Whether you’re a serious imbiber, part-time partaker or simply searching for a once-in-a-lifetime sojourn, we’ve got your next adventure unquestionably queued up. Head to the Republic of Moldova, where surprisingly, hiding beneath a secluded section of Europe lies miles and miles of a cavernous underground wine city, so vast, accessibility is best by motorbike. While there are stunning, sun-drenched river tours of the French Burgundy regions, and Tuscany is firmly entrenched on many oenophile’s most opulent of bucket lists, the Republic of Moldova is a wine-lover’s dark horse must-do.
Situated between Romania and Ukraine, is the Republic of Moldova – an understated, perhaps underrated place but massively rich in tradition and wine culture, dating back thousands of years.
Photography: David Hoffmann
The Republic of Moldova is a self-proclaimed "country with open doors in the paradise of wine," because wine production is the basic occupation of Moldavians and, well, everybody is welcomed. Rolling hills, sun-dappled plains, languishing, lazy rivers and a moderate climate shaped by the Black Sea basin provide ideal conditions to grow grapes, rivaling other vibrant vineyard regions across the continent. Underneath this idyllic landscape and the open arms of the Moldovian welcoming wine committee (we imagine there is one), lies the Guinness Book of World Records largest wine collection in the world by number of bottles. It isn’t simply a cellar, it’s a city. An underground city, winding through 150 miles of twisting tunnels, best seen by motorbike. BOOM.
Photo: Go Adventure | The Travel Guide to Moldova
Mileștii Mici winery is the oldest place of storage of the Moldavian “holy drink.” Every “street” of the cavernous, underground Mileștii Mici winery, aka wine city, carries the name of a certain grape like Pinot or Cabernet Sauvignon. You’ll need to rent a motorbike or small, compact car in order to see the almost 2 million bottles of wine stored in this former limestone mine’s beautiful, dusty and perfectly temperate tunnels. You’ll tour with an expert guide, weaving past a natural underwater cascade, the most prized vintages, and into a tasting room some 200 feet underground. Temperatures in the subterranean space stay consistently in the mid-50s Fahrenheit. That perfect temp, plus constant humidity creates ideal conditions for aging almost two million bottles of wine to perfection.
The "Golden Collection" of Milestii Mici is the pride of the whole country according to the website. The wines stored here are made from crops of various years, beginning with 1969: Pinot, Traminer, Muscat, Riesling, Feteasca, Dnestrovscoie, Milestscoie, Codrum, Trandafirul Moldovei, Auriu, Cahor-Ciumai and others. All the wines are made according to the old Moldavian traditions so “you can feel the sunshine and the power of the earth in every drop.” The labels are criss-crossed with maps, covered with spider webs and sealed with wax.
Photography: The Travel Guide to Moldova
What a tease these shady boulevards of wine bouquets would be without a taste. Luxurious tasting halls, some 200 meters underground, cool in the summer and heated by oversized fireplaces in the winter, bring about a warmth and fine finish to this underground wine city. Wines are paired with traditional Moldovian dishes in a family feast style atmosphere. After several years of storage in the collection, the wines acquire rich bouquets and aromatic notes – vanilla, cherries, blackberries, prunes and even astringent cardamom. You’ll taste crisp whites and earthy, bold reds, young and old, aged in a cavernous dusty corner of the world where everyone is welcomed. Tasting the best of someone’s life, the product of thousands of years of practice, where wine is so prized an entire underground city is erected around it’s preservation and aged perfection, sounds like a serious bucket list sojourn to us.