Nakhchyvan Autonomous Republic

2007 White Table Wine

Constitutionally, Nakhchyvan is an Autonomous Republc on the territory of Azerbaijan. It is located in the southwest end of the Lower Caucasus. Bordered by Armenia (246km), Iran (204km) and Turkey (11km), Nakhchyvan was separated from the mainland of Azerbaijan in 1918. Since 1991, the Republic has been in blockade by Armenia. Initially without border crossings to any of its three neighbours, accessible only by air, and largely without electricity and gas supply, the people of Nakhchyvan suffered enormously. Industrial production plunged, in many categories by more than 99%. These terrible circumstances began to improve in the late 90s, with the opening of a border crossing with Iran. More recently, a border crossing with Turkey has become the major trade route for export of production by Nakhchyvan.

In the soviet era (up to 1990), parts of Nakhchyvan are said to have been covered in vineyards for as far as the eye could see. Wine production in 1991 was 408,000 bottles. By 1997, most of the vines had disappeared and wine production had fallen to just 200 bottles, according to government figures. A commercial wine industry has now returned to Nakhchyvan. I inspected (April, 2011) a modern wine-making facility in Nakhchyvan City. The company, Gemicaya Holding Ltd., makes three wines: a white of which I have a bottle, a rose and a fortified red wine (17% alcohol). All three wines tasted well. The white is made from grapes grown in the Gandarak area of Nakhchyvan. The red has some local red grape content, but is mainly made from grapes imported from Iran, according to the winemaker.

I was unable to visit any vineyards in Gandarak, but I did track down a small, very old vineyard in the village of Sahab, near Nakhchyvan City. The vineyard contains many white grape varieties (in Azari: agaldere, kishmishi, khalili, nebi, and inekemceki – I don’t know if these have corresponding names in English), and a single variety of red grapes ( gazashani), according to the grape grower Mr. Gasim muellim (teacher). A muslim, Mr. Gasim does not drink wine.

Website for Gemicaya Holding Ltd: www.gemikaya.com

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