We had a nice sleeping in morning as we were free to do as we wanted today. The breakfast buffet here is very nice and no soviet nonsense to get get it!
We decided to check out a little market not too far from the hotel to see if we could find some postcards and maybe a souvenir. Unfortunately, the market was pretty lame--lots of flower shops and cigarettes. That's something I haven't mentioned but smoking is a huge problem in these countries--problem for us anyway. The hotels are smoke-free but nothing else and so many people, young people included, are smoking.
After not finding anything there, we walked up to the post office where we did find postcards at a little shop just inside. When I asked if she had stamps too (the lines at the post office windows are long, slow and since I don't read Cyrillic, I'm never sure if I'm in the right line or not!). She did have them but apparently the stamps don't have glue on them as she whipped out a glue stick and used it to glue them on the postcards. It will be interesting to see if they make it!
It was a lovely day so we walked around town a bit and then went to a little street shop for lunch. We had a hot dog wrapped in pastry, a raisin sticky bun and a drink. We just sat and enjoyed not having to hike anywhere!
We'd signed up for the Kvint factory tour at 3pm. At 2:40, a small group of us walked the 5-6 blocks to the factory. We met Anna, our guide, who started out in the museum/award room. Kvint is an acronym for the Russian phrase “Divins, wines and beverages of Tiraspol”
The history of KVINT dates back to 1897, when the first warehouse was built and launched into operation on Vokzalnaya Street in Tiraspol. At that time it was specialized in production of 40% alc. vodka from homemade grape wines purchased from the peasants of nearby villages. The production of divins was started 4 decades later – first wine-distilled spirits were put for ageing in 1938. Anna explained that divine is a term used by them in Moldova/Transnistria. applied to cognac so they can sell them in the international market. They are limited in calling their.
Cognac in France for instance and in the US, they have to call it "Brandy" instead.
Unique climate, fertile soil, hilly terrain and vicinity of the river Dniester created most favorable conditions for growing best grapes; modern equipment, advanced technologies, original recipes all add to the award winning cognac, vodka and wines they make.
They have their own raw materials in the over 5000 acres of vineyards growing over 30 varieties of grapes. In their cellars, they keep 11 million liters of spirits aged from 1 to 60 years.
Annually they output about 20 million bottles of alcoholic beverages, including over 30 names of divins aged from 3 to 50 years, table and vintage wines, vodkas, gin, hard liquors, calvados.
They have cases of awards from around the world. One interesting bottle on display was one the cosmonauts took to the space station illegally (no alcohol is allowed on the station). When they came back, they donated it to the museum.
We walked into the bottling room and then into an enormous warehouse (with security guards) to see steel tanks as well as a large, humid room filled with soviet era wooden barrels that are still aging. In adjacent rooms, there are 165 wooden barrels made from Armenian oak. Anna was quite knowledgeable and spent a lot of time explaining in the process to us.
After all that, it was time to go to the tasting room! We tasted these 5:
• KVINT VSOP – 5 years old;
* Tiras – 6 y.o.;
* Nistru – 8 y.o.;
* Doina – 9 y.o.;
* KVINT XO Surprise – 10 y.o.
The story behind the surprise is that, during the soviet days, a general wanted a special blend to commemorate an event but gave them only 9 months to develop it--but it takes at least 12 to properly age it. The scientists at Kvint made a blend and crossed their fingers that it would turn out well. It was a surprise that the Soviet officers loved it!
I'm not a cognac fan but I did try each one and they were OK. Still not really a fan tho! But Anna spent time with each one, telling us how to taste it, what it should taste like and telling us the story behind each one. She did a really great job. We spent about 30 minutes there and she answered all our questions.
Then we had time to visit the company store :). Most of us are traveling with backpacks and some people are traveling on to other places so it's hard to buy anything big.
Some of the group organized a dinner out at a local pizza place; Jef went but I stayed in to get some things done (and work on blog!). When they got back,a group of us met in Margaret's room for drinks (to finish up our wine & beer before entering Ukraine) and conversation. It was Bjorn (Germany), Tommy (Denmark), Paddy (Ireland), Glen(Australia), Margaret (Australia) and us. We had wide-ranging conversations (from politics to hobbies) that were very enjoyable. It broke up around 12:30am.
Tomorrow we go to our 4th and last country, Ukraine.