Cricova – Underground Wine City, Moldova, 2013
Trip to Cricova underground wine city for Neurosurgeons.
The wine cellars of Cricova is the second largest wine cellar in Moldova, after Milestii Mici (largest in the world). It boasts a mere 120 kilometres (75 mi) of labyrinthine roadways, versus MM’s 200 kilometres (120 mi), tunnels have existed under Cricova since the 15th century, when limestone was dug out to help build Chişinău. They were converted into an underground wine emporium in the 1950s.
Half of the roadways are used for wine storage. The roads are named by the wines they store. This “wine city” has its warehouses, tasting rooms and other facilities underground. It goes down to 100 metres (330 ft) below ground and holds 1.25 million bottles of rare wine. The oldest wine dates back to 1902. The temperature is maintained at about 12 °C (54 °F) all year round (which is perfect for wine). This place is especially famous for hiding Jews in wine barrels during the Nazi invasion of the Soviet Union.
Legend has it that in 1966 astronaut Yuri Gagarin entered the cellars, re-emerging (with assistance) two days later. Russian president Vladimir Putin celebrated his 50th birthday there.
The territory used to be a mine for limestone, a building material. In some branches excavation is still active, so the cellar is still growing. Other famous wineries in Moldova include Cojuşna and Mileştii Mici.
Cricova is one of the very few wineries in the world that produce sparkling wines in accordance with the classical French method, purportedly invented centuries ago by the monk Dom Pierre Perignon — “Methode Champenoise”, by means of the secondary in-bottle fermentation and an ultimate maturation cuvée in horizontal position of at least 3 years.
Cricova makes a unique sparkling red wine, kodrinskoie-sparkling, made from cabernet sauvignon stocks and marketed as having a ‘rich velvet texture and a blackcurrant and cherry taste’.
The “Grand Cellars of Cricova” house a remarkable collection of wines — The National Oenotec. The unique exhibits (“Jerusalem of Easter” vintage 1902, the liqueur “Jan Becker” vintage 1902) together with other 158 brands from Bourgogne, Moseley, Tokay, Rein, etc. — make up the precious thesaurus of the establishment as well as of Moldova in general, comprising nowadays a total of about 1.3 million bottles.
However, the pride of the Oenotec are, first of all, the wines bearing the name “Cricova”, which brought the winery a collection of national and international tasting awards. As of 2008, the collection consists of over 70 silver, gold and Grand Prix awards.