Developed 2,700 years ago, Uzbek viticulture has experienced many torments and has to deal with a complex climate, with winter and summer temperatures often extreme. Since the end of 2017, Uzbekistan has been writing one of the most beautiful pages in its wine history, thanks to a new government promoting the growth of the wine industry.
Mikhail Gorbachev’s prohibition campaign in the USSR between 1985 and 1987, followed by economic isolation after the country’s independence in 1991, put a serious brake on the wine industry.
Under the leadership of Shavkat Mirzioïev, President of the Republic of Uzbekistan since September 2016, viticulture is again at the center of the debate.
This is evidenced by the creation of a faculty for the study of grape varieties and winemaking in Tashkent in 2017, the integration of the country into the OIV (1) at the end of 2018, and the creation of the Agency for the Development of Viticulture and Wine of Uzbekistan in early 2019.
The government of Mr Mirzioïev has also set a target of increasing wine exports by 60% by the end of 2021. Strong, encouraging and promising signals.
But before learning more about Uzbek viticulture and the country's future plans, I was pleased to discover the famous bazaars of Tashkent, along with Ibraim Khodjaev, from the vinicultural Agency.
Here, we enjoyed dried fruit, gigantic strawberries and traditional products of all kinds! We had lunch around a delicious Plov, the symbol of Uzbek food.
A dish traditionally cooked with rice, lamb, carrots, onions and peas. A delight!
This was followed by an exciting meeting with Mr. Otabek Mustafaev, Director of the Agency. “ With almost a third of the total wine-growing area, Tashkent is the main wine region of the country“, Mr. Mustafaev explained. Adding: “the vineyards receive an average of 300 days of sunshine per year. Temperatures regularly reach 40 ° C in summer and -30 ° C in winter, which often means burying the vines. Despite this, our terroir is indisputable.“
To conclude the visit, I had the pleasure of wearing the Chapan, the traditional costume of official ceremonies. A nice moment of exchange and sharing.
The inhabitants of Samarkand already made wine in the 8th century BC. A wine-growing development supposedly linked to the city’s strategic position on the Silk Road.
“During the Soviet era, the wine economy was prosperous. Uzbekistan was a recognized wine country in Central Asia: trains left with up to 55 tank wagons filled with wine for Russia, Kazakhstan or even Kyrgyzstan “, according to Mr. Fyodor Fyodorov, the chief oenologist of Samarkand Winery.
To illustrate his words, Mr. Fyodorov opened a few bottles of sweet wines from 1924, 1934 and 1943 vintages, made from the Buyaki grape variety.
Wines that were still vibrant and full of freshness, with aromas of iodine and fresh nuts. Some of the oldest wine treasures on the planet are sometimes found where we do not expect them!
Another emblem of Samarkand is Bagizagan Estate, just 5 km from the Tajik border. 300 hectares mainly planted with Cabernet Sauvignon, Saperavi and Merlot in red and Rkatsiteli in white, at an altitude of almost 800 m.
The facts are clear: Uzbekistan can produce nice wines. For the moment, the local wine industry is in the midst of reconstruction, and it will surely take time for volume wines to give way to finer vintages. Patience…
Thank you to Samarkand and Bagizagan wineries . for their warm welcome. Thank you to Mr. Otabek Mustafaev, as well as the whole team of the Agency for the Development of Viticulture and Wine of Uzbekistan for their hospitality. Finally, thank you to Ibraim Khodjaev for having so kindly accompanied me throughout my stay.
(1) OIV : International Organisation of Vine and Wine