Day 11: Best. Wine-tour. Ever!
Milestii Mici Travel Blog› entry 13 of 260 › view all entries
April 16th, 2010 – by: Biedjee
If Moldova as a country isn't all that known to the outside world, its wines definitely are! Moldavian wines have been consistently lauded at European tastings, grabbing the highest honours and even the French have deemed several Moldavian wine houses worthy of DOC status.
I had booked myself on a tour to one of these wineries, Milestii Mici. While not the most famous or most visited winery in Moldova (that would be Cricova, who were hosting some kind of international delegation today), Milestii Mici does appear in the Guinness Book of Records as having the largest wine collection in the world. At present over 2 million bottles are stored in the underground passages of the winery, with enough space left for at least 20 times that amount.
What makes Milestii Mici (and Cricova for that matter) so special is that the winery is completely underground. Housed in limestone caves which were formed after the limestone had been mined for the construction of Chişinău, the underground cellars stretch for over 200 kilometres, going as deep as 120 metres underground.
The underground labyrinths of Cricova and Milestii Mici have been submitted for UNESCO World Heritage status.
The underground cellars are so large, we actually took a car into the labyrinth. Fortunately the driver knew where he was going, driving around in pitch black darkness in tunnels only a few metres high and wide, lined with wine barrels. Quite a surreal experience.
As I was travelling alone, I was added to another English language tour that was organised for an American couple, George and Dot.
We stopped at a few 'sights', like a natural spring and the longest 'street' in the labyrinths and had a long walk in the tunnel where they keep their vintage wines. Hundreds of thousands of wines which had matured in casks for up to 20 years, lie here now waiting for a buyer. And not at particularly high prices either! A 1986 harvest, 18 years maturing on oak and another 6 in the bottle won't set you back more than 20 Euros This must be a sommelier's ultimate wet dream! (and again, these wines have won prizes all over the world, so it's not rubbish either).
We ended at the underground tasting room, which resembled something like the lair of a James Bond villain, with a 20-tonne limestone door shielding the entrance, and the actual tasting room hidden behind a secret door made of wine barrels.
Inside it looked like a secret lair too, with its furnishing being elegantly kitsch.
Inside there was a wall with photos of all the celebrities who had visited the winery. I thought they were stretching it a bit as they were proudly displaying their international celebrity guests: former US president Jimmy Carter, actor Steven Segal and none other than Santa Claus!
Wine tasting consisted of a Pinot Blanc, a 1988 Sauvignon Blanc, a 2002 Cabernet Sauvignon and a Champagnoise. Not the worst wines, me thinks. Even better, after the initial tasting the bottles stayed on the table to drink during the sumptuous lunch that was served.
I'l admit I was feeling slightly light-headed when we came back above ground again.
And then we were given a souvenir of the tour. Normally such a souvenir is a sticker, or a key chain, or if you are lucky a small bottle of wine. In the case of Milestii Mici that souvenir is a goodie bag with two bottles of wine in it: the red Cabernet Sauvignon we had had during the tasting, and a white 1991 Aligote.
1991 - a 19-year old wine. Now you don't give such bottles as souvenirs unless they are crap and you have some excess stock you need to get rid off, right? Well, not in this case, the wine was superb!
The only issue I had was that I would be flying to Istanbul the next day, so I couldn't take the wines with me. And to down two bottles by myself in a single evening went a bit too far. So I gave the bottle of red to my driver as a tip and made a valiant attempt at the bottle of white while updating my blog back at the apartment (I don't think it shows, does it?)
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