Despite all, wine is still being made in Ukraine and being sold around the world.
With 200 grape varieties, over 100 wineries and 2,800 years of winemaking history, Ukrainian Wine Company UK, presenting the Wines of Ukraine brand, has just opened a London office.
Ukrainian Wine Company UK is a new organisation made up of 15 members – all craft wineries from across the regions of the country. 13 wineries, over 80 wines from six of Ukraine’s wine regions are set to host the first UK trade tasting on 9th October at London’s 67 Pall Mall, showcasing approximately 60 wines. Styles including sparkling, unfiltered orange wines and sweet wines, as well as still reds, whites and rosés.
While several attending wineries already sell wines in the UK, others are seeking to expand distribution. These include the lukuridze family’s Shabo Winery with its Terit Kuruk Reserve, Sparkling Odesa Prestige, the Plachkov family’s Kolonist, Fathers Wine from Ternopil, Chateau Chizay in Zakarattia and the Beykush Winery next to the Black Sea in Mykolaiv region. Its vineyards comprise 14 hectares of French, Italian, Georgian and indigenous grape clones. Annual production is around 50,000 bottles.
Available to taste will be grape varieties like Sukholimansky, Timorasso and Rkatsyteli, as well as wines fermented in “tinajas” clay amphorae. These retail at £22.
Svitlana Tsybak, the organisation’s co-founder, said the team’s mission is to:
“Promote Ukrainian wines worldwide, present Ukraine as a winemaking country, and tell everywhere and everyone that Ukraine has its own place in the winemaking world.”
Ukrainian wine has experienced a renaissance over the last two decades, according to Tsybak:
“And now it is time to show our wines in the UK. This is one of the most important markets for us, not least because of the country’s Ukrainian winemakers are dealing with the horrors and challenges of Russian aggression every day. Some wineries have suffered more than others.
The full-scale war unleashed by Russia significantly affects the state of the industry – some wineries are occupied, some are damaged and looted, vineyards are mined and not cultivated, the local market has shrunk. But we continue our fight.”
Producers already distribute to Norway, Sweden, Estonia and Germany.
Winemaking in Ukraine goes back to the 4th century BC (in Crimea) and nearly 3000 in the present-day Odesa Region.
Under Catherine The Great, Count Vorontsov established a winery near Yalta. The viticulture research institute Magarach was founded in 1828. In 1822, Swiss winegrowers from the Vaud canton had founded a wine-making settlement at Shabo (Chabag). They later founded colonies on the Dnieper. Prince Lev Goliysyn first made Russian “Champagner” after the 1854-6 Crimean War at Noyvi Svet. The predecessor of Massandra, today’s state winery, was founded under the last Tsar, Nicholas 11 (1868–1918).
With Russia’s 2014 invasion of Crimea, the country’s major winegrowing and producing region, Ukraine lost more than half its bottled wines and 17,000 hectares of vineyard, mostly semi-sweet and dessert wines. Western-style dry wines, especially in Transcarpathia and the southern Odessa and Kherson regions were positively affected.
Tania Olevska of the Ukrainian Wine Company UK, says:
“We definitely know about two ruined wineries in Kherson region, Prince Trubetskoi Winery – the oldest Chateau in Ukraine, settled in 1895 – has been destroyed and the vineyard mined. The oldest wine collection was drunk or smashed.
“Chateau Kurin was totally burnt by Russians. Wine makers and wine growers from the Beykush winery in Ochakiv permanently work under the missile fire. Near Kyiv, Cassia Wines and MMXX have been attacked but continue production.
“One winemaker was killed in the first days of war. Sergiy Zolotar made wines for the Vinoman winery. Several sommeliers have been killed in the fighting.
“Many sommeliers are now fighting defending our country.”
One wine available at the tasting is a dry white Citronniy Magaracha made by Graevo in the city of Zaporizhzhia. The front line is only 50kms away. The vineyards are now in occupied territory, so no grapes are coming in.
“Graevo” means “Enjoy life with good wines”.
Kevin Pilley is a former professional cricketer and chief staff writer of PUNCH magazine. His humour, travel, food and drink work appear worldwide, and he has been published in over 800 titles.
Photographs courtesy of Wines of Ukraine