Friday, September 7, 2007

Mileşti Mici (Joni)

Sorry for the lack of posts recently! We're having difficulties getting internet hooked up at home, and we haven't been to the office in a couple of days because we've been around town working on our work permits. The good news is, though, that WE HAVE THEM!!!! We went and picked them up on Wednesday afternoon. This, however, is not the last step in the process. This morning we dropped the brand new permits off at a different office to get something else. We're not even sure what it is we're getting this time, but they told us to come pick them up on September 22. So we will! Praise the Lord, though, that we passed this MAJOR hurdle of getting permission to live here for our full intended term, and please keep praying that He will bring the process to completion.

On to the title of this post: Alcohol is a large part of Moldovan society. There is even a Chisinau brand of beer that is manufactured and bottled right here in the city. However, Moldova is known all over Europe for its good wine. When we discovered that one of its finest vineyards is just a few minutes outside of Chisinau, we had to go visit and find out how they do it! So we, together with the Staffords and Kelly, booked a tour.The name of the place is Mileşti Mici (pronounced mee-lesh-tee meech). It's about 15 minutes outside of Chisinau, and we managed to get a tour that included transportation. So a van picked us up at 9:30 am, we arrived at Mileşti Mici at about 9:50, and our tour started at 10. The coolest thing about this wine-making facility is that it is all underground! They have miles of tunnels in which they make, mix, store, age, and bottle wine. Our tour guide (a 19-year-old Moldovan girl who spoke excellent English) said that about 70% of the wine they make is red, 20% is white, and the other 10% is sweet and sparkling wines.When they first make the wine, they store it in giant barrels and let it age for varying amounts of time. Then, they bottle it and store it in their miles and miles of storage. (They are, in fact, in the Guiness Book of World Records as being the largest underground wine-making facility in the world, and also having the largest collection of wine stored!) When it has aged according to their desire, they put it up for sale. It sounds simple, but there was a lot that goes into the process!One of the things we found most interesting about Mileşti Mici was a tidbit from its history. Apparently, in 1985, the Soviets outlawed the manufacture or consumption of alcohol (Our guide said that was because too many of them were spending their days drunk instead of working!), so they came in and destroyed the whole facility, including their massive reserves of wine. However, they had a secret room hidden behind a moveable wall (the middle section in the picture below), in which they hid as much as they could. So now there is only a small amount left of any of their wine from before 1985, and that stuff is really only for collectors now. All of the wine they sell now was made in 1986 or after, because they repealed the law less than one year later!So we had an excellent time seeing this unique part of Moldovan culture and history.

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