Imagine hundreds of kilometers of cellar corridors filled with wine, few million bottles, thousands of hectoliters in barrels, hundreds of vintages, dozens of varietes, underground so great that we visited them by car. This is the pride of Moldova – Milestii Mici winery. It does not matter whether you like wine or not,while in Moldova you have to visit the place.
What doeas the complex hide, why is it wort to be visited? Come with us on a wine adventure.
Milestii Mici is the world’s largest wine cellars, all the corridors create a multi-level labyrinth with a length of over 200 km. With every meter we are going deeper and deeper under ground not even realising it. In the deepest place the cellars are 85 below ground. The tunnels originally served as adits where the stone for Chisinau building was acquired from. Only in the 70’s came the idea of using it as wine cellars. Constant temperature and high humidity turned out to be perfect conditions for wine maturation and storage. As we already mentioned, cellars are visited by cars, stopped from time to time to have a short walk around. Corridors crossroads are that big that they have traffic lights and each street has its own name coming from a specific grape variety.
Drive straight Sauvignon street, turn right into Cabernet street – this is how our guide w taki sposób przewodnik instructed us while driving underground.
While driving through the underground streets we were passing. Some of them are several decades old and are made of specially imported from Russia Ural and Caspian oak. Barrels are rather unusual, huge, have several thousand liters capacity and diameter of the ellipse. No, coopers did not make a mistake – after draining the wine, through a special little hole located on the front, petite women get inside to wash them. Egg-shape enables to have an upright position and quick cleaning of the interior. Time to work is short, because being inside they can get drunk very quickly only breathing that vapor remaining after wine.
In the days of the Soviet Union, when they tried to rationalize everything, there was an idea to give up the barrels. They even made some concrete containers where wine was supposed to be matured. Thankfully the idea was abandoned and wine is stored in the traditional way until today.
3). Golden Collection of Milestii Mici
Jewels in the crown of Milestii Mici. More than two million bottles hidden at a depth of 80 meters, the best vintages prepared with the art of old Moldovan tradition. Each niche, in which the bottles are stored had been catalogued and counted, in result of what the plant in 2005 got Guinness World Record as a place with the largest wine collections in the world. Part of the bottles can be seen by all visitors but the others are hidden in secret rooms of the labirynth. Don’t get mislead by dust and spiders webs on the bottles, they only confirm the perfect conditions for wine maturation. Wine does not appreciate anything better than a quiet, calm and lack of any, even the smallest vibration.
What is interesting for 200 euro per year you can become the owner of a small niche in the complex and store your wine treasures there. For the time being the most of them are being rented by citizens of the Taiwan and Republic of China.
4). Wine tasting
We proceed to tasting but instead of romantic views over the wineries we face nothing more than rock. Yes, tasting takes place also tens of meters under the ground but even ich such conditions wine tastes very good. Those hidden underground tasting rooms remind us a story we heard in Moldova: a story about the late Soviet era, when Gorbachev decided deal with drinking citizens. People whose the only income was the culture of vines under threat for several years in jail were ordered to destroy the crops. Before the campaign fell half of the vineyards were annihilated. Also the complex of Milestii Mici was to face some loss as the destroy of whole collection was ordered. Trying to save some of their treasures Milestii Mici employees bult some secret rooms to store their most precious treasures. In our opinion there was no necessity to build any secret rooms as the corridors already make large and complicated labirynth of roads and nobody seems to be able to figure out their organisation.
Practical advise about the map – if you relly get lost underground it is enough to reach for the bottle of wine. On each lable you will find a schematic map which will let you get out of the labirynth.
Giftshop is in fact a small time machine that will allow you to go back to Milestii Mici any time, of course on condition that first you will purchase right amount of wine. The shop is also located under the ground and the entrance to it is right two fountains with wine. That says the legend but actually there is nothing more that colored water running in them all the time. In this matter Milestii Mici gets beaten by Batumi, where in the fountain it really runs local liquor – cha cha. Well, do not expect too much from the fountain and go downstairs to get yourself some wine considering that prices in the store are very attrective. The cheapest wines are available already 1 euro and those are mainly international varietes such as Chardonnay and Sauvigon. The most expensive ones reach few hundreds euro.The offer is wide, even among those in the most affordable prices.
It is worth to take some home with you. Thanks to that even few months after the trip to Moldova you will be able to recall the best memories opening a bottle from Milestii Miici. Tastes and aromas will make you think about this beautiful and sunny home of the best grapes. This is one of the aspects thanks to which wine tourism developes so dynamically. That works always, not only for Milestii Mici.
Our last bottle from Milestii Mici we opened only knowing that we were going to Moldova within next few days.