A useful guide to the Wine Festival in Chisinau, Moldova, or Wine Day (that’s how we call it here).
Did you know that Moldova is one of the twenty biggest wine producers in the world? We are a very small country and I think that considering the size of our territory we have quite many wine-producing centers 🙂 They are mostly located in the center and south of the country, but the most famous ones are relatively close to Chisinau, the capital of Moldova.
Let’s take Milestii Mici, for example. This winery is about 14 km away from Chisinau and its cellars are about 200(!) km long. It would be fair to say that only 55 kilometers are used for different purposes. In addition, according to the Guinness World Records, Milestii Mici owns the biggest wine collection, approximately 2 million bottles!
Cricova is another famous winery in Moldova. Its cellars stretch for 120 kilometers and just like in case of Milestii Mici, there are streets down there. Imagine how huge these underground towns are if you can explore them by car?
It is quite understandable then that we in Moldova have a festival dedicated entirely to wine. This festival is a perfect opportunity for wine producers to showcase their product and for wine lovers to taste it. Good thing is that instead of going to the wineries, they come to you which means that you can taste wines of different companies in one place. And, as any Moldovan celebration, this festival is accompanied by music, dances and traditional food.
Just some info about me: I was born in Moldova and I have been living in Chisinau for 15 years already.
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The dates for 2019 Wine Festival in Chisinau, Moldova
This year the festival will take place in October 5-6 at the main square of Chisinau, the Great National Assembly Square in front of the Cathedral Park. The entrance is free.
As always, the wine producers will be exhibiting at the square, while the eating area will be set up in the Cathedral Park.
What to do at the Wine Festival in Chisinau
Considering that Wine Festival is one of the most important celebrations in Moldova that gathers about 60 wine producers in one place, there are plenty of things to do. Let’s start with the most obvious one 🙂
But before that I have a confession to make: I am not a wine drinker 🙂 It is fair to say that I do not drink alcoholic drinks at all. I still remember how confused people are when I say it 🙂
So when I go to the Wine Festival, I go there for people watching 🙂
Drink wine, of course!
I guess it is safe to say that you love wine if you decided to come to Moldova for the festival. Here you can taste any kinds of wine possible: red, white, rose, sparkling (champagne), young and old. And brandy, it is called divin in Moldovan/Romanian. We have Merlot, Cabernet Sauvignon, Sauvignon Blanc, Chardonnay, Aligote, Saperavi, Pinot Noir, Rkatsiteli and less known to international visitors local varieties like Fetească Neagră, Fetească Albă, Fetească Regală and Rară Neagră. What I am trying to say is that there is wine to satisfy any taste 🙂
Of course, tasting is not free: usually a glass of wine costs about 15-20 Moldovan leis (about 0,8-1 EUR). Last year the organisers sold a special ticket for about 10 EUR (200 MDL) which included tasting of 12 different wines, a biodegradable glass, discounts for some goods and 2 trolleybus tickets (to limit the usage of cars). This year they will do the same.
Eat traditional food
Moldovan cuisine has a rich variety of food, but, unfortunately, a very limited number is usually offered at events like the Wine Festival.
Usually, there is a lot of meat dishes for sale, you can buy here chicken, quail and pork. In addition, there are some salad options and grilled vegetables, but what I am going to recommend to you here is truly traditional: placintas, the so-called cakes with different fillings like cheese, potatoes, pumpkin, cabbage and cherries. Placintas are very delicious, especially if you get them hot. The price is 20-25 lei per piece (1-1,3 EUR). When it comes to meat, you may want to try mici, which are small cylindrically shaped sausages made from ground meat and spices. By the way, mici is translated as small ones from Moldovan/Romanian.
And continuing with traditional food: you just have to have pickles! We pickle many vegetables, like cabbage, tomatoes, peppers (they are usually filled with a cabbage mix), cucumbers, eggplants, carrots, and, attention!, apples and watermelon 🙂 I am not claiming that you can buy everything I mention at the festival, it is more frequently done for eating at home during long and cold winter nights, not for sale. But if you can’t find them at the festival you may try the food section of our central market. If you are interested, to my taste all pickled vegetables and fruit are yummy 🙂
Listen to music and dance
Every festival in Moldova is accompanied by music, and it is mostly folk music. If you have ever wanted to listen to traditional Moldovan music and songs, the Wine Festival in Chisinau is the right place.
Usually the most famous local singers and dance troupes are invited. One of them is Joc: this dance ensemble was created in August 1945! Even nowadays it is one of the best known in the country and its members are the best performers of the Moldovan folk dances.
