We arrived at the end of the afternoon, thinking we might combine a visit to the largest wine collection in the world with a tasty dinner, but were turned away at the entrance. We could just enjoy seeing the decadent wine fountains: one white, one red. And paid a visit to the underground visitors store where we picked up some bottles of wine. We make an online appointment for our visit the following day. We come back under a blue sky the next morning. But the weather doesn't matter today: we are going underground. We walk around the entrance, read some more info about Mileștii Mici. It has been established that they have the largest collection of wine in the world, with an estimate of two million bottles of wine. It has been officially registered as a Guinness World Record. The wine cellar complex was started in 1969.
Even though the sun is burning on our heads, we make sure to take a sweater with us. As soon as our electric cart goes underground (unfortunately, it seems that self-driving in the underground complex is not possible anymore), we cool down. Our guide explains that there are a whopping 200 kilometres of galleries, of which only 55 kilometres are currently used. The limestone here has been mined since a long time, to be used in the construction of Chisinau which lies some 15 kilometres north. In the 1960s, it was realised that this would be the perfect place to store wine. No daylight, constant temperatures year-round, as well as a constant humidity. The guide takes us to vaults where enormous barrels are stored. They can be kept for years before being transferred to bottles. We see an underground waterfall before we drive on over underground streets named Cabernet, Pinot Noir, and other names referring to famous wine varieties.
We now walk through a gate to enter a gallery complex. On both sides, open compartments hold hundreds of wine bottles. There is a section where anyone can lease a compartment which can be locked, and stash away their special bottles of wine. We walk through the galleries, see sculpted decorations against the wall, listen to the guide telling us more about the amazing history of this enormous wine cellar complex. He shows us a secret door, which was installed after Gorbachev tried to curb the alcohol intake and it was feared that wine might be confiscated. Not only is the amount of wine bottles overwhelming the more we walk, what is especially incredible is to realise that we only get to see a tiny amount of the entire collection. We reach the deepest point of the cave system, which lies 85 metres below ground. We pass an underground restaurant on our way out, where servants are preparing for a lunch. Our eyes need to get accustomed to the bright sunlight once we leave the complex. When we drive away, we are still in awe of this mighty underground wine city we have just seen.
Around the World in 80 Clicks
Personal travel impressions both in words and images from Mileștii Mici Wine Cellars (Moldova). Clicking on the pictures enlarges them and enables you to send the picture as a free e-card or download it for personal use, for instance, on your weblog. Or click on the map above to visit more places close to Mileștii Mici Wine Cellars. Read more about this site.