A lot of the Crimean peninsula is an agricultural paradise. Driving through one region to the next you see orchards dripping in cherries, apples, peaches and plums; endless golden seas of wheat and barley; farms and private dachas drowning in the green of vegetable patches and currant bushes. But Crimea’s possibly greatest natural bounty (gorgeous landscape and beaches aside) are its wines and oils.
Let’s start with the latter. Many slopes of southern Crimean hills are naturally covered with juniper bushes, eucalyptus trees and dozens of varieties of wildflowers and blooming shrubs. The soil and climate lend themselves perfectly to the cultivation of dozens more. As such, the place has been producing and exporting natural oils for decades.
The most highly sought-out of these is rose oil. To produce one kilogram of rose oil – which is used in perfume and cosmetics products of the highest caliber – one THOUSAND kilos of rose petals is required. Think about how much a rose petal weighs. Now think about how many truckloads of these very special petals you’d need for a whole, literal ton of them. Rough estimate? A lot.
Once upon a time the Sudak valley of southern Crimea, near which I am staying, was home to hundreds of acres of rose plantations. All, or almost all have been abandoned decades ago, in the turbulent years surrounding the end of the Soviet era, and you can now see fields of wild rose bushes in their stead. Luckily, the cultivation of oil-producing plants and manufacturing of essential oils (including rose) and their adjacent products – waters, lotions, soaps and creams – is alive and well in other parts of Crimea, and all those products can be purchased throughout the area, at town and beach shops and at most tourist sites.
I recommend buying them all – that’s what I did. On top of making you and everything around you smell amazing, these fragrant oils and various blends purport to cure everything short of cancer. Headaches, common cold, depression and signs of aging are but a few ailments helpless before the magical healing power of nature.*
(*No, seriously, I bought grape seed oil my second day here and have been using it nightly and my skin feels and looks amazing already! #betterthanbotox)
While the oils might be one of Crimea’s better kept secrets, the area’s wines might be its best-known product, a calling card of sorts, on par with the Swallow’s Nest castle and turbulent history.
Wine production in Crimea dates back thousands of years. Certain kinds of wine grapes were brought here by the ancient Greeks. Others came with the Italians – the Genoese and the Venetians, who battled for control of strategic trade and defense outposts here during the Middle Ages. And the youngest transplants – including varieties from from France, Germany – have only been grown in Crimea since the 1800s. Wine culture permeates everything in the region, and is reflected in elements of decor from dishes to factory windows to church gates.
Crimea’s modern-day winemaking prowess owes most credit to Russian Prince Lev Golitsyn. The nobleman settled in Crimea in 1878, after purchasing the Paradiso valley (now the town of Novy Svet) and setting up an industrial-size winery there. Golitsyn had an ambition to make Russia an internationally-competitive wine producer and exporter on par with France and Italy, and made it his mission to teach Russians to drink good wine instead of vodka. I think it’s safe to say that he failed in that second endeavor.
Today Crimea produces hundreds of wines and spirits of all stripes, and many of those are winners of major international awards. Three kinds stand out. The first is the world-famous Massandra reds like “The Black Doctor.” Then there are the Koktybel cognacs and ports. And lastly, the sparkly wines – or champagnes – of Novy Svet, made at Golitsyn’s own House of Champagne Wines about 500 meters from my resorts, and sold throughout town at the HCW’s branded shops and stands.
Every morning the winery receives cisterns of “wine product” from the vineyards – practically fresh grape juice that has undergone the first round of fermentation before being subjected to stabilization, secondary fermentation and aging process that turn it into proper wine. Several barrels of this “juice” are dropped off at each of the House of Champagne Wines’ stores where they are offered chilled, on tap in 200 ml or 500 ml (a pint) cups, or 1-liter bottles. I won’t go into specifics of how many “tastings” I have subjected myself to during my stay at Novy Svet, but know this: champagne and sparkling wines are some of my least favorite buzzy refreshments, yet I could bathe in the local rosé. It’s THAT good – a light, refreshing and slightly acidic delight to which odes should be composed by those far more talented than yours truly.
Throughout Crimea, everywhere you go, vineyards and stores and restaurants let you sample as much of their wine assortment as you’d like. Spend just a few days traveling the peninsula and you will go home blissfully intoxicated and smelling delicious – just remember to oil up!
42 thoughts on “CRIMEA, Day 9: Rosé and Roses”
Wine! That’ll get Linda’s attention! …provided she makes it past the trees 😉
Ok, those don’t count as trees – that’s just wine accouterments, but very, VERY fresh 😉
Let’s see if you can convince her… I’m not holding my breath
Come on, everyone needs snacks with their wine!
(I actually LOVE the top three photos. Need to do more close-ups!)
I love them too! There’s something mesmerising about trees laden with fruit, I could stare at them all day!
I ate everything. Like, just walking down the street/ grove path. Bottle of rosé in hand…
It was like a Garden of Eden. Ridiculous. Probably not for you in Spain, but for someone encased in a northern metropolis like Moscow… (or Riga! Ha!)
Intoxicated and oiled up is my favourite state 🙂
I dunno why, but I’m thinking smoked trout…
Ha ha! I’ll put on my best trout pout, just for you 🙂
As long as you’re making any bones about it…
SNAP! Ladies and gentlemen, the Pun Master is BAAAAAACK!
I missed out a word… “not”. God, my typing is getting worse…
That’s not bad either!
Riga will be fun!
It sure will 🙂 Should be easy to find an oily Janis 😉
You might want to line up a small army 😉
And they can play out their “conquest of Russia” fantasy – Lord knows that’s the closest they’ll ever come to living it out!
You should open with that when you meet them… 😉
You know I might
You’re feeling braver 😉
I love those windows.
They are in this totally ‘colorless’ cement industrial building – an absolutely delightful surprise.
I love this post, but… wait a minute, I cannot see it clearly – is that a Christmas tree made of beer cans? I could imagine such a thing being extremely popular in England!!!!
Green champagne bottles – and there are sculptures made of it throughout the HCW’s compound!
Welcome to the blog 🙂
You have to admire the man’s ambition, but overthrowing vodka does seem a fools errand.
He sure left a beautiful landscape and an amazing operation. Very neat that it has continued to thrive over the years.
Fun fact: he was a great winemaker but a bad businessman. He ran himself into a ton of debt, then convinced Czar Nicholas II to buy a share of the enterprise and put the Imperial seal on it, which canceled all the debts right away. Oh to be a prince…
(but yeah, dont mess with vodka)
That’s quite a whole lot of oils. 🙂
I didnt buy ALL of them … But I regret not buying more!
My room in Moscow smells sooooo good now.
I would have exploded… no way I could have resisted any of it!
I didn’t resist ANY of it, and I lost like 7 lbs!
Damn, and here I am wandering around Moscow like a lost little soul looking for some oils EXACTLY LIKE THIS. Damn you Anna, you temptress.
My mom scolded me for not buying more.
Amazing photos and that champagne Christmas tree is just awesome! I really want one 🙂
It was pretty epic. There were other bottle sculptures throughout too.
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War or the Roses, it seems! I think I would have spent all my money on oils, only to get them home and be disappointed I couldn’t remember what they were for.
They come with annotations! I have a small booklet now too!
Use x for face, y for skin?
Yup, but also in times of migraines, to lose weight, to relax sore muscles…
Sign me up for the migraine one!
grape seed oil, eh? I need to get on that! this entire post sounds delicious.
Actually that’s the perfect one word for it all!
I think all the stinky sulfur in the water practically demanded all this fragrant production.
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