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Correspondent 20

A New Shop, for the Love of Wine

by Paul Miazga

Over the years I’ve been less than happy with the state of the wine industry in Ukraine: high import taxes on wines that shouldn’t cost more than a couple of euros per bottle; poor handling of imported wines, with bottles typically kept upright under warm, bright lights; inconsistent quality of domestic or regional (Moldovan and Georgian) wines, and consumers poorly educated about what good wine is and what makes it so enjoyable. Whatever the reasons for the sad state of the wine industry in Ukraine, that’s not to say it’s all bleak.

Through Beate of go2kiev, on Thursday last week I met Olivier Duffour, a genuine and engaging Frenchman who’s been visiting Ukraine on and off for the past 23 years. In his early 40s and hailing from near Lyon, Olivier is as French as they come and naturally he loves wine. Through his visits here he’s seen the country develop and, like any astute entrepreneur, he’s found a niche market to exploit. His new business – the new Vinolioub (“Wine-lover”) boutique at 11 Kostantynivska in Podil (Mon.-Sat. 10am-8pm; tel. 8044 502-8312) – offers authentic French wines, champagnes and cognacs at affordable prices while also educating consumers by way of frequent wine tastings. For him, an educated consumer is a good consumer.

Vinolioub, which has been up and running for just a short while now, features a wide range of products from small-scale producers in some of France’s most respected wine-making regions: Bordeaux, the Rhone Valley, Alsace and beyond. He has crisscrossed France throughout his life and developed relationships with these producers who, in his mind, produce truly great French wines, champagnes and cognacs, but since they bottle only a limited amount compared to their most well-known peers, it means quality without the markup. As but one example, a quality champagne at Vinolioub will cost Hr 200 – a lot when compared to an Hr 14 bottle of Sovietskoe “champagne,” but a far cry from $1,000 per bottle for Cristal or Dom Perignon. One such bottle of small-market French champagne from Vinolioub came out the night I met Olivier (over dinner at Beate’s) and it was a remarkable tasting experience, since I’ve never had a true French champagne before (only American and Australian sparkling wines or Ukrainian “champagnes”). It was dry, refreshingly light and velvety on the finish. He had me convinced from the first sip.

Already Olivier’s wines have found favor in Kyiv, some being available now at relatively new but popular Vernisage restaurant – as close to a Parisian art café as can be found in the city – on the Andriyivsky Uzviz. A wine-tasting held there recently also welcomed a representative from the Perrodo family with whom Olivier now works; their products include the Chateaux Labegorce and Chateau La Mouline de Labegorce wines of the Margaux and Haute Medoc appellations of Bordeaux, respectively. While Bordeaux are usually aged a minimum of 8-10 years, some of the wines served were only three or four years old, but the idea, Olivier explained, was to give those tasting them a chance to understand how a wine tastes at such an early stage (fresh, with rich tannins and a high acidity) as compared to more complex and refined wines (those from 2000 and earlier) that were also a part of the tasting. And time certainly tells: Though not a complete novice with regard to wines, I really did taste a great difference between the older and younger wines.

While there is no set schedule to when such tastings will take place in the future, anyone can call Olivier and enquire at Vinolioub about scheduling such a tasting for an inquisitive group of amateur or refined wine enthusiasts. In any case, it’s nice for a change to see wine in this country being handled with care, or even love, as it were.


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