Moldova has a long winemaking tradition. The territory is ideal for the cultivation of the vine and French oenologists came here over two centuries ago to teach local winemakers how to produce excellent wine. Wine that today is stored underground, at a depth that varies between 40 and 80 meters. Here the air temperature is constant, between 12 and 14 ° C with a humidity of 85-90%.
Most of the buildings in Chișinău were built with stone extracted from the Cricova mine. When then in the post-war period the need for raw materials collapsed, the intricate labyrinth of tunnels was abandoned until in 1952 two local wine producers, Petru Ungureanu and Nicolae Sobolev, short of places to store wine, decided to exploit the mine by creating the Cricova cellar.
The tunnels to be covered are 120km (out of the total 250km of extension of the mine) and the tunnels have the names of vines to be able to orient themselves such as: Cabernet, Dionis, Feteasca, Aligote and Sauvignon.
In 2005 Cricova was awarded the Guinness Book of Records for being the largest underground winery in the world.
The organized tour begins with a stop in the heart of Cricova, the area where sparkling wines are produced with the French method, the Champenoise.
Here both tradition and technology are used, but the way of producing is the same. The bottles are left to rest upside down and every day they are manually rotated 45 ° to better support the fermentation. The same process is also carried out by machinery used, however, for a champagne that has a lower cost, and quality, than that in which the rotation takes place manually.
Next stop is at the National Collection which owns about 1.3 million bottles of wine, each of which has a high quality with a small history. This collection also includes wines from other parts of the world that have been harvested over the years.
These wines represent a treasure not only of the cellars but also of the country. The pearl of this collection is a red dessert wine called “Ierusalim de Paști. It is the only example in the world of a type of wine that was produced in the year 1902 in a number of 400 bottles. In the National Collection there are also the memoirs and private collections of the most important world political leaders and other famous personalities among whom we can find Yuri Gagarin, the most beloved character in Cricova, who would have done everything to bring the wine of the best winery of the then Soviet Union into space.
The underground complex is also composed of five tasting rooms:
- The European Room with glass depictions representing the vineyards of Cricova.
- The Hall of the Seabed that symbolizes the depths of the Sarmatian Sea that existed in the area over 12 million years ago.
- The Presidential Hall where meetings are organized with foreign delegations or with very important people of Moldova.
- The Fireplace Room is characterized by a noble style, the element that predominates the décor of this room is the fireplace, which generates a warm and relaxing atmosphere. The decorations and colors used are those that represent hunting houses.
- The Casa Grande Hall represents the typical country houses of Moldova.