The list of the New 7 Wonders of the World may contain breathtaking manmade structures like the Chinese Wall, the Colosseum and Machu Pichu but for the real wine lover the list is incomplete without Milestii Mici. Under the Moldovan ground corridors with a total length of 55 kilometers form the largest wine cellar in the world. The immense underground complex reminds strongly of the hideout of a Bond villain. No wonder the locals, who live above the ground in a town also called Milestii Mici, refer to their wine cellar as “The Underground Wine City“.
Moldova has a great tradition when it comes to wines, which dates back to 4000 to 5000 years ago. In the years that the country was part of the Soviet Union it provided – together with Georgia – this huge piece of land with fine wines. Still yearly the Moldovans produce close to an impressive 125.000 tons of wine, while the country contains close to 150.000 hectares of vineyards. Quite a lot if you imagine that Moldova has less than 3 million habitants. With such productivity a few simple cellars would never be enough to store all those fine wines.
That’s why since 1969 an old limestone mine near the town Milestii Mici was transformed in the World’s largest wine cellar. This is an official record, recognized by Guiness World Records. It turned out to be a wonderful place to keep wines, cause no matter how hot the summers or cold the winters are, the temperature in Milestii Mici always stays between 12 and 14 degrees Celsius. At the moment the complex contains close to 2 million wine bottles, from every year since the start in 1969, as well as another 65 million liters of wine in barrels. Around 70% of all wines is red, 20% white and 10% are dessert wines.
The Underground Wine City really deserves her nickname, since some of the corridors even have names. Examples of these streetnames are Cabernet Sauvignon or Pinot, after the grape types. Some of the special wines are stored in alcoves, as if they were statues of saints in a monastery. Everyone travels through Milestii Mici by car and the city has an official speed limit of 5 kilometers an hour. Although, like above the ground, few Moldovans follow that traffic rule. The reason that all visitors do the tour by car, is cause people are likely to get lost in the tangle of corridors full of wine. Yuri Gagarin, the first man in Space and quite a heavy drinker, once got lost for 2 whole days in Milestii Mici.
Another interesting historical fact is that during World War II many jews found a safe shelter from the Nazis in Milestii Mici. They could hide in a few huge empty barrels, since there were way too many of those for the German soldiers to check them all. Another reason why the whole place feels like the setting of a Bond movie. So if you are ever in Moldova, you don’t want to miss out on this experience and try a glass or two.
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