Visiting Sauk Dere is like going to one’s relatives: it’s a must, though not a too interesting happening.
Founded in the middle of the 20th century, the Winery had remained active until it went bankrupt in the mid-2000’s. Now the Winery is being renovated, and the vineyards have been planted anew.
Although the museum-like stock of 20-year-old (an older) wines has survived, it is the cellars rather than the wines that are really worth seeing. Their total length reaches 2.5 km.
A descent to the depth of 25 metres will lead you into the state of deafened awe. The only sound you will hear there is an enchanted crystal tinkling of water drops falling from the ceiling. Immediately behind the weak metal lattice guarding the entrance, you will see Sauk Dere’s pearl: its collection of old wines and brandies.
The tasting hall looks very Soviet; the appearance is softened by an excellent view of the surrounding mountains and hills from the panoramic window. Somewhere in the midst of those hills is lost the entrance to the 18-km-long underground galleries, part of which serve as cellars for Sauk Dere.
A place worth visiting: the Yeti’s Footprints Art Installation at the staircase on the left from the central entrance.
Сellars, nice wine boutique.
‘Dormant’ service; the mighty potential of the place is staying idle.
Why to go
To roam along the wine cellars.
In the Soviet time, Sauk Dere (Cold Gorge in Circassian) encompassed the country’s largest wine cellar, vineyards and a winery. The Company’s history dates back to 1926 when the state farm Krasny Molot (Red Hammer) was founded, specializing in viticulture. In 1930 a primary winery was opened at the local vineyards. In 1939, the tunnels used as shell rock quarries before were turned into wine cellars.
It is said that it was the famous Communist Party and Soviet State functionary Anastas Mikoyan who raised the idea to found a winery at Sauk Dere when was shown the huge tunnels near the Bakanka River as possible storerooms for the nearby Krymsk Cannery. Upon examining the tunnels, Mikoyan, then the People’s Commissar (Minister) of Food Industry, decided to use them as large wine cellars.
During World War II the construction of the cellars was stopped, with a military hospital arranged in their finished part. The wines had been partly removed or destroyed.
In September 1943, when Krymsk Rayon was liberated from the Nazi occupation, reconstruction of the vineyards began and rebuilding of the tunnels resumed. But first of all the area under future vineyards had to be cleared off mines. So the expansion of the vineyards and construction of the new winery began in 1949.
In 1952, in the underground cellars special niches were allotted for an enotheque, the wine collection. Altogether, five 30-metre-long tunnels of the total area of 500 sq m were allocated for that purpose.
Subsequently, the enotheque had been replenished with best wine and brandy samples from all winemaking regions of the USSR, as well as some imported wines.
As a result of such scrupulous selection, by the end of the 1980 in Sauk Dere a unique collection of wines and brandies was formed. The collection was made up of some 82,000 bottles of 252 brand names – about 70% of the portfolio of most prominent wines and brandies produced in the USSR in 1952–2001.
In 1954 the winery together with its cellars was formalized as an independent entity – the Bakansky Winery, later merging with the said farms into a single unit engaged in full winemaking cycle – from the vineyards to wine ageing in the cellars (since 1966 – the Sauk Dere Winemaking State Farm).
In 1957 the program of organization of baby and children’s food was adopted in the USSR. Within its framework, Sauk Dere was to be reconstructed to start producing grape juices with a capacity of 4 million l a year. The new production technology included large outputs of free-run juice and cold preservation of juice (the only possible technology to make children’s food).
In 1961 the metro construction engineers from Moscow were hired to reconstruct the tunnels in Sauk Dere. Then in the tunnels stood 343 tanks by 14,000 l each, paid as war reparations by the defeated Germany. Among the newly built facilities were 48 ferroconcrete tanks by 60,000 l each, a refrigerator compartment, 6 grape crushing and pressing lines, a warehouse, etc. In 1961–1963 in 10 tunnels were placed 367 large oak butts of the total volume of 4.8 million l.
Since 1971, the area of the Company’s vineyards equalled to 954 ha.
In 1973, construction of 16 new tunnels finished. At first they were used to produce sparkling wines by méthode champenoise; then 357 enamel tanks were placed there to age still wines. Presently, there are 26 tunnels at Sauk Dere with the total length of 2,726 m and area of 1.5 ha, and storage capacity of 10 million l of wine.
After the collapse of the USSR and beginning of the half-chaotic economic reforms (that led in particular to the decay of the country’s wine industry), Sauk Dere, failing to cope with the new hardships, rushed towards bankruptcy. The bankruptcy procedure had lasted for 5 years; now the Company’s activity is still far from normal.
Currently Sauk Dere has 137 ha of vineyards where European grapes are planted (Rhine Riesling, Chardonnay and Sauvignon Blanc).