If I asked you to guess where the biggest wine cellar in the world resided, where would you say? France? Italy? Portugal? Maybe even Australia or New Zealand? Well, if you said any of the above you’d actually be incorrect. You see, the oldest wine cellar in the world lives in a country that has a population of just 3.56 million. To put that into perspective, the state of California is 10 times the population of this country. In fact, see the little red square on this picture? That’s the size of this country in relation to the USA. Small, huh?
Okay, I won’t keep you in the dark any longer, the little gem I am referring to is actually Moldova, a quaint little country bordered between Romania and Ukraine. So without any further hesitation lets learn a little more about the biggest wine cellar in the world.
Referred to as (and get ready for this) “The State Enterprise Quality Wines Industrial Complex”, or for short “Mileștii Mici” (I actually think the first one was easier), this place was founded in 1969 with the purpose of producing, storing and ageing a variety of wines.
After 3 1/2 decades of successful operations Mileștii Mici was awarded the Guinness World Record title for “Biggest Wine Collection” and “Biggest Wine Cellar” in the world in 2005. With nearly 2 million bottles and tunnels stretching over 120 miles (of which only 34 miles are used), this place is like an wine fanatics underground city of dreams.
To date, many of the wines from Mileștii Mici are exported to the USA, UK, Sweden, Japan, Czech Republic, Poland, Greece, Finland and Denmark.
In a nutshell over 70% of Mileștii Mici’s wines are red, 20% are white and around 10% are classed as desert wines. Their sheer number of wines has results in seven collection types. This is the closest a literal translation will get to those names:
High Quality Wines
Prices vary throughout all of the collections, however the most expensive bottle they have on record goes for roughly $630. This was their 1973/1974 vintages of multiple grape varietels which was supposedly a good year and the only country that still receives these in export is Japan (which is clearly known for its good taste in wine??!!!)
The types of grape also vary, but here is a list of what they have on record:
Pinot, Traminer, Muscat, Riesling, Feteasca, Dnestrovscoie, Milestscoie, Codru, Negru de Purcari, Trandafirul Moldovei, Auriu, and Cahor-Ciumai. (Extra brownie points if you’ve heard of more than five of these)
As far as tasting notes go, with just under 2 million bottles covering decades of vintages and grapes…I’ll let you dig around for that info in your own time. Here is a very general overview of their reds:
“After several years of storage in the collection the wines acquire rich bouquets and aromatic notes – vanilla, cherries, blackberries, prunes and even astringent cardamom.”
Tastings are something else altogether, a mere 3 tasting samples with, i quote “dried fruits, nuts and crackers” will set you back $75/£45. On the opposite end of the scale for $450 you can expect to receive 7 samples tastings an assortment of food (listed below) and both a red and white wine from their “Collection” category.
Doina snacks, sausages, chicken roll, beaf roll, pork roll, cheese plate, moldavian pies, “Milestii Mici” and chicken salad,
(pork meat, salad or stewed vegetables, pancakes (cheese, potatoes, cabbage),
(Some Moldovan delicacy that is probably hard to pronounce)
Originating as ancient underground galleries or ‘passageways’ at a depth of 80 meters, the limestone walling of Mileștii Mici’s cellars provide the perfect amount of humidity (85-95%) and temperature (12°C / 54°F) – (14°C / 57°F) to age wines. So great in fact, that the winery states they have declined a large number of famous wine makers requests’ to use their facility to store their own wines. The more structured red varieties are left to age in the cellars with some remaining down there for several decades until they are finally available to the public for purchase.
Tours are available to the public (some included within the tasting pricing) whereby visitors are able to walk through the winding passageways and avenues of the ‘underground city’ that is said to resemble some kind of ancient Greek temple.
The walks themselves don’t cover the 34 mile cellar, perhaps not even 1 mile – but you can imagine what 2 million bottles left in a cave may look like, the oldest bottles sealed with a wax covering and smothered in dust and a haze of cobwebs, quite a sight to behold. The winery describe this experience as “giving you the feeling that you pass into another strange and beautiful world, into another old century.” I’d say that’s pretty accurate.
So there you have it, the largest wine collection & cellar in the WORLD. It probably wouldn’t surprise you that the second largest wine cellar in the world is also in Moldova and only miles away from this one too… but we’ll save that for another story!