Russia is the largest wine producer in Eastern Europe, but does
not make enough wine to satisfy the domestic demand and is
therefore also one of the largest wine importers.
While vodka is the most famous and popular alcoholic beverage,
Russia is historically best known for sparkling wine. The best is
said to come from the Crimea, which is now part of the Ukraine.
Most imports to Russia are inexpensive bulk wine from Soviet Union
countries such as Bulgaria or from overproducers in Europe like
Spain. Given the domestic demand and perceived overall low quality
of wine, little Russian wine is exported and is rarely seen
Ukrainian wine has yet to find an export market in the rest of
the world. The Crimean Peninsula, which is practically an island in
the Black Sea, has the best viticultural growing conditions in any
of the former Soviet Union countries and is the main production
area for the Ukraine.
Bulgaria and Romania have spent most of the last century making
large volumes of bulk wine to be shipped to the Soviet Union and
have struggled to restore quality to its wine industries since the
fall of Communism. Many vineyards are being replanted with
international grape varieties, but exports to the West have so far
been minimal, most of the production still follows the old routes
into Russia or other Eastern European countries.
However the entry of both of these countries into the EU in 2007
is expected to lead to increased investment and influx of
winemaking expertise eventually. Both countries have already
adopted appellation systems based on the EU model with quality
wines being designated 'Controliran' in Bulgaria and DOC in
Of all the old Soviet controlled satellite states Hungary is
most famous for its wine with a rich and centuries old tradition.
The flagship of its production is the dessert wine 'Tokaji'
(previously known as Tokay). This lusciously sweet wine managed to
survive the Soviet control. It is made in northeastern Hungary,
mostly around the town of Tokaj (hence the name), which has an
ideal climate for encouraging the development of botrytis in the
Tokaji is produced in varying levels of sweetness, referred to
in 'puttonyos'. Three- or four-puttonyo Tokaji is moderately sweet
with an alcohol content of around 14 percent. The highest level of
seven puttonyos is known as Tokaji Aszú Essencia and is the
sweetest version with a lower alcohol level of around 10 percent.
Primary grapes used for Tokaji are Furmint and the native
Hárslevelü, which provide enough acidity and aromatic character to
keep the wine from being too cloyingly syrupy.
About seventy percent of the Hungary's wine production is white,
but there is a full-bodied red made from Kadarka grapes, called
Bikavér or 'Bull's Blood' that is somewhat familiar in the