In the midst of a war-torn Ukraine, Château Chizay, located in the region of Zakarpattia, continues to stand firm in its commitment to winemaking. Despite the economic challenges brought by the war, the winery remains dedicated to its craft and country.
Hugo Gutman, the winery’s founder and owner, sums up the situation: “Stopping and giving up – that’s not our style. On the contrary, we need to be even more hardworking, stronger, and contribute to the economy. Viticulture and winemaking are living processes that are impossible to put on hold.” Their unwavering determination and resilience rightfully earned them a gold medal at this year’s CMB for their Troyanda Carpat 2017.
The Revival of the Carpathian Rose
Troyanda Carpat, meaning “Carpathian Rose,” is more than just wine; it encapsulates the history and essence of winemaking in Zakarpattia and Ukraine. Once renowned in the latter half of the 20th century, the wine faced setbacks during the Soviet anti-alcohol campaign, leading to the destruction of quality vineyards in favor of higher-yielding, lesser-quality grape varieties. However, the winery decided to revive this iconic wine. It replanted vineyards in 2006 with Pink Traminer, ideally suited to the local conditions. By 2010, years of research and dedication culminated in the recreation of Troyanda Carpat’s original 1959 recipe. Château Chizay’s “Carpathian Rose” is a dessert wine, produced only when grapes exceed 24% sugar content, and aged for a minimum of 24 months in French oak barrels. Often referred to as “rare gold,” the wine is cherished for its intense, rich aroma filled with complex notes of fruits, dried fruits, and sweets, leading to a bold and luxurious taste with a lingering finish.
Adapting to New Realities
The war has introduced significant changes to the winery’s operations. Beyond its deep concerns for Ukraine’s fate, it has encountered practical hurdles. These include logistical issues, fuel shortages, and disruptions in the supply chain for essential items like bottles, corks, and labels, along with a substantial cost increase. The destruction of a major glass bottle manufacturing facility near Kyiv further complicated matters. The winery also faced workforce challenges due to mobilization and irregular presence of seasonal workers, especially during the challenging 2022 harvest. These factors, combined with the devaluation of the hryvnia against the euro and the dollar, have necessitated increased prices for all Ukrainian wines.
Despite the logistical, financial, and production challenges, Château Chizay is unwavering in its commitment to innovation and adaptation. As Hugo Gutman explains, “Our primary strategy is to keep working. We refuse to let go and remain committed to taking action and innovating. We are launching new products, exploring new marketing approaches, and attempting to develop our export activities. We are doing everything in our power to increase the sales of Château Chizay wines worldwide, and we are thrilled when we succeed.”
From Adversity to Opportunity
This is a favorable time to promote Ukrainian wines globally as interest in them surges. Initially, the war led to a significant loss of customers and decreased purchasing power, largely due to mass emigration from Ukraine. However, a wave of patriotism, along with supply challenges in a domestic wine market previously flooded with imports, has fostered an increasing preference for Ukrainian wines. This transformation in the wine industry has heightened global curiosity in Ukrainian wines.
“We feel the world’s interest”, reveals Hugo Gutman. “Ukrainian wines at international events attract a lot of attention. When the invasion began, we received many letters of support from foreign partners and, subsequently, new export partnership requests came our way.”
Château Chizay is now exporting to over 20 countries, with expanded markets in Northern Europe, including Norway and Denmark, as well as Italy, France, and Singapore.
The winery has recently initiated exports to Belgium, making the current CMB award even more significant. Hugo Gutman emphasizes: “Globally, competitions like this are one of the most effective tools to announce to the world that Ukraine has its own high-quality and interesting winemaking. Such awards are particularly important for Ukrainian wines in times when our country is at war, as Ukraine now needs to win on all fronts.“
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