A Taste of Azerbaijan
 September 07 2011, 12:05

I tasted three wines from the foothills of the Caucasus in Azerbaijan last night. None was particularly good, nor could I even read the labels to see what they actually were, but it set me to think - especially considering the invitations being extended to Asian journalists for a tour in November - about wine production in those vast, to me unknown regions lodged between the mountains and the Caspian Sea. With their vast diversity of microclimates depending on location, altitude, latitude, orientation and steepness, there is certainly much untapped potential. While generally a continental climate, they apparently vary from moderately warm with dry winters to very cool with rainy winter seasons. We have all, of course, read about the archaeological finds there, of stone fermentation 'tanks' and storage vessels that include wine residue and grape seeds dating back to the second millennium before Christ, but I was surprised to read that the region blossomed again as a wine centre in the early 19th century. In particular, Germans from Württemberg were relocated here by Tsar Alexander I. Once famous German family businesses such as Vohrer Brothers and Hummel are said to have made wine production competitive with Europe. Even the church in Hellendorf's main focus was grape farming, as is evident in this old photograph. Today, the country's largest producer, Vinagro, also operates from a plant in Ganja founded by German immigrants in 1860. Trollinger? Not likely. The names I see on the list of indigenous varieties such as Shani, Derbendi, Gamashara, Ganja, Bendi, Madrasa, Zeynabi, Misgali, Khindogni, Kechiemdzhei, Tebrizi or Marandi are unlikely to ever become household words. The only one we my ever understand is Nail, but it does not really sound like anything we'd want to drink. A path to follow? Probably.Comments


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