and Mileștii Mici wineries?

For a visit to Mileștii Mici travelers have to call in advance and make a reservation. Since Mileștii Mici winery don’t accept online reservations, you can call yourself and ask if they have an English speaker or ask the staff of your hotel if they can help you with the reservation.

Information about the tours you can find it at their official website. Tour prices at Mileștii Mici start at 11 EUR per person and can go up to 60 EUR depending in the additional services you want to purchase.

On the other side, a visit to Cricova can be spontaneous and you can simply come by at their opening times. Cricova’s website recommends to do a reservation at weekends. However, they don’t consider it obligatory.

A visit to the underground caves of Cricova including wine tasting starts at 24 EUR.

To make a reservation at the Cricova winery you can find their contact information at their official website.

Private companies also offer additional services for clients interested in visiting several wineries during their visit to Moldova.

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