Before visiting Moldova, we weren’t really sure what to expect from the food and wine in Chininau. Due to its location and cultural influences, I suspected the food would be similar to Russian or Ukrainian food, but I wasn’t sure what the national dishes would be, and I certainly didn’t imagine who much I would love it!
One of my favorite things about traveling is getting to know the history, culture and diversity through food. Dining at traditional restaurants, finding home cooked meals, and being taught how to make the food by a local cook are always high up on my list of things to do. Moldova was a treat for us because we didn’t know much about it going in, thus everything was a surprise and a delight.
We traveled to Moldova specifically for the wine, having recently discovered through Wine Tours Moldova, that there were many unique and interesting things we didn’t know about Moldovan wine. I bet you didn’t know this either:
Moldova hosts two world’s largest wine cellars and wine collections. Cricova is the largest wine cellar in Europe, while Mileștii Mici is the largest wine collection in the world counting more 1.5 mln wine bottles, included in the Guinness World Records.
Getting a chance to visit the tasting rooms of these Moldova wineries was one of the highlights of our trip, but once we also started to discover the food, it became especially clear that Moldova is a yet to be fully discovered gem for tourists like ourselves so appreciate good food and wine.
I would highly encourage anyone to make a trip to Moldova. You’ll likely stay in Chisinau, the capital and largest city, located right in the center of the country. From there, you can make visits to all or some of the wineries and restaurants I recommend here. The hospitality and friendliness you’ll come across will likely blow you away. By the time you leave, you’ll feel like family.
Where to Go Wine Tasting in Moldova
The best way to set up a wine tasting tour in Moldova is to go through Wine Tours Moldova, and have them set up the perfect itinerary to meet your requirements. It’s possible to make it to two wineries per day, or you can take it slower and just go to one per day, mixed in with cultural activities and a nice lunch. It’s best to also have them coordinate transportation for you. Driving yourself is possible, but there is a zero-tolerance policy toward drinking while driving.
This was our favorite of the large wineries in Moldova, because they had a wide range of wines that were all very well made. You can try the local grape varietals here, as well as blends. Their Taraboste Cabernet Sauvignon is as good as any cab we’ve tasted anywhere. And the Individo line can be found at pretty much every wine bar and restaurant in Moldova. It’s a great tasting experience in a beautiful tasting room.
One of the coolest thing about Moldova’s wineries is the underground cellars that seem to stretch on for miles and miles. Cricova is one of the main wineries with this feature. They have over 120 kilometers of subterranean roads that you’ll see during a tour of the facilities. Cricova is very easy to get to from Chisinau, so it’s a popular choice with tourists in the area, but it’s also worth it to see the cellar and taste the wine.
As mentioned above, Milestii Mici is registered in the Guinness Book of World records for having the largest wine collection in the world, with over 1.5 million bottles. It’s quite impressive, and can be seen as you drive through the underground cellar and stop off for a peak at the collection. There’s even an underground waterfall! The wines at Milestii Mici didn’t particularly stand out of the crowd for us, but they are incredibly well priced and the labels are very interesting. Definitely worth a stop.
Brănești Cellars also has a very large underground cellar, comprised of over 58 kilometers of roads. Inside, you’ll find some really fascinating things. One is a massive collection of sparkling wines that have been left in time to age naturally. While these bottles are no longer being drank, they are a living history, and something you absolutely must see. Deep inside the cellar is also a staircase ascending to a wine collection and tasting rooms that look like they’re part of an ancient castle in medieval times.
After touring through all of the large individually-owned or state-owned wine facilities, it’s a treat to arrive at Et Cetera, a family-owned winery run by two brothers, who have made wine making their life’s work. The experience at Et Cetera is much more personalized and welcoming than the larger wineries, and can include a tour, tasting and even lunch, if desired. They have plans to add a swimming pool and guest houses to the property in the coming years. We loved their Petrichor wine blend and Cuvee Rouge. They are also just preparing to bottle their first Pinot Noir, which promises to be a very exciting wine.
In 1878, Purcari won its first gold medal for the wine they call Negru de Purcari. That was just the beginning for Purcari, who now produces a large amount of the wine made in Moldova. They’re still making the Negru de Purcari, which you can also find at almost every restaurant in Moldova. You can take a tour of the cellars and production areas, and try their wines. They also have a lovely restaurant where you can enjoy traditional Moldovan foods with your wine.
