I must admit that before traveling to Moldova I had no idea what to expect. This landlocked nation is situated in Eastern Europe just north of the Balkan Peninsula. During my visit I was lucky enough to experience the Ziua de Vinuri, or Annual Moldovan Wine Festival – a national event that is held each fall after the grapes are harvested. Several of the country’s most prolific wineries sponsor the festival, which place in Moldova’s capital city of Chisinau.
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History of Wine in Moldova
Moldova is a country with a long-standing tradition in viticulture. Its lands have been home to vineyards since approximately 3000 B.C., but the Thracians planted the first vines as far back as 7000 B.C. Moldova’s position in the Black Sea basin gives it soil mineral-rich and ideal for farming.
This led it to become a major supplier of wine to the former Soviet Union (USSR). Even before that, under the Russian Empire, Russian aristocrats started vineyards throughout Moldova. By the end of the 19th century Moldovan wines were being exported to Europe.
Nowadays the country’s economy is still largely based on agriculture. Luckily for wine enthusiasts, Moldova’s fertile soil makes it possible for over 147,000 hectares of vineyard to thrive throughout its four main wine regions: Valul lui Traian (southwest), Stefan Voda (southeast), Codru (center), and Balti (north). Seventy percent of Moldovan wine is of the white variety while the other 30% are reds.
Of all its wines, Moldova is best known for the Negru de Purcari red variety.
Since the vineyards are rich and so extensive, it’s only natural for the Moldovians to want to celebrate the flavors of their wines.
WATCH VIDEOS: Check out our Moldova Video Series.
Guide to the Annual Moldovan Wine Festival
Naturally, the Moldovan Wine Festival is an outdoor event that takes place in autumn, during the first weekend of October, when the grapes are already in baskets. The entire country catches the wine festival fever leading up to National Wine Day. The celebrations are not just limited to Chisinau. Many cities and villages join in on the action.
WATCH VIDEOS: The Annual Moldova Wine Festival in Chisinau
However, the heart of the wine festival is in Chisinau, which becomes the scene for many singing and dancing events. It is a great place for the big names and smaller winemakers to meet and taste the competition. The festival takes place in the area that stretches from the Stefan cel Mare Boulevard, the city’s main boulevard, to the Moldoexpo exhibition site.
Winemakers set up booths for tastings and guests partake in traditional dances. Vendors sell gastronomic delights such as sarmale (small rolled cabbages stuffed with minced meat and rice) with polenta, and placinte (curd cakes), which can be prepared with cheese, cheese and potatoes, apple, or pumpkin.
Tourists are encouraged to take part in the festivities by donning at least one traditional clothing item (e.g. embroidered peasant blouse, head scarf, belly band), tasting wines, and joining in on the folk dances.
The Moldovan Wine Festival features several of the country’s big names in wine. Milesti Mici (the largest wine collection in Europe with more than 1.5 million bottles housed in 200 kilometers of underground caves), Cricova, Purcari, Chateau Vartely, Cazaiac-Vin and many others are regular participants.
Suvorov Vin Winery
Chateau Vartely Wine Exhibit
Purcari Wine Tasting Event
Milesti Mici Wines
If you’re interested in traveling to Moldova I definitely recommend planning your visit around the dates of the Annual Moldovan Wine Festival. It is one of the biggest national events of the year!
Here are some more photos from my Moldovan Wine Festival experience:
Local checking out the different local wine vendors
Trio of Moldovan folk dancers posing for the camera
Kids joining in on the folk dances
A newly married couple celebrates with the crowd
A dance performance to kick off the festivities
For more awesome photos of Moldova check out my post: 45 Charming Instagram Images of Moldova.
If you’re looking to organize a tour to Moldova, I highly recommend Ways Travel. They have English-speaking local guides who are knowledgable about their country and can show you places you won’t otherwise find yourself.
Have you ever considered traveling to Moldova? Have you been? Tell us about it! Leave us a comment below.