Freedom Wine

Wine drinking and, indeed, alcohol in general, often gets a rather bad press.   While not denying the problems that come from drinking to excess nor the potential links to some medical conditions, there is another side to wine: the pleasure of sharing a special bottle and delicious, freshly prepared food with good friends – a view, I guess many readers will agree with.

But wine can go further and actually be a force for good.  Part of the proceeds from sales of Purcari’s “Freedom Blend” (Novel Wines, £19.99) support Ukrainian refugees and the hotel on Purcari’s wine estate in Moldova has become a first stop for those fleeing the war in their country. 

The idea for the wine began in 2014 following the annexation of Crimea by Russia but was given added impetus by the invasion of Ukraine by Putin’s troops earlier this year.  Freedom Blend combines grapes from 3 countries – Moldova, Ukraine and Georgia – each, as Purcari’s CEO says, a victim of Russian aggression, and has resulted in a wine with “the heart of Georgia, the terroir of Moldova, and the free spirit of Ukraine”. 

But however much I support the concept (and I do), I also want a wine that tastes good.  And this one, which we shared with a close friend recently, did not disappoint.  Quite deeply coloured, the aromas of blackberries and dried fruits follow on into the palate where the brief oak ageing combines to give savoury flavours of spice, chocolate and leather.  Although 14% alcohol, it doesn’t feel like a particularly full-bodied wine; we enjoyed it with a hearty marsala-infused beef and celeriac casserole, but something a little less robust – grilled lamb chops, for example – might have worked better. 

Freedom Blend is an inspiring concept combining native grape varieties from Georgia (Saperavi), Moldova (Rară Neagră) and Ukraine (Bastardo) and demonstrates the power of wine to bring countries and people together – despite those who have other ideas.

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For Ukraine

When I sat down to write my Blog this week, my thoughts were filled – not with wine – but with the tragic events taking place in Ukraine.  The senseless and unprovoked invasion by Putin’s Russian war machine has caused countless deaths and injuries and massive destruction and has resulted in perhaps, a million or more Ukrainian citizens being forced to flee their country and seek refuge abroad.  This latter point makes all these events personal for me:  in the early 1900s, my own grandfather was forced to flee from Russia in the face of anti-Jewish violence encouraged by the Tsars, who ruled the country at the time.  He settled happily in England but never returned to his homeland.  I fear the same may be true for many of today’s refugees.

It’s not entirely inappropriate that I should be writing about Ukraine in a wine blog.  The country does (or at least did) have an active wine industry centred, sadly, in the south around the Black Sea towns of Kherson (which has already apparently fallen to the invading troops) and Odessa (which seems to be next in line).  Little Ukrainian wine is exported to the UK and I don’t recall ever tasting any.  I suspect that now I never will.

I hope readers will forgive me for hijacking this space for something other than a wine blog – some things are just more important than wine – and that you will join me in conveying support for all Ukrainians, wherever they may be.  I trust you will get your country back some day.