Cricova Galeriile Subterane

Beciurile Cricova - Wine Cellars of Cricova


Useful Information

Location: Cricova (47.1382, 28.8554)
Open: All year Mon-Fri 9-21, Sat, Sun 10-18.
Wine Kingdom: All year daily 10-23.
[2020]
Fee: Adults MDL 350, Children (0-7) free.
After 16 and on weekends: Adults MDL 450.
[2020]
Classification: SubterraneaCellar SubterraneaRock Mine
Light: electric.
Dimension: T=10-14°C, H=97-98%, L=120km.
Guided tours:
Photography: allowed
Accessibility: yes
Bibliography:
Address: Cricova, Strada Petru Ungureanu 1, Cricova, 2084, Tel: +373-22-604-027, Fax: +373-22-452-572. E-mail:
As far as we know this information was accurate when it was published (see years in brackets), but may have changed since then.
Please check rates and details directly with the companies in question if you need more recent info.

History

1952 Cricova winery founded.

Description

Cricova Galeriile Subterane (Wine Cellars of Cricova) are huge, but still they are only the second largest wine cellars of the world. They are a result of history and communism, as the wine factory Cricova was founded in 1952 as a communist plan to industrialize the wine-growing sector. Moldavian wine was during the Cold War quite famous in all Warshaw Pact countries, and this winery has become a part of the Moldovan national history. It was instrumental in development of the wine-growing sector inside the country and spreading its fame abroad. The reason why it was founded right here is the history of the place. The limestone here was mined for building purposes. Many buildings in Cricova, Chisinau, Balti and other Moldovan towns were built from this limestone. So the huge spaces were already there, they were just used. And as the limestone mining is continued until today, the cellars keep growing.

The wine town (a nicer word for factory) covers an area of 53 hectares. The underground galleries have a total length of 120km and are up to 80m deep. The horizontal cellars under the rolling hills have main passages with streets, otherwise it would not be possible to transport all the wine in and out of the cellars. The roads have traffic lights and road signs, but the names are Cabernet, Dionis, Feteasca, Aligote, or Sauvignon. And the signs match the wine that is stored in the adjacent niches.

The cellars host what Cricova calls Oenotheque, a remarkable wine collection, which was started in 1954. The collection has 1.3 million bottles of wine, all of them special in one way or another. For example there is the red desert wine Easter Jerusalem, the last bottle of 400 which were produced in 1902. Or a bottle of 1902 Jan Becher liqueur, containing extracts of 27 medicinal herbs. The liquer is from Czech Republic and produced until today.

And there are personal vaults of historic and contemporary people like Hermann Göring, Vladimir Putin, or Angela Merkel. The high-ranking Nazi official and commander-in-chief of Hitler’s aviation had a collection of 2,000 wine botttles from the 1940. The wines were confiscated (aka stolen) from the occupied countries. After the war the wines were first taken to Moscow by Soviet soldiers as a military trophy. Most were drunk, but the remainders are now at Cricova, Mosel, Bordeaux, Porto, Tokay, and Chablis. The contemporary celebrity vaults are a result of socialist times, when the winery was a visiting point for all official delegations to the USSR. Each visitor was gifted a private collection space on his visit. On the list are beneath Angela Merkel, John Kerry, Joe Biden, and Petro Poroshenko. Vladimir Putin has an exceptionally big collection and a gold-plated mini-car which gets him to his vault. Sounds actually a bit like Gringotts Wizarding Bank.

The winery also has five underground tasting halls, large enough to host 20 guests each. The European Hall stained-glass windows showing vine in the four seasons of the year. The Sea bottom is dedicated to the Sarmatian Sea which existed here 12 Million years ago during the Miocene and formed the limestone. The Presidential hall is big enough for 50 guests and shows replicas of Greek and Roman reliefs and elegant wooden furniture. The Fireplace hall has as the name suggests an underground open fireplace and resembles a 19th century smoking room. It is the smallest room with only 6 seats. And finally the Casa Mare (Big House) is the traditional living room of a Moldovan countryside house. Oak wood furniture, decorated with national ornaments, and wooden beams on the ceiling create the rustic atmosphere.

The underground Cricova Museum is dedicated to winemaking. It contains a vine imprint discovered in the village of Naslavcea which was dated to the 5th century BC. Wine making has a very long tradition in Moldova. There are wooden presses from Greece and the Roman Empire, but also a traditional Moldavian press dating back to the 19th century. Typical is also a grape crusher which was obviously used to crush the grapes. And there is a collection of wine jars like clay amphoras, pitchers, wine flasks, and a wheel cart with a barrel.

The tourist visit includes a documentary which is watched in the only underground cinema in Moldavia. Its quite fitting that the street where it is located is named Lumière Brothers. There are numerous tours, but actually the tour is more or less the same. The differences are in the number of wines and the food at the tasting afterwards. So you actually select the wines, and the tour is just to get an appetite.

The pride of the winery is the sparkling wine which is produced in using the Méthode Traditionelle. This is an euphemism for Méthode Champenoise, but even former socialist countries can not use this term any more, as the wineries of the Champagne sue anybody who uses it. Obviously Moldavian wine is not Champagne, but the method they use is the same which was discovered by the monk Dom Pierre Perignon. The wine is locally called kodrinskoie. A team of five women rotates as many as 35,000 bottles of the sparkling wine during the production process.