Black Sea Viticulture: a rich mix of cultures, stories and traditions from ancient times that deserves a toast

When the ancient Greeks settled north of the current Black Sea in the 7th century BC they immediately found the difficulty of navigating its waters. 'Inhospitable sea', the Greeks baptized it not only because those wild waters but for the hostility of the tribes that inhabited their coasts. The term 'Black' was associated with the color that the waters of this sea took during the hard winter storms (according to the sailors). What wines did these sailors from Eastern Europe drank (and drink currently)? What wine culture is there in the 6 countries surrounding this sea with 436.400 km2 wide?


The Georgian people have produced wine since ancient times. Neither seljuks, romans, sassanids, abbasids, armenians, sovietics and separatists have slowed the passion for wine in this Land. Even before Christianity here (century I), Georgians believed in the god of wine: Dionysos.

The wine is made here through the
Georgian method: with 500 native grape varieties, giant clay vessels (kvevris) and a long time of maturing. This millenary method has achieved that the wine has the same flavor today as in 7000 BC without losing quality. Each house has its own cellar and is the most sacred place for Georgians.

During the Soviet era the Georgian method was abandoned to establish a mass production capable of quenching the thirst of the proletariat. The Soviet elites, who ruled Georgia since 1921 to 1991 nationalized family vineyards for that purpose. Only the excedents were private.
An agitated XX century, but when there is georgian wine, dance and faith any country is invincible.

Yes, Georgians love wine


Most of the northern sections of the country are too cold and gloomy to produce wine, but the favorable conditions further south are much closer to the Azov, Black and Caspian seas. The most interesting producing areas are near the Black Sea (Krasnodar produces 50%), the Don Valley (Rostov red wines) and Stavropol region (Caucasus) for the production of mostly dry and sweet white wines, where the Praskoveya and Budyonnovsk wineries stand out. The sweet and fortified wines of Massandra (Crimea) were famous when they were served in the Livadia palace, summer residence of the tsars. 

When the republics of the Soviet Union formed a single state, they produced 48.000.000 hectoliters of wine in 1980, being USSR the 3rd / 4th wine productor in the world. The raw material came from the Moldavian SSR, Georgian SSR, Azerbaijan SSR or south of Russian RSFS. Everything changed after the dismemberment of the Soviet regime, and the immense wineries gave way to a viticulture that faces many challenges to reach quality levels.
<< Your wine is not good guys, go to gulag! >>

Culturally, wine has been considered as an 'inferior' drink comparated to others with more traditional such as vodka or beer. In addition to ignorance about wine, anyone has never really thought that good wine can be made in Russia. The most appreciated wine by the Russians is the sweet or the one with residual sugars, which usually accompany desserts, such as Porto or Muscat VDN.


The current Ukrania has a good place for viticulture in the southern part of the country, on the Black Sea edge, with a latitude close to that of the Oregon wine region. The first traces of vines are recorded on the Krim peninsula thanks to the Hellenic colons before Jesus-Christ.

In the XI century the monks will be in charge of taking over the Scythians, arriving from central Asia and planting vineyards in the north of the countryIn the XX century (
1920s and 1930s) many vineyards were destroyed during the Soviet repression of peasants. From there, the priority was quantitative production, as was the case in Georgian SSR, Moldavian SSR, Hungarian PR, Romanian RPR or Bulgarian PRB.

Currently Zacarpats'ka is a quality wine oblast, a neighbor of the Hungarian Tokaj vineyard, is known for its dry white wines made from the Riesling, Traminer and Leanka grape varieties. This forested and mountainous region called in the past Transcarpathia is reviving grape varieties destroyed by Soviet collectivised agriculture.


Romania produces wine for over 4ooo years. It was the Romans who extended viticulture in this part of his empire. Here, the environmental conditions are characterized by Carpați Mountains from north to east, the Dunărea River in the south and the Black Sea in the east with a huge temperature variation from summer to winter. Temperature variation that forces the vines to root around Carpați Mountains forming a circle, also in the Transilvaniei plateau and in the regions near the Black Sea.

During the Middle Ages the viticulture is based in Romania, in XIV and XV centuries the popularity of Cotnari wines (northeast, a few kilometers from Besarabia border) born. Cotnari was the fief of an important Roman-Catholic community composed of Germans and Hungarians where the French monks arrived to plant vineyards with their own seeds. Phylloxera arrived in 1880 to Romania and destroys 60% of the vineyard (including indigenous cépages), it is not until the end of the II WW when are replanted the affected surfaces with imported rootstocks .

With the proclamation of the Socialist Republic of Romania and in the framework of a collectivized economy, quality wine is sacrificed for the benefit of big productions. Exports are made to other countries in Eastern Europe and slightly improves the wine industry. In 1989 Nicolae Ceaucescu's Romania sinks and with him the wine sector falls. This ballast has will left Romania as a secondary reference in the European wine scene but anyway as a land of great white wines, especially demi-sec wines and singular cépages like Fetească or Grasă.


The Bulgarian vineyard is one of the least known in Europe but full of history. The ancient Bulgarians (the Thracians people) were exceptional warriors and winemakers. This fact made this drink take a dimension that did not exist in other south-Europe places, because is in this land where the god of wine appeared... Dionysus !!.

During the Roman rule, Bulgarian viticulture was booming until the Empire's collapse and sinking. This sector was not reborn until the
First Bulgarian Empire (681 to 1018 a.C), even excessively. During the Byzantine Empire, viticulture is maintained and evolves commercially thanks to its strategic position between the West and the East. The Ottoman occupation of the Balkan peninsula (s. XIV and XV) meant, despite Islamic law, the production of small-scale wine.

The Bulgarian National Revival (1878) not only returned independence to Bulgaria but a new way winemaking. Thanks to a new technology and more hygienic processus, the native varieties quality wine is elaborated by the first Cooperatives and they begin to be known. But the happyness is short... Four (4) wars from 1885 to 1945 that will face Bulgaria against the Ottomans, their Balkan neighbors, the Allied and the IIWW two belligerents sides.

The wars ends and Bulgaria stay in 1946 communist and with its definitive borders. The wine during the People's Republic will break production records thanks to the Sovietic demand. The wine industry was logically nationalized but by the 80's the quantity begins to be abandoned and the quality is sought. With the USSR fall in 1990 private interests put their hands in the Bulgarian vineyard and in this way the first capitalist projects were born.


The climatic conditions of the Anatolia peninsula have always allowed viticulture, especially in the more coastal areas. The Hittites established viticulture in the current Turkey before Jesus-Christ. That pre-Islamic empire made viticulture flourish, especially on the Aegean coast. Seljuqs from Central Asia are installed in Anatolia and as an Islamic people banned the winemaking but not of table grapes. After the IWW Atatürk stablish the new Turkish state basis in secular and modern values, which means that viticulture is once again legal. Türkiye is currently very strong in grape production but acquiring alcohol stays very expensive.

1 comentario:

  1. All the countries in the black sea have at least a few award-winning wines so the best way to find out seems to be to organize a complete tour from the east of Turkey (Elazığ has some really good wine) to the west of Ukraine.