Pinot Noir, Feteasca or Cabernet-Sauvignon are some of the street names in Cricova´s and Milestii Mici´s subterranean labyrinthic caves. Here, 80 meters below ground, are located the two largest wine cellars in the world.
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 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.
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.
Visiting 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.
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.
Visiting Milestii Mici for its size
On the other side, Milestii 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 Milestii 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 visiting Milestii 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.
Both, Milestii Mici and Cricova are magnificent places and definitely a good reason to visit Moldova. They are once in a lifetime experiences 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!