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During the Soviet era, Ukraine had more than 75,000 hectares of vineyards under cultivation and supplied most of the wines to the population of the U S S R.

After the dissolution of the “Empire”, the vineyards suffered a setback due to lack of demand. Soviet central planners decreed that vineyards were to be planted to produce excessive yields and the resulting wines were of predictably poor quality. Soviet planners were more interested in quality rather than quality. Statistically higher numbers appealed to the ruling class more than quality ever did.  The industry waxed and wained in Ukraine because it suffered numerous raids from nomadic tribes, witnessed long periods of war and poor planning.

     Ukraine’s vitiviniculture has been traced back to fourth century B C. The climate of the Crimean Peninsula is very conducive for viticulture. Ukraine’s climate and geography are generally suitable for grape growing particularly southern Ukraine’s a continental climate.  With 290 days of frost-free days all grapes are harvested ripe and some overripe.

     Crimea has the largest area devoted to viticulture (63,000 hectares), Odessa (50,000), Kherson (20,000); Nikolayev (15,000), Transpcarpathia (7000) and Zaporozhy (2000).

     Yields have been too high (occasionally exceeding 200 Hectolitres which corresponds to 11 tonnes of fruit per acre or 26 metric tonnes per hectare), but now they have been dramatically reduced to increase quality.

     The Institute in Magarach is the most famous of all research establishments. It also operates significant hectares of vineyards among with experimental plots.

     The most popular grapes of Ukraine are: Rkatsiteli, Aligote, Saperavi, Riesling, Sauvignon Vert, Gew├╝rztraminer, Pinot gris, Sercial, Feteasca, Bastardo, Cabernet Sauvignon, Bastardo Magarach, Golubuk, Saperavi severnyi, Pervenets Magaratcha, Fieltovy Rami, Podarok Magaratcha, Karmraiut, Stepniak, Olimpiiski, and Sorok let Otiabria.

     Due to decreased demand for wine, many vineyards are now being diverted to table-grape production. Of all the regions, Crimea has the most favourable soil and climate for viticulture. Here the Massandra Winery enjoys a good reputation for long-lived fortified wines resembling Madeiras and Sherries.

     Ukraine’s sparkling wine production continues to prosper. Russians and Ukrainians like sweet sparkling wines, and even economically hard times have continued to consume copious quantities.  Most of the sparkling wine is produced around large cities lie, Kiev, Lvov, Odessa and Kharkow. Most of the production is based on Pinot Blanc, Aligote, Riesling and Feteaska. Visitors to Yalta, a famous resort city on the Crimean Peninsula, should not miss the opportunity to visit Magarch Wine Institute to sample some of their 20,000 different wines derived from 3,200 vine species. The vast majority are uninspiring, but a few sweet wines deserve the attention of serious wine consumers.

Article contributed by Hrayr Berberoglu, a Professor Emeritus of Hospitality and Tourism Management specializing in Food and Beverage. Books by H. Berberoglu

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