Mileștii Mici - Deeper Underground - Moldovan Wine Cellar
Updated: Dec 20, 2018
Mileștii Mici might be a new name to you. It’s not the latest dance craze or the new ‘must drink’ bottle of wine. You may have read about it in a particular book, a little known work called The Guinness Book of World Records. You see, Mileștii Mici, Moldovan Wine Cellar, holds the record for the world’s largest wine collection by number of bottles.
The correct title of this wine-lovers nirvana is actually ‘The State Enterprise Quality Wines Industrial Complex’. However difficult Mileștii Mici might be to pronounce, it beats saying that all the time!
Located around 20km south of Chişinău, near the town of Ialoveni in central Moldova, Mileștii Mici is housed in a former limestone mine, making it the perfect place to house wine. The subterranean temperatures remain consistent, somewhere in the mid-50s Fahrenheit, and the humidity is also constant which allows the wine to age to perfection. I know what you’re thinking. “I’ve got 24 bottles in my cooler. How many bottles of wine do you need to become the world record holder?”. It’s a good question. The answer is simple. Anywhere between 1.5 and 2 million. You’ve probably got some way to go. For the record, around 70% of them are red, 20% white and 10% storing dessert wine.
You might think that Moldova is a strange place to house this record-breaking wine cellar, compared to other countries that more commonly spring to mind for wine production. Strange maybe, but before the fall of the Soviet Union, Moldova produced more wine than any other Soviet republic. Every second bottle of wine consumed in the former USSR, originally came from Moldova.
Granted it’s hard to picture nearly 2 million bottles of wine. Because it’s housed in a former mine, one that was retired in the 1960s, Mileștii Mici has over 150 miles (200 km) of ‘tunnels’ in which to store the wine, although ‘only’ 35 miles (55 km) are being used.
To help people navigate the labyrinthian cellars, each one of the ‘streets’ within is named after a particular grape variety. The avenues of wine are so large, you can actually drive a car around Mileștii Mici to see the wine for yourself as part of the guided tours that they offer. They also offer wine-tasting, wherever the most discerning palette would be spoilt for choice. If that sounds like something you’d like to try, then you should know that the tasting isn’t done with a mouthful, the wine comes in 1 litre jugs!
If you’re not a big drinker, at least of wine that comes by the jug, then there’s also a Moldovan tradition that states that the first one to pour the wine in it, has to drink everything after the tasting. Good luck with that!
If you’re wondering, the first wine was stored there in 1968 and the oldest bottle of wine they currently hold dates back to 1973 and would cost you about £1500, and no, they don’t do a ‘Buy One, Get One Free’ offer on it. In fact, they only export it to Japan!
Mileștii Mici really is a sight to see, but if you’re still not done after visiting, then the Cricova winery nearby has it’s own extensive network of tunnels, although they only stretch for about 75 miles. Amateurs.