Last week one of the greatest wine trade fairs in London was held – London Wine Fair 2016. It was 36th time when hundreds-thousands of traders, producers, sommeliers, merchants gathered for different business purposes.
London Wine Fair is an enormous fair. This year I decided to take the fair lightly, just walk around and discover randomly. A withing the first visiting hour I found what I was looking for – something new and exciting as Unearthed Wines. Wines Unearthed is a special section of producers who are seeking business distribution possibilities in the market. Of course, we are talking about not well-known names, nor big brands whatsoever. To my greatest surprise, I discovered to myself Kazak wine. After stumbling on Kazak wine stand and spending half an hour tasting and discussing the wines with right person – MW Sarah Abbott. Later moving on I started wondering to around in thoughts what exactly I know about Kazakstan? Where is it? Who lives there? What they eat and drink?
Kazakstan is independent Central Asian country (former Soviet republic). It is the world’s largest landlocked country by the land area and 9th largest l country in the world. The capital is Astana, where it was moved in 1997 from Almaty.
Viticulture began around 7th century AD. Vines were brought in from China and Uzbekistan.
It has extreme continental climat > during summer it’s can exceed 30 degrees and winter time -20. Interesting fact is that less than 4% of the countrys land is suitable for viticulture. According 2011 oiv stats there was 13,000 ha producing 189,000 hl wine. Commerical viticulture started blooming around 1930s. Nowadays wine is mainly produced in Almaty, Zhambyl, South Kazakhstan and Kyzlorda regions. 21 century brought modern winemaking, investments. Style became more easily approachable for international market. There are 40 grape varities allowed for commercial wine production, 24 out of them are table grapes.. e.g. Rkatsiteli, Riesling, Pinot Noir, Saperavi, Aligote, Aleatico, Bayanshira, Kuljinski, Maisky Cherny, Cabernet Franc, Cabernet Sauvignon, Rubinovy Magaracha, Hungarian Muscat and Muscat Rose.
80% of Kazak wines are produced at the Issyk Winery (40 km east of Almaty). There’s also wineries like Bakhus, Turgen. The winery I found in London Wine Fair is Arba Wine. They are located in Assa Valley, Almaty. They posess old vineyards which are basically Soviet Era heritage. These old vineyards contain ungrafted vines which were left abandoned and deprived of any treatment against diseases for the last 25 years. They display excpetional vitality.
The wines had amazing quality and balance. There has always been certain preconception when trying Eastern European wines, in this case Central Asian wines. I was very surprised how great the wines tasted. The Pinot Noir and Riesling was the best in my opinion.
Continuing along Unearthed Wine section I met many nice producers. Sincerely hope they found their agents and a way to bigger market. They deserve it!