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A Swig first - wines from Ukraine!

By chance, I was in the same drinking hole as a much respected Master of Wine. He tapped me on the shoulder and said, 'Robin, you must meet Vitalii, a winemaker from Ukraine.' Vitalii and I shook hands. He looked me in the eye and we knew this had to happen....

I first met winemaker Vitalii in November last year. It was his first visit to the UK since his wife and three children came to live with a host family. Vitalii returned to his home of Odessa and arranged samples, which really impressed me, and I much enjoyed drinking them.

We met up again in early March. He explained that half the country is fighting and half the country is trying to keep business going, to keep the all crucial income coming in. Asking him how it was, he said that in Odessa, due to the missile strikes on infrastructure, the lights were out in the winter and there was no heating. He managed to get his elderly parents and his very elderly grandfather to Israel for the winter. At the winery, in Bolgrad, in the province of Odessa to the south, not far from the Black Sea, they have got a couple of large generators they use to keep the place going when they need the power. Work is interrupted for a few hours at a time by missile sirens. Many of the local men have gone to fight, and they support troops who occasionally come for rest.

I would like to add that should I have been presented with these wines in normal times I may not have taken up the challenge of introducing them to you. You will know that I do take up challenges when it comes to the new frontiers, or lesser known regions, but I might have shied away. But these are not normal times. And most of all, the wines are delicious, and very good value. I invited a couple of buyers of London wine bars and shops to join me to taste the wines and they both liked them, and will be taking some of each for their businesses.

The Chardonnay is perfect for summer. It has hints of peach, apricot, and it's bright, crisp, appley, citrus and refreshing. Drink it chilled and it's one you can really knock back like you would a rose. Raise the temperature a bit and you get a bit more texture and those slightly exotic aromas appear. I was trying to think where I'd place this if it were given to me blind. I thought maybe a Friulian white. This is quite a compliment. Another taster thought perhaps Limoux - an excellent source for Chardonnays on the border of France and Spain.

The Cabernet Sauvignon has a nicely perfumed, slighly floral aroma, with a bit of light berry and a bit of spice and oak. The aromas lead you towards a lighter style of coastal Tuscan Cabernet, a hint of Bordeaux, but with more spice. It's very drinkable. We drank the remainder of the bottle with cold roast beef and it was just perfect. For summer drinking, not being too heavy, it will be perfect. Good with barbeques, burgers, pasta, yes, absolutely.

I can say that Vitalii and his team, and Ukraine, will be incredibly grateful and encouraged by your support.


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