Wine Regions of Europe – Ukraine

Most of Ukraine is too cold for wine grape production, but its southern reaches near or along the Black Sea and the Sea of Azov have a long tradition of winemaking. When Ukraine was part of the Russian Empire, its wines from its Crimean peninsula were prized by the imperial court of the Tsar. Later, Ukraine became the USSR’s largest wine producer. In 1986, Soviet Premier Mikhail Gorbachev decided that abuse of alcohol was ruining the country and began a veritable crusade against the grape, decimating Ukraine’s vineyards (as well as those of the rest of the USSR). Five year later, in 1991, despite Gorbachev’s temperance crusade, the Soviet Union dissolved, and Ukraine became an independent country. Its wine industry began to recover, only to see its prime vineyard region, the Crimean peninsula, annexed by Russia in 2014. In keeping with the nearly worldwide refusal to recognize the annexation, we include the Crimea as a Ukrainian wine region here. In addition to the Crimea, Ukraine’s southern looking wine regions include the area called Bessarabia adjacent to wine-rich Moldova, Carpathian Ruthenia, and Southern Ukraine, covering the Black Sea coast west of the Crimea as well as the southern Dnieper River region. Major grape varieties include Aligoté, Muscat, Traminer, Chardonnay, the Georgian grape Rkatsiteli, and Pinot Gris among whites, Cabernet Sauvignon, Pinot Noir, and the American Isabella grape among reds. Sparkling wine is produced in Ukraine’s large cities from Pinot Blanc, Aligoté, Riesling and Fetească.