A wine culture existed as early as the 4th century BC on the southern coast of the Crimean peninsula, from which time wine presses and amphorae have been found. In the northern part, however, it developed much later from the 11th century onwards through monks. In the Middle Ages, the Genoese, who owned Sudak at the time, traded Crimean wines throughout Europe. Under Catherine II. (1729-1796), the Crimean peninsula became part of the Russian Empire in 1783. Her favourite Grigory Alexandrovich Potyomkin (1739-1791) made it arable and also promoted viticulture. The count imported vines from Italy, Spain and France, where the climate was very similar to that in the Crimea. Especially the soil around the town of Sudak was very fertile. Here lies the aptly named Solnechnaya Dolina (Sun Valley) with 300 days of sunshine a year and a large winery of the same name. Near Yalta, Count Mikhail Vorontsov (1782-1856) had vineyards planted and a large winery built in 1820. He then founded the Magarach Wine Institute nearby in 1828.
Special credit for Russian viticulture goes to the German scientist Peter Simon Pallas (1741-1811), who was brought to the country by Catherine II and who planted large vineyards in the Sudak region. He was the first to describe in detail some 40 indigenous grape varieties. Prince Lev Golitsyn founded the still existing winery Novy Svet (New World) in Sudak in 1878. A sparkling wine was first produced in 1799 in the climatically favoured towns of Sudak and Alushta. However, the quantities were insignificant. Golitsyn is considered the founder of the famous Crimean spark ling wine (Shampanskoye Krimskoye). By order of Tsar Nicholas II (1868-1918), he also founded what is now the Massandra State Winery. In the mid-1980s, Mikhail Gorbachev (*1931) initiated an anti-alcohol campaign. Extensive clearing reduced the vine population from 225,000 hectares to less than 100,000 hectares. This set back viticulture by decades.
In February 2014, civil war-like conditions ensued. The "Crimean crisis" subsequently led to a referendum in which supposedly the majority of the population of Crimea voted in favour of joining the Russian Federation (according to estimates, however, it was only around 30-50% of the Crimean population, of which around 50-60% were in favour of secession). Ukraine continues to see Crimea as an autonomous republic and part of its own territory, while Russia sees it as its own federation. The UN declared the referendum invalid by a large majority.
Cultivation areas, vineyards & grape varieties
Ukraine consists of four large wine-growing regions. These are by far the largest area in the southwest around the city of Odessa with about half of the total area, the peninsula Crimea on the Black Sea with about a third, the Transcarpathian region bordering Slovakia, Hungary and Romania, and the area south of the Dnieper River near the cities of Kherson and Dnipropetrovsk. The continental climate is characterised by hot summers and severe and frosty winters that can reach over minus 30 °Celsius. Well-known branded wines are Kagor, Naddniprjanske and Chorny Doktor. In 2019, the vineyards covered a total of around 41,500 hectares of vines, from which 1.33 million hectolitres of wine were produced (source Winegrowers' Association of Ukraine). The 25,166 hectares listed below in 2016 are presumably the wine grapes (Kym Anderson statistics). Around 180, mostly autochthonous grape varieties are cultivated.