NUCLEAR SHELTER IN KAKHETI TURNED INTO A WINE CELLAR
06 November, 2014
NUCLEAR SHELTER IN KAKHETI TURNED INTO A WINE CELLAR
During the Cold War, a secret underground tunnel was built in Kvareli to serve as a bomb shelter in case of a nuclear attack. Today, however, it is a repository for Kakheti’s finest wines.

In the middle of the 1950s, as the Cold War was gathering momentum worldwide, both United States and USSR were busy building nuclear weapons. But a means of attack also required a means of defense, and thus the necessity of nuclear bomb shelters appeared – underground
installations that could weather a nuclear strike. Some of America’s more resourceful citizens built individual shelters beneath their homes. The Soviet Union had nothing of the sort. It created shelters that could accommodate entire crowds. One such shelter was dug in Georgia as well, in the massive rock of the Caucasus Mountains.
The Kvareli nuclear shelter consisted of two 500-meter-long main tunnels and 13 smaller tunnels connecting them. Their total length comprised 7.7 kilometers. In 1962, however, it became clear that the shelter would fail to live up to its original purpose, possibly due to the fact that it couldn’t fully satisfy safety standards that would ensure protection from a nuclear strike. After the shelter was decommissioned, Kakhetian winemakers quickly took interest in it. The reason for this was a peculiar fact: Regardless of the season and the weather, the shelter maintains an internal temperature of 12-14°C, which is ideal for storing and aging wine.
By the end of February 2014 the building attained another, no less interesting and important function. Supported by Georgia’s Ministry of the Agriculture, National Wine Agency and the “Megvineoba Khareba” (Winery Khareba) organization, UNESCO named the Georgian method of storing wine in kvevri (giant clay jugs) part of its intangible cultural heritage and added it to the corresponding list.
So the Kvareli nuclear shelter, the integrity of which was fortunately never put to the test, was turned into a storehouse for wine, regardless of whether it comes in kvevri or bottles. Meghvineoba Khareba currently has up to 25,000 bottles stored there.


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