Wine tourism in Ukraine: hidden gems with real sparkle

Ukraine may be known as Europe’s breadbasket, but all those loaves naturally need a few well-chosen bottles to wash them down with. The nation’s vineyards aren’t all that well-known outside its borders, but those lucky enough to visit might be surprised by what they find.

If you’d struggle to name a Ukrainian winery, you’re probably not alone. Ukrainian wine tends to be drunk locally or in Russia, and rarely makes it to Western Europe or the US. Fortunately, Donetsk is located conveniently near some rising stars of the wine world, providing the perfect opportunity to educate yourself on the hidden gems of Ukraine.

The local

Ukraine’s most prized wines have traditionally been those produced in the Crimea, but Donetsk’s Artemovsk Winery has more recently made a splash as the largest manufacturer of sparkling wine in Eastern Europe. The winery follows the traditional method made famous by the French Champagne region, producing their bottles at a depth of 72 metres underground. Over 25 hectares of underground galleries and plaster tunnels maintain a carefully constructed ideal microclimate that produces perfectly sparkling wine.

A day trip

If you think that an excursion sounds rather more distinguished than a tour, you’re correct. The Artemovsk wine ‘excursion’ lasts an impressive two and a half hours, ending with a tasting of six wine samples. You will be talked in detail through every stage of the production process – in Russian, though an English interpreter is offered – while the ornate carvings in the plaster walls create the illusion that you’ve entered into an old Eastern European fairy tale. Get a head start by checking the online bar for guides to wine etiquette and food matches for white, rosé and red fizz.

Further afield

If you thought Artemovsk was a sizeable establishment, the Magarach Institute in Crimea makes it seem tiny by comparison. Set up by Czar Nicholas I in 1928, Magarach still operates as the scientific research station of the Ukrainian wine industry. The institute’s website claims that Magarach wines produce miracles – and with 20,000 different wines to be sampled, it could take you a while to prove them wrong. It may be a bit of a drive from Donetsk, but for true oenophiles, it’s certainly one for the bucket list.

By the sea

While you’re in the Crimea, take the chance to journey on to Sevastopol: an experimental base for new champagnes, which are developed in factories throughout the Ukraine and Russia. The Sevastopol winery has won a host of accolades, including a 2010 ‘best sparkling wine’ award for Sevastopol red, although anyone with a taste for sweeter wines might prefer sipping on the delectable Muscat rose.

The wind-down

Once you’re settled back in Donetsk, it’s time to make the most of your newfound knowledge. The list of sparkling wines at acclaimed restaurant Bruderschaft should be filled with recognisable names by now, so select an established favourite or ask the waiter for their perfect pairing. Don’t be fooled by the German name – the food and wine that arrives on your table here is suitably Ukrainian, with the olivye salad a particular highlight.