Travel in Moldova: Cricova Winery

On the last full day my parents were in Moldova, we visited Cricova Winery.  Moldova is known for its wine because it’s good wine, but it’s also known for being the country in which the top two largest underground wine cellars in the world are found.  Milesti Mici is the largest at 200 kilometers of tunnels and almost 200 million bottles of wine, while Cricova is the second largest at 120 kilometers of tunnels and 1.2 million bottles of wine.  Cricova was founded in 1952 and around that time also began to house the wine collection of various famous and rich individuals.

We joined a tour of the underground tunnels, which was on a trolley-like bus.  The tunnels are colder than we expected, though we had been warned!  Our guide told us about the various processes they use.  We also watched a movie in a small cinema, where we got our first taste of Cricova sparkling wine (champagne).  After our tour ended, we had a tasting with the large group we had toured with.  We got to try several different kinds of wine and sparkling wines.

Notes and tips about visiting Cricova Winery:

  • The tour and tasting takes about an hour and a half total.
  • It is cold in the tunnels!! I wish I had dressed a bit more warmly.
  • Our tour was in English, but we had a very hard time understanding the guide.
  • Although the tasting was good, with some food, it felt very, very rushed.  I really would have preferred more time in the tasting room, as it was a large amount of wine to consume in a very short amount of time.

Travel in Moldova: Purcari Winery

Purcari Winery is located in the south-eastern part of the country and is the oldest wine estate in Moldova.  Because of it’s proximity to the Black Sea, it has a unique ecosystem ideal for growing the grapes, especially for red wine.  Vineyards in the this area of the country were first planted around the 12th century and primarily cultivated by the monks from a monastery in the area.  In 1827, Emperor Nicholas I of Russia granted Purcari the status of the first specialized winery in Bessarabia.  Purcari won its first gold medal at an international exhibition in 1878 at the Paris World Expo.

After World War II, the winery opened again and continued to produce quality wines.  Today, there is a small hotel and fine restaurant.  We visited with my host sister and did a tour and wine tasting.  When we visited there were only a few other guests and we were able to get a tour in English.  We had contacted them in advance but had not heard back, thankfully it turned out they had received our message.  The grounds were very peaceful and we were given plenty of time to enjoy the wines after the formal tasting with our guide.

Notes and tips about visiting Purcari Winery:

  • While further from Chisinau, the winery is located in a gorgeous part of Moldova (though I may be biased as I live fairly close to here).
  • Compared to some of the other wineries in Moldova, the tour is not quite as interesting (in comparison to Cricova, with it’s huge underground tunnels), but the tasting was good.  We do wish we had ordered dinner to go with our tasting, but didn’t realize it would be prepared while we toured and ready when we arrived in the tasting room.
  • The winery is known for its red wines, though we did also taste one white wine.

Weekend Visit to Chisinau

Cathedral Park, Chisinau

I spent this past weekend in Chisinau. There were a number of Peace Corps related events happening, as well as the National Day of Wine, which I didn’t necessarily intend on attending, but ended up going to.

A sampling of wine
A sampling of wine

My rutiera (mini bus) gets into Chisinau at 8 in the morning, so I first went to the Peace Corps headquarters.  There is a lounge just for volunteers, complete with very nice showers. I generally try to take a shower whenever I go into Chisinau, as it’s the only chance I get to do so. I really enjoyed taking a nice, hot shower, shampooing and conditioning my hair, using a toilet, and washing my hands for the first time in about a month. After my shower, I hung out a bit in the lounge, then attended an information meeting for Tech4Dev, a  Peace Corps Moldova work group that primarily develops and maintains an online site for volunteers here that contains a lot of lesson plans, club ideas, and so much more information. I wasn’t sure whether I wanted to be involved, but after the meeting, I’m glad I went!  After a bit more relaxing, more of my fellow M31 English Education volunteers arrived. I hadn’t seen them in about 2 months, so it was great to see them and catch up. We headed to Smokehouse, which is an American BBQ restaurant run by former volunteers. There was a meeting going on there for Peace Out, another Peace Corps work group, so we joined that and ordered food. The main Peace Corps event of the day was an auction fundraiser for aTIP, the anti-trafficking work group.  A lot of volunteers (over 50) came, and it was a lot of fun, even if I didn’t win anything.

We enjoyed our wine next to the arch, given by the French and modeled after the Arc de Triomphe
We enjoyed our wine next to the arch, given by the French and modeled after the Arc de Triomphe

After, I had some time before I needed to go to my host sister’s, where I was spending the night, so I joined some other volunteers and headed to the center of Chisinau to the National Day of Wine, which was a big event with many Moldovan wine vendors. It seemed less of a wine tasting event but more of a wine festival where you purchase wine and hang out drinking it either on the grass in the parks or at one of the many tables set up.  It was a really nice event, I got to try several different wines, and I was really glad I went.  It had been cancelled last year due to protests in the capital, so I am glad I got to experience it!