Wine tasting in Cricova, Moldova
Cricova? I didn’t know. I’m not gonna lie… I’m not a big wine lover, and it’s pretty much impossible for me to tell you if this wine good or not, if it’s a fruity one, if it’s a strong one… I have an occasional drink of wine, but truthfully speaking, wine is not what I’m looking for when I go to a bar. And since I started my trip, I didn’t drink a lot, and I don’t even think I had wine. After visiting the whole city of Chisinau in two days, and spending an afternoon in Orheiul Vechi, I thought I had seen it all in Moldova.
But two girls from my hostel, big wine lovers, started talking to me about Cricova, located 20 kilometers away (12 miles) from Chisinau. And what do we have in Cricova? One of the biggest wine cellars in the world! In Moldova! And they propose to have a wine tasting! All right, time to go to Cricova, and see how it goes there. I cannot say I have a busy schedule, actually I have a lot of time…
Cricova being close to Chisinau, the ride is fast, like 20 minutes maximum. Several people came this afternoon, we’re about fifty, so we are split in two different groups. We are then asked to get in a little touristic train, before starting to visit the wine cellar. Five minutes later, I start to understand why we had to get in that little train…
Cricova is not only a wine cellar, it’s a big underground city, which is exactly 80 meters underground (260 feet). There are 120 kilometers (75 miles) of labyrinthine roadways, 1.3 million bottles of wine, 30 million liters of wine, 6 to 8 metric tons of wine per barrel, hundreds of types of cognac, wine, etc… But… This war chest… How did it all end up here, in Moldova…?
Hermann Goring, member of the nazi party, loved the finer things in life. Precious stones, gold, jewelry, money, power… And good wine! He stole the best wine bottles from the different territories occupied by the nazis. Some people talk about hundreds of thousands of bottles stolen here and there, and sent to Germany. But after the nazi defeat, a big part of his private wine collection was brought to Cricova. Therefore this wine cellar inherited thousands of exceptional bottles from the prewar period.
So here we are, in our little train, riding through the avenues of this underground city. They even gave names to those alleys : Sauvignon Street, Chardonnay Street, etc… And we finally stop to get in a big room, where we are asked to sit. We first watch a 15-minutes movie about the history of Cricova. And then our hosts give us a glass of sparkling wine (we cannot call it champagne, it wasn’t produced in the Champagne region!).
No time to sleep! Back to the visit of the city our guide tells us a few anecdotes about the place. Some personalities came here. Vladimir Putin celebrated his 50th birthday there, John Kerry, Angela Merkel, Mikhail Gorbatchev… And Yuri Gagarin who has made a lasting impression on Cricova. He went there to spend an afternoon, but re-emerged (with assistance) two days later, slightly drunk…
Last but not least… The wine tasting! We all gather in a room with a huge table. Each of us has a bottle of water, three wine glasses, and some snacks, the placinta. It’s a moldovan pastry looking like a brioche, but filled with either cheese, cabbage or potatoes. Not bad…
And of course, we taste wine! White wine, rosé, red wine, sparkling wine… As I said earlier, I’m not an expert but it wasn’t bad. Other people around seemed to be wine experts and to love the wine we had. Therefore I suggest to all the wine lovers out there going to Moldova, to check out Cricova!
Wanna go to Cricova from Chisinau?
Cricova is only 20 kilometers away (12 miles) from Chisinau. From the central bus station in Chisinau, a bus (number 2 from what I remember!) goes to Cricova every 15 minutes. The bus ticket is only 4.50 lei (0.20€), and the ride lasts about 40 minutes. Be careful, the bus doesn’t stop just in front of the wine cellar. You’ll have to walk for about 10 minutes from the bus stop to the wine cellar. Otherwise you can take a taxi, hotel to wine cellar, for 80 lei (4 euros).
What about the price for the wine cellar itself? It varies a lot. Depending on the hour you get there, if it’s busy or not, if you’re doing the tasting or not… For example, a group visited the cellar at 1pm, tasted 9 different wines and they also ate some moldovan cheese. They paid 650 lei (32.50 euros). I visited the cellar at 3pm, I tasted 4 different wines (and I had the placintas!), and I paid 490 lei (24.50 euros).
I almost forgot… If you go straight to Cricova to visit the wine cellar, the guys at the reception might tell you “Impossible, it’s fully booked”. You have to book first. Either via their website but I don’t know if they are responsive to enquiries. Or the best thing to do is to go to their store in Chisinau and to book from there. It’s located Strada Alexei Şciusev 96. They’ll be able to give you the free time slots, the prices, etc… And one last thing, bring a jacket with you, even if it’s fuckin hot outside. Because in the cellar, the temperature is maintained at 12°C (54°F), and the humidity level is 97-98%!