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Ukraine’s varieties: An overview of the key local and international grapes planted

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Ukrainian winemaking has demonstrated an exciting culture of experimentation in recent decades, embracing both international and traditional grape varieties across its wine-producing areas.

In partnership with Beykush Winery, Big Wines and SHABO


The result is a wide range of wine styles from hearty, food-worthy reds to delicate, aromatic whites, fortified and sparkling wines as well as brandies.

Ukraine’s flagship grape varieties

Odesa Black

Also known as ‘Alibernet’, the Odesa Black variety is today often seen as the country’s calling card. A cross between Cabernet Sauvignon and Alicante Bouschet, developed at the Tairov Institute of Viticulture and Winemaking in Odesa in 1948, Odesa Black received its name in 1967 and was officially added to the Register of Plant Varieties of Ukraine five years later.

Traditionally, Odesa Black was used to add colour and body to red blends, but in recent years has really come into its own in superb varietal expressions. Predominantly planted in the regions of Odesa and Mykolaiv, the variety is now found in experimental plantings across the country.

A challenging grape to grow, and which can struggle to achieve full ripeness, this red-fleshed variety produces velvety, intense red wines with notes of plum, morello cherry and dark chocolate, accompanied by hints of mint and black pepper, and is sometimes likened to ripe New World Shiraz styles. The variety is used to produce both still, dry expressions and sweet, Port-like wines.

A bunch of black wine grapes

Ukraine has plantings of around 200 different varieties. Credit: Arsen Fedosenko

Telti-Kuruk

With a history of being grown in Ukraine since Ottoman rule, this white Vitis vinifera grape variety can still be found on its own rootstocks in certain sand- dominant vineyards. The variety is characterised by its subtle aromatics and mineral profile, together with a linear acidity. Some Ukrainian producers are also exploring the variety’s exciting potential for bottle ageing.

Telti-Kuruk is grown mainly in the south of the country, and producers are becoming increasingly interested in using it for both still and sparkling wines. The variety takes its name from the Turkish for ‘fox tail’, after the shape of its grape clusters. Telti-Kuruk wines display citrus and floral notes – and riper styles can be distinctly tropical – developing pronounced honeyed character with age.

A flock of birds flying over a vineyard

Wildlife flourishes in Beykush Winery’s vineyards. Credit: Arsen Fedosenko

Sukholimanskyi

A cross between Chardonnay and Plavai, this white variety was developed by the Tairov Institute of Viticulture and Winemaking and is often used in the production of orange wines. Key characteristics include a white floral character, pear aromas and herbal notes.

Citron Magaracha

This white grape variety, developed at the Magarach Institute of Viticulture and Winemaking, is largely grown in Ukraine’s northern vinegrowing regions, due to its frost-hardiness. Characterised by its citrus and tropical profile, it typically produces wines with low acidity.

Other rare local varieties worth seeking out include Bakator, Ekim Kara, Kefesia, Kokur, Leanka, Yarylo and Zagrei.

Rows of vines and cover crops

One of Big Wines’ sustainably managed vineyards in the village of Lambrivka, Bessarabia

Ukrainian viticulture: a culture of innovation and experimentation

With over 200 different varieties planted in Ukraine, many international varieties have found a home here too, offering up a wide range of possible styles and winemaking choices for Ukrainian producers. Blaufrankisch, Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, Pinot Noir, Saperavi and Zweigelt are being used to produce a range of red and rosé styles, in tandem with experimentation with vessel usage, from stainless steel to different varieties of oak (French, American and Ukrainian).

When it comes to white varieties, a broad palette can be found, including Albariño, Aligoté, Chardonnay, Furmint, Muscat Ottonel, Pinot Blanc, Pinot Gris, Riesling, Rkatsiteli, Sauvignon Blanc and Traminer. Experimentation with winemaking choices such as the length of time spent on lees, skin contact and the use of amphorae in fermentation and ageing is giving rise to new, uniquely Ukrainian expressions of popular international grape varieties, making for an ever-growing choice for wine lovers to discover and enjoy.


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