Cricova cellars are truly unequalable in the world. Here the history, archeology and the art of winemaking joined their forces and formed a genuine underground town. Nowadays, the wine town occupies an area of 53 hectares, and the underground galleries, transformed into streets, have a total length of 120 kilometers. The labyrinths are located at a depth reaching 80 meters in some places, depending on the relief. Like in a real town, there are streets, traffic lights and road signs. It is just that the paths of the labyrinth have rather unusual names like “Cabernet”, “Dionis”, “Feteasca”, “Aligote”, “Sauvignon”, so that every street matches the name of the wine that is stored in the adjacent niches. The temperature in the underground galleries remains constant all year round, making up appr. + 12 … + 14°C, while the relative humidity of the air is around 97-98%. These natural conditions enable the preservation and ageing of wines of the highest quality, as well as of the classic sparkling wine, and the formation of their authentic character.
In fact, the renowned cellars have emerged as a result of stone extraction in these places, thus the cellars used to be stone mines. Many buildings in Cricova, Chisinau, Balti and other towns in Moldova have been built from the limestone extracted here. Limestone is still being extracted in some ramifications of the galleries, thus the underground town keeps growing!
The Cricova cellars host a remarkable wine collection, Oenotheque, which came into existence in 1954. The collection numbers almost 1.3 million bottles of wine; each one of them has exceptional qualities and an unusual history. The unrepeatable specimens have been gathered over the years in different corners of the world, and make up jointly a precious treasure of both the associated factory and of the country as well.
The pearl of the collection is the red desert wine “Easter Jerusalem”. It is the only piece in the world that has survived from the 400 bottles bottled in 1902. Another unique specimen is a liqueur, also produced in 1902, in Czechia. It is a Jan Becher liqueur, containing extracts of 27 medicinal herbs; it is still produced nowadays.
The most valuable collection of the Oenotheque is the one that belonged to the high-ranking Nazi official and commander-in-chief of Hitler’s aviation, Hermann Göring. It numbered nearly two thousand elite wines, such as Mosel, Bordeaux, Porto, Tokay, Chablis. All specimens were produced from the grape harvested in the 1940s. The wines were captured by Göring from the countries occupied by Germany. After the war the wines were first taken to Moscow by Soviet soldiers as a military trophy, and then were mostly drunk out. The remainders of the collection can be found now at Cricova.
New samples are continuously added to the National Collection, both by way of exchanges with other wine collections, by means of purchases made abroad, and by the elite wines presented to the Associated Wine Factory. However, the special pride of the Oenotheque are primarily the “Cricova” brand wines, awarded with medals and diplomas at the most prestigious international contests.
The five large, spacious and imposing halls, combining classic architectural elements with modern ornaments, provide for the uniqueness of the Underground Complex. They are decorated with stained glass, tapestries, and wooden sculptures – true masterpieces carved by the most famous Moldavian craftsmen.
The stained-glass windows of the famous “European Hall” feature vine in the four seasons of the year. There is also a glass panel in the hall, representing the vineyards of the Associated Factory “Cricova”. All the conditions for holding congresses, symposiums, and business meetings have been met here.
“Sea bottom” tasting hall
The name of the hall symbolizes the depths of the Sarmatian Sea that existed here appr. 12 million years ago (the Miocene era), with the crusts of prehistoric mollusks deposited and petrified on its bottom. The originality of this room comes from the limestone ceiling, in its unprocessed natural form, reflected as in a mirror in the marine décor with blue-green shades. Decorative aquariums were painted on the walls and confer some extravagance to the room. However, the hall is equipped with modern equipment enabling one to hear the true mysteries of the sea.
Numerous high-level meetings involving national and international state officials and outstanding personalities are held here. The spacious room contains pictures illustrating the viticulture and winemaking of the Republic of Moldova. Artists have created a broad vision inspired by the beauty of the ancient world. The hall panels, performed in luminous, bright colors, full of elegance and refinement, create an atmosphere of antiquity. The works were designed in the bas-relief technique, observing the classical traditions of the ancient relief. The artworks and pieces of wooden furniture contribute considerably to the solemn décor of the room. The monumental doors framed in a marble case are yet another remarkable item of interior decoration.
This hall displays a noble interior, and the predominant element in the room decor is the fireplace, generating a warm and relaxing atmosphere. The range of interior colors and decorations accentuate hunting stylistics. The guests shall feel comfortable and completely freed of their day-to-day worries in the tranquil and intimate ambience. The “Fireplace hall” is a perfect place for a supper with friends or a romantic evening.
“Casa Mare” (The “Big House”)
This hall bears the name of the most beautiful room of a traditional Moldovan countryside house. The room is decorated with oak wood furniture, decorated with national ornaments. The rustic atmosphere prevails in this room due to the wooden beams on the ceiling, creating the impression of olden times. The walls of the “Casa Mare” are decorated with embroidered towels and woven wool carpets, all embellished with geometric and floral elements.
The Underground Town hosts a museum that displays extraordinary exhibits of all times, describing in detail the history of winemaking. Among the exhibits of the Cricova Museum, there is a vine imprint discovered in the village of Naslavcea. This imprint dates back to the 5th century BC and confirms once more that wine has been produced in Moldova since the oldest times.
Furthermore, the museum exhibits several appliances used formerly in viticulture and winemaking. There are two wooden presses from Greece and the Roman Empire. In addition to them there is a traditional Moldavian press dating back to the 19th century; similar presses can still be found in some villages in our country. Another exhibit available in some Moldovan households and in the Cricova Museum is a grape crusher used to crush the grapes. Clay amphoras, pitchers, wine flasks, a wheel cart with a barrel, etc. are among other exhibits that can be admired at our museum.
For the first time in the Republic of Moldova, Cricova has launched a cinema in the stone. Located at a depth of 80 meters, on the “Lumière Brothers” Street, the modern, contemporary cinema can accommodate 40 people. It has been introduced in the tourist route, so that visitors can watch a documentary film describing the history of the “Cricova” Associated Wine Factory. Various events and public presentations can be held here as well. The start of the project has added an original, notable and contemporary aspect to the rusticity of the cellars.