The History Of The Largest Underground Cellar In The World

Mileștii Mici is a lively commune of two villages i.e., Mileștii Mici and Piatra Albă located in the Republic of Moldova. The villages are nearly 18km from the country’s capital, Chisinau. The amalgamation of the two villages has gained popularity worldwide as a home to the largest underground cellar in the world —Mileștii Mici.

Historically, the region has been synonymous with its thrilling maze of underground tunnels and limestone mines, where underground extraction thrived for centuries. Even though the extraction practices ended in the 1960s, the tunnels and shafts are still present and open for tourists to explore. One such underground extraction site spans a whopping 200 kilometers.

The site was decommissioned as a limestone mine in 1960 and included in the list of Moldova’s underground wine galleries. In 1969, this site was transformed into a cellar where wine was stored, preserved, and left to mature. Today, this cellar holds approximately two million-plus wine bottles — occupying only 55 kilometers out of its 200 kilometers total length.[1]

Caves Milestii Mici Moldavie - largest underground cellar

Caves Milestii Mici Moldavie

The humidity and relatively constant temperature inside the cellar made it an ideal place for storing wine for a very long time.

Did You Know: The inventory list of Mileștii Mici shows that at least 70% of the wines stored in this underground cellar are red wines, while dessert wines make up another 10%.

Mileștii Mici High Quality Wine Making

Mileștii Mici is a winery suppling high-quality wines to countries around the world. Wines from the cellar are exported to the United States, China, Poland, Czech, Greece, and Denmark. Other countries where its wines have significant demand include Sweden, Great Britain, and Japan. One of its most famous wines dates back to 1973 and 1974, and is worth at least 480 euros per bottle.

In addition to a storage facilities for millions of wine bottles, the tunnel is organized similarly to a small city. Visitors have described the tunnel as an underground city of wine. Every branch of the tunnel is named after well-known grapes like Cabernet Sauvignon and Pinot, among others. Interestingly, there is enough room for tourists to drive their cars inside the tunnel or ride on their bikes while obeying traffic rules. [2]

Back in the day when Moldova was still a part of the Soviet Union, it was believed that one out of every two bottles of wine consumed in Russia came from Moldova. Besides the largest wine cellar in the world, Moldova is also home to some of the largest vineyards in the region.

The river running through Moldova has aided in the cultivation,  production, and distribution of quality grapes and wines. As a result, the grapes from Moldova compete unequivocally with their counterparts from all over the world. To show how much this region cherishes its wine, a national wine day is celebrated in October.

A Tour Of Mileștii Mici

While the wines of Mileștii Mici continue to supply wine lovers worldwide with quality wine, it has gradually attracted more fans around the world. As such, making Moldova, especially Mileștii Mici a must see tourist destination.

While the cave is famous for its grapes-themed “streets” with street lights and road signs, other features of the site are the furnishings and exceptional woodwork made by Moldova’s finest artisans. The spacious winery also has several tasting rooms of astonishing sizes.

The tasting room still features a classical look with the original ceiling (which was made from limestone), and the underwater piping system still remains in active service. Within the premises lies a congress hall mainly used for hosting business and congress meetings. Besides the business and congress meeting halls, the complex also has a presidential hall that serves as a meeting venue.

The Essential Guide to Building a Basement Wine Cellar

Moldova And Wine

Besides being home to the largest cellar in the world, Moldova’s Chinisau region is also known for its superb wines. The region has a celebrated wine-producing heritage that dates back 5,000BC. Prior to the arrival of the Romans, the Dancian tribes were known for their expertise in grape growing until “Stefan the great” took the practice to another level in the 15th century.[3]

Today, with a teeming population of over 4 million, Moldova is counted among the top 20 countries with the highest wine production in the world. It also has the highest per Capita wine production in the world — which is an impressive feat. When next you pay a visit to Moldova, make time to see the spectacular wine fountain at Mileștii Mici — it is undoubtedly going to blow your mind.

This Day in Wine History

August 27, 199: Moldova gained independence from the Soviet Union. Its independence was globally recognized in March of 1992 when it became a member of the United Nations. Moldova wines and their counterparts in Georgia were banned in Russia in 2006 following a report from the Russian Consumer Agency, which alleged that pesticides were discovered in 60% of the samples of Moldovan wines.

1969: The Mileștii Mici winery, where the largest underground cellar in the world is located, was founded in 1969. It holds a record two million-plus bottles of wine produced from grapes harvested from 1973. The winery was formally a limestone mine, and it spans over 200km.

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  1. Largest Wine Cellar by Number of Bottles.” n.d. Guinness World Records. Accessed October 27, 2022.
  2. ‌Wayback Machine.” n.d. Accessed October 27, 2022.
  3. gonomadtravel. 2016. “Moldova: A Country Obsessed with Wine.” March 17, 2016.

Photo Credits

Photo: Myrabella / Wikimedia Commons

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