Wine Run: The history of Cricova Wine Cellars

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Race “Wine Run”, which will be held January 31, 2016, will be carried out with the support of the wine plant Cricova. Wine Run is the only race in Europe, at a depth of 100 meters in the wine cellars for a distance of 10 km.

We invite you to read the fascinating history of the largest wine producers in Moldova …

Cricova. Name, speaking for itself.

The art of production and consumption of grape, grape juice and wine has been and remains a cult for Moldavians, the origins of which are drawn from the past, interwoven with the traditions of the people, their way of life and thinking. Even the outline of our small country, the Republic of Moldova, on the map of Europe looks like a bunch of grapes.  

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Here on earth, situated between the rivers Prut and Dniester, the art of wine-making has been evolving from ancient times and reached its heyday before the First World War. At this time, Moldova gained notoriety as one of the largest wine producers in the region, and the local wine was exported to most European countries. Later, as one of the republics, Moldova has become one of the most important wine suppliers on the domestic market of the USSR. Every second bottle of wine and every third bottle of champagne, consumed in the Soviet Union, was made ​​in Moldova or from Moldovan raw material.

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However, despite the impressive growth in output, an acute shortage was felt of specially equipped premises for the storage, processing and aging of wine. Most of the wine materials were stored in the open air, which led to significant losses. The most successful solution for wine storage was to use underground galleries, from which the construction stone has been extracted.   

Thus, in the village of Cricova, located just 15 km from the capital, on the site of the mines, from which people extracted the stone, used in the construction of Chisinau, the Wine Factory “Cricova” was founded in 1952.

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History of formation and development of the company is full of ups and downs, and, in fact, reflects the fate of Moldovan wine-making over the past decades. Facing mismanagement, restrictions, destruction of vineyards, or transfer to another economic system, “Cricova” factory overcame all difficulties and trials, and managed to establish itself as one of the most advanced wineries in Moldova.

Nowadays, “Cricova” is a company that combines the tradition of the Moldovan wine-making with the international developments in this field. It is proud of its unique underground labyrinths, keeping the secret of excellent wines, which are produced and maintained here. “Underground City”, as it is called, is one of the main tourist attractions of Moldova. A law is adopted, according to which the wine factory “Cricova” is declared a national cultural heritage.

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But before we delve into the cellars, where the wine treasures are stored, let us stay on the sun-drenched vineyards, where the story begins of the most magnificent and delightful of Moldovan wines.

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The terrain and climate of Moldova seems to have been created by God for grapes cultivation. Bathing in the sun, the slopes and generous land, on which the fruitful vineyards stretch, turn sappy grapes, full with the juice of the earth and warmed with sunlight, into wine, having wonderfully magical qualities. Grapes, which are first transformed into the grape juice, then into wine, determine the quality of the final product by 90%. It is quite understandable that “Cricova” factory, being a company with a complete production cycle, has an area of 600 hectares of vineyards in the central and southern parts of the country.

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In autumn, after the grape harvest, a restless period begins for the winemakers. High-quality wine is the main goal, which the entire technological process is dedicated to, from picking the grapes to bottling the wine. Currently, the company has all the necessary equipment for the production of wine, in accordance with national and international standards. The company has introduced quality management ISO 9000 and food safety ISO 22000 systems.

After crushing the grapes in special containers, the resulting pulp is placed into the modern pneumatic presses, where the separation of the liquid phase takes place. The obtained grape juice is poured into bottles for clarification. The clarified grape juice is placed in recipients for fermentation. We can say that this is where the wine is born, where it gets its taste, aroma and color.

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After fermentation, the wine goes through other processes, including aging in oak barrels. Then, fine wines are bottled and offered for sale. Exceptional in quality wines are put for bottled, longstanding exposure, then getting the status of collection by the characteristics of wine, produced in a given year. These wines are stored in the underground galleries, where constant temperature of +12… +14°C, and humidity of 97-98% are being maintained, which are the perfect conditions for aging and storage.