Last year many local orchestras were invited to the event, and there was a competition between two wind bands.
But the most important thing is that visitors can start to circle dance to the music, and everyone is free to join them. The moves are quite simple (I am not saying I can replicate them 🙂 ), so you might give it a try.
Previous years the stage was right in the center of the Great National Assembly Square, now this year they will move it to the pedestrian street Eugen Doga nearby, behind the cathedral.
Shop for artisanal goods
Wine at the festival is not exactly an artisanal product, but you can buy plenty of it here: a good thing is that producers usually put a lower price during the festival which attracts many customers. I have personally seen people coming with roller bags: not so many, but still 🙂
But let’s talk about something else. There are some stands and tents at the festival where people can sell artisanal goods like clay crockery, wine flasks, small wine casks, traditional clothing. They would make a nice souvenir, but my personal opinion is that they are overpriced. Unfortunately, there are not many other places in the city you can buy something similar (at least, I am not aware of them), except the souvenir market in Stefan cel Mare Boulevard between the Organ Hall and the National Theater of Mihai Eminescu.
Take pictures and selfies
I am one of those people who sees the world through the camera, but I am not comfortable photographing people, so I had different subjects 🙂
What you can photograph at the Wine Festival in Chisinau is fancily shaped bottles, stands with wine, and, most importantly, installations with traditional motives, like the one below:
Selfies at these stands are a must 🙂
Take part in masterclasses
The last Wine Festival was quite interesting with many entertainment possibilities, so I hope they will continue with this tradition this year as well.
They organised a couple of masterclasses last year, like wine school and traditional dances. In addition, this year there will be classes on basket and furniture plaiting.
Hang out with locals
We are very nice and hospitable people 🙂 So, don’t be afraid and come closer, we will be delighted to talk to you and we will most likely pour our hearts out, especially when we are merry after drinking a glass of wine 🙂
There are not many tourists coming to Moldova, so we are happy to see that people from other countries find ours interesting and we will want to know everything about you and why you have decided to come here 🙂 And we might even treat you with another glass of wine 🙂
Tours to wineries
Some of the most famous wineries in Moldova, Purcari, Castel Mimi, Chateau Vartely and the above-mentioned Milestii Mici and Cricova, and many other, organised tours to their cellars last year. Depending on the winery it cost between 5-20 EUR. I hope they will continue this tradition in 2019 as well. If they do, be careful when you book a tour: some include transportation, others don’t. Some offer substantial food to go with wine, others go with crackers only. Some wineries offer additional entertainment like prize drawings, masterclasses, folk dances and performances about Moldovan traditions.
Some exciting news 🙂
In case you decide to spend some more time in the hospitable country of ours, you can visit the Wine Festival in Gagauzia, an autonomous territorial unit in the south of Moldova. Comrat will host the event in 10 November 2019. Yes, I know that this event is in a month after the Chisinau one, but if you can’t attend the one in October, you can come for this one 🙂
I am sure you know by now that wine is taken pretty seriously in Moldova, now you have to come and see it for yourself 🙂
Where to stay in Chisinau
Well, in any city you travel, you have to stay somewhere 🙂 When I search for accommodation, I always use two options: it is either AirBnB (click here for a discount on your first booking with AirBnB) or Booking.com.
I have some suggestions regarding hotels and hostels in Chisinau. As always, I selected the best of the best places located as central as possible.
Guests of Amazing Ionika Hostel, located a couple of streets up from Stefan Cel Mare Boulevard like it for everything, starting with the location and ending with the staff. For as little as 7-9 EUR per night, you will get a bed in a clean room. And they have excellent Wi-Fi connection.
Hostel City Center is in the same price range as Ionika, but is more centrally located and equally good. And they have female and male only rooms.
Renting out of apartments is very popular in Chisinau. In fact, there are more apartments than hotels, and the deals are usually better. For example, for 30-40 EUR per night you can stay in this lovely studio right in the city center behind the main cathedral. If you are a group of travellers, consider this apartment that is good for up to 8 people. It is next to the main cathedral, and offers all possible facilities. Another apartment with modern twist is right on Stefan Cel Mare boulevard and costs 50-60 EUR per night for up to 4 people.
If your heart craves something luxurious, you can consider the very famous 5-star Nobil Luxury Boutique Hotel. You can hardly get a more central location. And for 130-160 EUR per night you can get all the luxuries possible of Chisinau 🙂
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