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Wine cellar to be built inside rock of Gibraltar

A wine cellar with the capacity to hold 850,000 cases of wine is to be built inside the rock of Gibraltar, creating what could be the “world’s largest” underground wine cellar.

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An artist’s impression of the entrance to the wine cellar

Best-known for its population of wild monkeys, the rock of Gibraltar is also home to 32 miles of tunnels, built by the Royal Engineers ahead of the Second World War at a time when British authorities feared an attack was imminent.

While access has been restricted, many of the tunnels are large enough to fit two 10-ton trucks next to each other, with the chambers said to be “the height of cathedrals”, according to Tracey Lee of Gibraltar Wine Vaults, who is undertaking the project.

“Our intention is to develop the largest underground wine storage facility in the world,” said Lee. “We have the perfect conditions within the rock: 70 to 80% humidity, 13 to 14 degrees, no light, no vibrations.”

Much of the tunnel system has been handed over by the Ministry of Defence to the Government of Gibraltar over the years, which has used the space for storage and car parking, according to reports in the local press.

However the government has spoken out in support of the project, believing its could help boost wine tourism in Gibraltar.

“The government welcomes the project to convert part of that network into a facility for wine storage as this represents a new area of economic activity for Gibraltar”, said Dr Joseph Garcia, Gibraltar’s deputy chief minister. “It is entirely a private sector commercial project. Gibraltar Wine Vaults is therefore a welcome addition to the local economy bringing revenue here but also creating jobs for managing the wine storage facility as well as the interpretation centre. This is a great example of our commitment to the preservation, promotion and sustainable management of Gibraltar’s heritage, working in tandem with local entrepreneurialism to promote a sound business operating on a global stage.”

The facility will be able to house £60 million worth of investment wines in its first phase, with the second phase expanding its capacity to house a further 850,000 cases of wine. Lee also plans to build a visitor centre detailing Gibraltar’s historical relationship with wine.

Construction is expected to start at the end of this month, with completion set for mid 2017.

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