1. Milestii Mici, Moldova
Although Moldova may seem an unlikely place to find – according to Guinness World Records – the world’s largest wine collection, the small Eastern European country is actually a viticultural powerhouse. Close to capital Chisinau, Milestii Mici is a musty, dusty 55km warren of limestone tunnels, with names like Sauvignon Street, and nearly two million densely stacked bottles. Before getting down to tastings to a soundtrack of jaunty accordion music, car-based tours showcase secret caves, hobbit-size doorways and seismic stations used to monitor for earthquakes.
2. Crown Wine Cellars, Hong Kong
Then a secret British Army bunker, Shouson Hill became the last Allied stronghold to fall to the Japanese in 1941 during the Battle of Hong Kong. That tumultuous history explains the blast-proof steel-and-concrete casing of today’s Crown Wine Cellars: a storage facility and ultra-high-end, ultra-exclusive private club. Members can access the thrilling tunnel entrances and eight huge cellars, and hoard their own bottles for enjoyment upon visiting the venue. Fine-dining cuisine and cocktails are also available.
3. Penfolds Magill Estate, Australia
Situated amid green hills just outside the city of Adelaide, historic Penfolds Magill Estate is characterised by its red lettering and spindly, rather twee chimney. That same rouge colouring and country style is also evident in the winemaker’s cellar, which was revamped in 2015. The collonaded, stone-floor hallways are now accompanied by chic, galleried storage rooms – some of which include precious vintages of Grange, Australia’s best-known tipple. Tours are available daily, and can be combined with degustations and tastings.
4. Weltevrede Wine Estate, South Africa
Many wine tastings merge into one, but not the candlelit experience at Weltevrede. Available from Monday to Saturday, tours around this 100-year-old, low-lit den are exceedingly romantic, as well as unhurried. Found in the Robertson Wine Valley, Weltevrede is particularly renowned for its chardonnay. You’ll be guided around the 9,000-bottle cellar, often having to duck spiderwebs and swerve around oaky barrels, before a tasting experience featuring anecdotes of errant nuns and Robben Island, where Nelson Mandela served his prison sentence.
5. Château Les Carmes Haut-Brion, France
Talk about eye-catching: this blade-shaped space looks like the den of a Bond film’s villain. It is, in fact, a Philippe Starck-designed ‘cellar’ for the prestigious Château Les Carmes Haut-Brion, found in Bordeaux. While the estate, known for its eponymous red grand vin, dates to the 16th century, this metallic new facility was unveiled in 2016 as a blend of concrete, steel, wood and glass. Both private and group tours of the entire estate are available by advance arrangement.
6. Jarvis Winery, USA
Forget wine cellars: other than the vines themselves, this entire winery is subterranean. A feat of engineering, Jarvis veers in appearance from geeky wizardry to fairytale waterfalls. Totalling some 4,000 sq m and arranged in a parabolic shape to ensure stability, its numerous white caves have been tunnelled into Napa County’s Vaca Mountains, in California. The final, ultimate chamber is bigger than two basketball courts. Tours of this extraordinary underworld and tastings require advance booking.
7. Enoteca dai Tosi, Italy
The once-impoverished city of Matera – now the 2019 European Capital of Culture in Italy – has been transformed, with its Paleolithic-era sassi (cave dwellings) converted into hip hotels, restaurants and more. One such arrival is the three-storey Enoteca dai Tosi winery, whose amphitheatre-shaped tasting area segues into a murky cellar stocking hundreds of Italian wines. Tours and tastings aren’t limited to wine; also served: a southern Italian take on cicchetti, Venetian small plates.
– TEXT BY RICHARD MELLOR
PHOTOS: INSTAGRAM, PENFOLDS FACEBOOK, CHÂTEAU LES CARMES HAUT-BRION FACEBOOK, PHILIPPE LABEGUERIE (MAIN PHOTO CHÂTEAU LES CARMES HAUT-BRION), JARVIS WINERY FACEBOOK, DELFINO SISTO LEGNANI (ENOTECA DAI TOSI)
This article was originally published by Singapore Press Holdings.