Ai-Danil (St. Daniil) is a wooded seaside area in Crimea (Ukraine) which stretches from Cape Martyan (Nikitsky Botanical Gardens) to Gurzuf.
The area was so named in the 2nd – 4th centuries. Located nearby was a large Greek settlement with the St. Daniil Temple.The archeological excavations on the site of the ancient settlements testify to the fact that viticulture existed there as early as in the 7th – 6th centuries B.C.
Following the 11th century inroads of the Avar, Chazars, Pechenegs and especially Polovtsians, Taurida’s Greek colonies began to fall into decay, and so did the wine-making. In the 13th century, however, the wine-making culture in Crimea saw a revival thanks to a strong Genoese influence. Having settled near the ancient Theodosia (Kafa) in 1262, the Genoese a hundred years later possessed already the whole of the seacoast from Sudak to Balaclava.
Even in the epoch when Crimea was dominated by the Tatars, the Genoese remained quite independent, the reason why thanks to them Crimea had one of the most successful periods of development of its agriculture and trade. During that period, wine-making was flourishing, too.
In the historical periods that followed, the Crimean wine-making experienced more serious buffets of fate when, for instance, Crimea was conquered by the Turks in the 15th century or when the Genoese dominion fell.
In the early 19th century, the Crimean wine-making saw another revival, but that time it was very different. Having lost its links with the past, without any traditions and centuries-old experience, wine-making was being revived by amateurs who did not spare money for the purpose and put their practical considerations onto the foreground.
The central figure among those amateur pioneers was Count M.S. Vorontsov.
In 1823, Nova Rossia’s Governor, Count Mikhail Semenovich Vorontsov (1782 – 1856) bought Ai-Danil.
In the 1820s, numerous wineries opened in Crimea, but one can say with certainty that Count Vorontsov’s Ai-Danil winery was the largest in Crimea of that time. It was headed by the French wine-maker Hauser, who was invited by Vorontsov from Champagne.
The Count’s son, Semen Mikhailovich, continued to develop wine-growing and wine-making at Ai-Danil. By 1889, the winery had more than 400 dessiatinas of land, including 41 dessiatinas occupied by vineyards.
* dessiatina is a measure of land in Russia before 1918, equal to 1.0925 ha.
After his death, his estate Ai-Danil was inherited by his wife and his niece, who were his closest relatives.
The heiress, Her Serene Highness Princess Vorontsova, proved to be rather a poor owner of the enormous wealth she got not only in Crimea but also in other Russian provinces.
The Ai-Danil winery, too, was gradually deteriorating. S.M. Vorontsov’s heiresses did not care much about its further destiny. Which why when in 1889 the Chief Appanage Department under the Ministry of the Imperial Household offered to buy the winery from the Vorontsovs, the deed of purchase did not take long to be executed.
Among the Appanage Department’s obligations was the administration of all the Romanovs’ assets, i.e. land and forests, mines, factories, etc. The earnings from the assets were distributed among the members of the Romanov dynasty in annually paid amounts in cash.
At the Emperor’s wish, L.S. Golitsyn (1845-1915) was appointed, in the spring of 1891, administrator of all the appanage wine-growing and wine-making.
The Ai-Danil wine-cellar, which was built in 1835, fell into disrepair due to landslides.
A new wine-cellar was built in 1912 for the primary processing and storage of wine. It, too, fell into disrepair after World War II, and its operation stopped in 1954.
New construction started on the site in 2005. In 2007, a new building was finished. It retained the original architectural style of the Tsar’s wine-cellar but was, at the same time, complete with the most modern grape-processing, wine-making and bottling equipment.