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The wine plant “Cricova” uses a unique technology of champagne production by the classical French method of bottle fermentation with exposure of three or more years – the “champenoise”method. A distinctive feature of this method is the secondary fermentation in bottles, the increase in alcohol content, and the internal pressure, at the same time enriching the drink with delicious aromatic substances. After the sparkling wine reaches the desired degree of exposure, it goes through the riddling process, sediment consolidation to the bottle neck, which is carried out manually or using a special device. The sediment is collected at the cork, then frozen and removed by a special procedure, called disgorging. After disgorging a certain amount of liquid is added into the sparkling wine in compliance with its brand, after which it is corked and takes its place on the shelves after passing the final test. Sparkling wines by “Cricova” brand are highly appreciated by both ordinary consumers and experts, which is evidenced by the numerous prizes and awards, received at various national and international competitions.

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In the dark and quiet Cricova cellars more than 10 million liters of wine go through ageing. This is a real underground wine city with a total length of over 100 kilometers, located at a depth of up to 80 meters from the ground, which has its streets and avenues, bearing the names of wines, which are produced and stored here. Starting a tour along the Wine Road, which is included in the national wine route, you can turn down the Chardonnay street, followed by Cabernet street, and then take a walk along the avenues of Codru, Dionysus or Feteasca, and ensure that you can not cope with this journey without Ariadne’s thread, and then you even start feeling dizzy from these cool labyrinths, which make up a real wine kingdom.

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In order to better familiarize with the local treasures, you should see the unique wine collection, which is stored in the gallery, decorated as a cup. This wine collection, which was launched in 1954, now has more than 1 million bottles of wine, produced in different years and brought from different countries. Here you can see rarities that are considered national property of Moldova (for example, “Easter Jerusalem wine”, “Jan Becher” liqueur by 1902, the wine brands from Burgundy, Tokay, Moselle, bottles from the personal collection of Hering). The collection is constantly updated and enriched. For the winemakers, these collection pieces are also the subject of study in an attempt to uncover the secrets and properties of unique wines.

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Another attraction in this wine kingdom is wine tasting rooms, where you can enjoy wines of Cricova in the eye pleasing atmosphere that creates a poetic mood. After all, there is an invisible connection between wine and poetry. Te tasting complex of “Cricova” consists of five rooms, the design of which creates the perfect atmosphere for tasting fine wines and enjoy their taste.

“President Hall” is designed for receiving official delegations and guests of the highest level. The bas-reliefs, adorning its walls, as if prove the antiquity of the wine and the history of this land of plenty, and the cultural heritage of the people.

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The “European Hall” is conceived as a place for corporate events or business meetings over a glass of wine.

The “Seabed” Hall immerses visitors into the atmosphere of the sea, making them believe that these places, so-rich in rocks, where “Cricova” is lying today, were a sea back in times.

The “Casa Mare” Hall recreates a traditional room in a Moldovan house, intended for the reception of guests and fests arranging. It is the perfect place to taste not only wine, but also the local culture and traditions.

The “Fireplace Hall” is a place, where you can enjoy a glass of wine in a relaxed atmosphere by the fireplace, in a small circle of close friends.

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Those, who visited these halls at least once, will never forget Cricova wine, the taste of which will forever remain in their memory, as well as the welcoming and charming atmosphere of this place, hidden in the depths of the Moldovan land.

Visiting “Cricova” gives you the opportunity to experience one of the most fascinating wine histories, haunting the imagination legends of these places and the best wine traditions of this ancient sunny land. Today, the wine plant is moving forward, trying to achieve the best results in the grape and wine industry, both nationally and internationally.

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Products by “Cricova” brand has won numerous gold and silver medals at prestigious international exhibitions and competitions. The plant is part of the European Club of Trade Leaders, who appreciated the outstanding quality of its products and awarded the company with the prize for achievements in their field and the Golden Star of quality. In 2002, the “Cricova” plant was awarded the highest award of the Republic of Moldova – the Order of the Republic, for its significant contribution to the development of the national economy.

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For wine lovers, the name “Cricova” is synonymous with prestige. This name was created and solidified by many generations of people, passionate for the art of wine, diluted only with love, skill and work that gave rise to the most exquisite wines, worthy of emperor’s tables and the most important events in the lives of those, who tastes them. Cricova wine keep a mystery. And only the name speaks for itself. “Cricova”. Nomen est omen.

Website: www.cricova.md

Check the details about the “Wine Run” race online: www.cricova.winerun.md