Ukrainian Wine and Grapes Varieties

Friday, August 3rd, 2007 at 12:00 am

Ukraine wineIt might come as a surprise to many but this former USSR state is not known for producing good Vodka but rather is known as a great source of quality wines. Ukraine produces quality white, red, sparkling, and fortified wines. This country is known to grow grapes of various variety including Rkatsiteli, Aligoté, Cabernet Sauvignon, Saperavi, Riesling, Gewürztraminer, and Pinot Gris varieties.

Ukraine has been a developed wine cultivation system since the beginning of the 11th century as artifacts unearthed in the northern Kiev and Chernihiv. Presently, Crimea enjoys the distinction of being Ukraine’s most important wine growing region. The area in fact draws tourists who like wine and wine tasting.

Considered as the best sources of wine in Ukraine, Crimea has the two major wine producers to boast of: the Massandra and Magarach companies. Ukrainian holds itself well against wines from France, California and even Australia.

Common whites are made from Aligoté, Pinot gris, Riesling, Cardonnay, and Traminer varieties. Reds on the other hand come from nothing less than the  king of red wines, Cabernet Sauvignon as well as from Merlot and Pinot Noir varieties.

Red wine varieties

Crowned as the King of red wines, Cabernet Sauvignon is a color intensive dark-red wine that has characteristically full-bodied fragrance and taste of black currants, black currants leaves, smell of violets, cedar and spice.. Together with Chardonnay, Cabernet Sauvignon is one of the most widely-planted grape varieties in the world. It is the main grape in many Bordeaux wines in France.

The grape itself needs to a longer growing season for it to ripen properly and gives low yields. Cabernet Sauvignon constitutes most of the world’s highly regarded wine, like the Red Bordeaux. This is probably the reason why Cabernet Sauvignon grapes have been dubbed as the king of red wines.

Although this grape variety is usually associated with great red wines of Bordeaux, France, places like Italy and the United States have also created red wines that incorporates the Cabernet Sauvignon’s tradition of noble and high grade wines. In fact, California in the US is the second largest grower of Cabernet Sauvignon in the world, next only to Bordeaux of course.

Meanwhile, the Merlot grape variety is used as both a blending grape and a varietal wine. Wines made from Merlot grapes are medium bodied with a touch of berry, plum, and currant. The grape produces a wine that is soft and can be effectively used as a blending grape to the full-bodied Cabernet Sauvignon. The Merlot grape varieties usually come in shades of sweet-cherry and/or cherry. The wine does have an aftertaste that lasts longer than those from most reds.

The last red grape variety that is often cultivate in Ukrainian vineyards is the Pinot Noir variety. This full-bodied, oily wine is often used as a base to blend other wines with. Burgundy, France seems to be the best source of Pinot Noir.

White wine varietals

Let’s begin with Aligoté. Produced both as a varietal wine and as a sparkling wine, the Aligoté white grapes are the fourth most planted wine grape in the world. In Eastern Europe, Ukraine is joined by Bulgaria, Romania, and Moldavia as planters of the Aligoté variety. Similar to France, the Aligoté grapes are used to make sparkling wines in Ukraine and Russia.

Pinot gris, on the other hand, is another white wine grape variety that is commonly planted in Ukraine. With its grayish-blue fruit, the wine produced by the fruits are either deep golden yellow in color with at times even copper and a light shade of pink. The actual wine can be full-bodied, have balance acidity and slight sweetness, can be a little spicy, can be crisp with a taste of pepper, while some will have distinct aromas of fruits like apples and melon. The kind, taste, aroma or white wine production from Pinot gris varieties depends on a which region it is cultivated, harvested and made into wine.

Ukraine also cultivates a rather older variety of white grapes. Called the Riesling, this white grape originated in Germany, Alsace in France, Austria, and northern Italy and are really quite expensive wines. Riesling are late harvest dessert wines, intentionally harvested later than their normal picking time to produce wine with high acidity and sugar concentration. The grape variety is also grown in Romania, Ukraine’s East European neighbor.

The green-skinned Chardonnay grapes are also cultivated in the country. This popular grape variety can be used as a varietal or an unblended white wine. Moreover, the fact that Chardonnay is used extensible as a component of most champagnes, its importance to wine producers worldwide cannot be underscored.

And finally, Ukraine winters plant vineyards with Traminer or otherwise known as Savagnin or Savagnin blanc varieties. Most of the supply of this grapes are grown in Jura in France but vines find themselves far away as the wine regions of Ukraine.