We really enjoyed our time at KaraGani. It’s a new winery that’s just getting established, but they’re eager to welcome visitors and share their story. It’s a bit of a drive to get to KaraGani from Chisinau, but they are prepared to make it worth the trip. You can tour their home winery and cellars, have a wine tasting, stay for a traditional Gagauzian lunch, take a walk through the vineyards, etc. It’s well worth the visit.
Wine Bars to Visit in Chisinau
If you manage to make it to all or a few of the Moldova wineries mentioned above, you’re doing really good! But if you aren’t able to make it to the wineries themselves, there are still opportunities to taste the wine at wine bars in Chisinau. While we did have the opportunity to visit each of the wineries, we also visited each of these wine bars and found it incredibly easy to make our own tasting from the offerings at each. This enabled us to taste a lot more of the wine from small producers.
Embargo Wine Bar
Located just a few blocks from the center of the Chisinau, Embargo Wine Bar is in the perfect spot for you to grab a glass or two before or after dinner. They have a great selection of Moldovan wine, including lots of small producers that don’t have the yearly production size of the larger wineries. The atmosphere is nice and relaxing. If you need a snack to go with your wine, they have cheese and meat plates, and a few other small items. Once you find a wine or two that you love, you can take a few bottles home with you.
We were lucky one evening to have a tasting with the wine maker of Minis Terrios. He walked us through the wines he’s currently making in small batches. For such a new operation, he’s making some really great wines, definitely worth trying. You can find them at Embargo. Look for the Pinot Noir. It’s very good.
Address: Alexander Pushkin St 47/1, Chisinau MD 2005, Moldova
Phone: +373 603 00 299
Website: Embargo Wine Bar
Carpe Diem Wine Bar
Another wine bar that is located close to the city center is Carpe Diem Wine Bar. It’s very small, with only a few tables in the center of so much wine. You can try up to 15 Moldovan wines by the glass here, which is a great way to try a few different wineries or varietals. The owner and staff are very knowledgeable about the wines they stock (both from Moldova and around the world) so be sure to ask if you need any help choosing. They also have cheese and meat plates to snack on while sipping.
Address: Strada Columna 136, Chișinău 2004, Moldova
Phone:+373 22 844 846
INVINO Enoteca is located on the second floor or a large building, along the major road that runs between the parks. We visited on a very quiet day and were able to fully appreciate the fantastic selection of wines by the bottle that line the walls. There is a very nice U-shape bar in the middle that can accommodate at least 20 people, along with a few tables for four along the outer edge. It’s one of the largest wine bars in town. It’s also a great place to spend a few hours relaxing with a bottle of wine and a cheese and meat plate, which are very plentiful! They stock wines from all over Moldova, so you’ll probably find a favorite you’ve tried during your visit. You may also be able to find some of the more coveted vintages, which is a treat.
Address: Banulescu-Bodoni 41 | 2nd Floor, Chisinau
Phone: +373 22 909 944
Where to Eat in Moldova
Now that you know where you can go for wine tasting, it’s time to decide where to eat. Chisinau has a surprising number of really great restaurants. Many of them serve traditional Moldovan cuisine, but you can also find a few others, like Italian, pizza, BBQ, sushi, and even a few fusion restaurants. Here are a few of our favorites.
This place is probably one of the most unique restaurant spaces I’ve ever seen. It resembles a mountain hunting lodge made entirely out of stone, with warm, cozy interiors with animal fur rugs. It’s almost like stepping into another world. We were a large group, so we were seated in an outer building that felt so much a tree house. We were all in awe. And the food was no different. They brought out so many plates full of traditional Moldovan appetizers, then a massive amount of grilled meat and fish. The experience itself exceeded the food, which would have been good on its own, but was heightened by the ambiance of the place. It’s a bit more expensive than other restaurants you might go to in Chisinau, though still a great deal by Western standards, and it’s worth it for the experience.
