The Rock of Gibraltar

One of the best cases of silver lining we’ve heard all year: it just so happens that World War II-era tunnels in the Rock of Gibraltar have the perfect conditions for wine storage—conditions that’ll no longer go to waste when a project to convert the tunnels begins later this month. As Tracy Lee of Gibraltar Wine Vaults told The Guardian, “our intention is to build the largest underground wine storage facility in the world.”

But wait, let’s back up. For those of us who don’t know our Gibraltar facts, a quick primer: Gibraltar is what’s called a British Overseas Territory, basically sovereign property of the Queen and Pippa Middleton probably—we don’t quite know how the monarchy works. It’s actually located on the tip of the Iberian Peninsula, well south of Britain itself (Spain and England feuded over the territory). Among its many cool features—including Europe’s only population of wild monkeys, the famous Barbary macaques—is the Rock of Gibraltar, a giant limestone promontory that basically dominates the area.

For a variety of reasons, none of them having to do with wine storage, most of them having to do with warfare, the British army dug tunnels into the Rock over the centuries. By now there are about 34 miles of tunnels in total, most of them built during World War II. Since underground bunkers and munitions caches aren’t as necessary these days, the tunnels have continued to serve as a major tourist attraction for Gibraltar (along with those monkeys, who, we are told, once attacked Jason Biggs).

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But that’s all changing, thanks to Ms. Lee, who saw a different kind of potential in the limestone rock. “The perfect conditions,” as she told The Guardian, for wine storage: “70 to 80% humidity, 13 to 14 degrees [Centigrade], no light, no vibrations.” In fact, conditions are so good, it’s expected the wine vault, once finished (Lee says mid-2017), will house some seriously expensive, investment-grade wines in its projected 850,000 bottle collection. Meaning, even if war does break out, those tunnels still won’t be the worst place to hide.