Touring Crimea

Touring Crimea

February 17, 2010

Making the Chapter: 

Touring Crimea is first and foremost a celebration of a region.  Its rich and tumultuous history spans millennia, from the legend of Jason and the Argonauts and their heroic quest for the Golden Fleece to the controversial decision to allow the Russian Black Sea Fleet to maintain a navel base in Sevastopol. Using the resort town of Simeiz as a base, I offer a packed itinerary that takes in both the coast and the interior. Travelling westwards I visit the ancient city of Chersonesos, and then on to Sevastopol, the site of so much devastation during the Crimean War and during World War II.  Inland, I visit the palace of Bakhchiserai and the “Fountain of Tears,” immortalised by Pushkin’s poem, and then head skywards to rugged mountains and sacred caves. Trekking eastwards places of interest jostle shoulder to shoulder: Livadia, Yalta, Nikita Botanical Gardens, the Massandra winery, and further a field the champagne cellars of Novy Svet and the breathtaking scenery of Karadag.


Wine making in Crimea is thousands of years old, as proved by the wine remnants that have been found in Greek amphora from Chersonesos. By the middle of the seventeenth century, the Cossacks of Tsimlanskoe (nowadays, the label name of one of Ukraine’s cheap sweet sparkling champagne wines) had mastered the manufacture of sparkling wines as evidenced by Pushkin’s reference in Eugene Onegin. Though this significantly predates the efforts of the French monk Dom Perignon, the first documented sparkling wine production in Ukraine was recorded in Sudak in 1799. Soon after, all along the Crimean coast, rich merchants and aristocracy were producing sparkling wines.

The Crimean War temporarily halted progress by destroying vines, wineries, and precious research notes, but after the war Golitsyn took up the challenge of improving wine quality. He experimented with hundreds of grape varieties before selecting the Pinot Franc, Pinot Gris, Aligote, and Chardonnay grapes for his champagne, which are more climate tolerant than those preferred by French vintners.

Golitsyn constructed wine cellars that extend deep into the Koba-Kaya mountain in Novy Svet, one of Crimea’s most idyllic towns, The winery still produces eleven types of champagne and is open to the public, though even on a summer’s day you’d be advised to carry a sweater with you if you wish to linger in the cellars where the temperature is a constant 11° Celsius.

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