We found this place out of the desire to try some more Moldovan beer. While the craft beer movement hasn’t picked up a lot of steam in Moldova, there are definitely a few good ones being made. Smokehouse is the place to go to try it. They also serve American-style BBQ and sides that are pretty good and well priced. If you’re looking for an alternative to traditional food, definitely give it a try.
Jeraffe Fusion Restaurant
Another alternative to traditional Moldovan cuisine in Chisinau is Jeraffe Fusion Restaurant that serves Asian-European fusion. The menu includes things like sushi, thai-style soup, duck and even favorites like Zeama, a traditional Moldovan chicken soup. This was the most expensive of the meals we had in Chisinau, though still a reasonable price for the quality of the food.
Gastrobar is a modern restaurant serving a mixture of Mediterranean, European and Middle Eastern foods, like hummus and falafel, alongside bbq ribs. It seems like a strange conglomeration of dishes, but everything we ate there was really good. The pork ribs were flavorful and tender. The hummus plate was a good size and the pita was warm and soft. They have local wines and beers to complement your meal. The space is modern and bright, with interesting decor.
Vila Roz Traditional Lunch
Vila Roz sort of does it all. They offer accommodations, coordinate activities like bicycle rides in the area and master cooking classes on site, and they serve an incredible traditional Moldovan lunch, complete with some of the best Placinta we tasted during our trip. It’s not located in Chisinau, but we would highly recommend that you hire a driver or take a taxi to the small town of Orhei to visit Vila Roz. As mentioned, they have 6 guest rooms, plus ample lawn space for a tent or two, so you can stay overnight or hang out for a few days and enjoy the area. Old Orhei, nearby, is a historical and archaeological complex that houses the impressive Orheiul Vechi Monastery that appears to be perched upon a high ridge, overlooking the town. It’s a fascinating place to visit, and you can get there easily with the complimentary bicycles you can rent at Vila Roz.
There’s no better way to compliment a day of great wine tasting than to have a nice, traditional lunch in between. We were happy to find that Purcari, along with many of the other wineries, offer lunch. We started just about every meal in Moldova with a bowl of the traditional chicken soup, Zeama, and a freshly made Placinta. These are two of most popular and beloved dishes in Moldova. If you’re going to do some wine tasting, definitely plan to have lunch at Purcari.
Pegas Restaurant & Terrace
I’m always surprised when restaurants stay open 24/7 like Pegas is. You’d think the quality of the restaurant and the food would both suffer because of it. But that isn’t the case at Pegas. They maintain a very high quality and it’s a nice and comfortable restaurant. If you’re looking to try a lot of different traditional foods, this is a great place to do it. There are also Italian dishes on the menu, for a little variety. The dishes are all very reasonably priced and consistently good quality. Despite them being open all day, you do typically need a reservation for busy times, like late evenings and weekends.
You can’t spend any time in Chisinau without noticing the abundance of Andy’s Pizza locations. They are seemlingly everywhere. Of course, we thought that meant they would be low quality fast food, but that’s not the case. Andy’s Pizza is much more than just a pizza place. They serve all manner of Italian foods, and even have a few traditional dishes as well. We did eat their pizza and it was actually quite good, as was the lasagna and salads. If you want a quicker, cheaper option, Andy’s Pizza is always there for you.
See Moldova in Person!
We highly encourage you to consider a trip to Moldova to see the wine regions, visit wineries, and try some of these great restaurants for yourself. In the meantime, here’s a video to get you excited for your visit.
Where to Stay in Chisinau
If you’re planning a trip to see as much of the country as possible, it’s wise to make the capital city of Chisinau your home base. It’s conveniently located in the center of the country, so you can easily take day trips to different regions from there. Staying in Chisinau will also enable you to try many of the restaurants and wine bars we’ve listed here.
Here are our recommended affordable luxury hotels in Chisinau:
Radisson Blu Leogrand Hotel: Find the best deal, compare prices, and read reviews at TripAdvisor
Bristol Park Hotel: Find the best deal, compare prices, and read reviews at TripAdvisor
Berd’s Design Hotel: Find the best deal, compare prices, and read reviews at TripAdvisor
These are by no means the only restaurants in Chisinau that are worth trying. There are actually quite a few more. Some that we didn’t get to try, but were told are very good are Propaganda and La Taifas. This list does represent some of the best Moldovan food and wine.