Wine and Food in Uzbekistan

Uzbekistan has amazing landscapes and much history as an important hub on the Silk Road, leading from China all the way to Europe. But Uzbekistan has also an emerging wine culture well worth exploring.

Uzbekistan is a Centralasian country neighbouring with Kazakhstan, Turkmenistan, Kyrgyzstan and Tadzjikistan. The majority of the 35 million inhabitants are secular muslims. Wine, beer and vodka is served at most restaurants and the view on alcohol is much more liberal than in the Arabic world. The former leader Islam Karimov died in 2016 and after his death the country began to open up. International relations are improved and both economy and tourism is on a steady rise. Since 2019 many countries are visa free for visits up to 30 days. Prices on food, transports and hotels are low, making it very affordable to visit. Most visitors are from neighbouring countries and it’s less than one million yearly visitors that origin from outside the region.

Wineries and wine traditions in Uzbekistan

There was wineries during the time when Uzbekistan was a part of the Soviet Union. When Michael Gorbatjov decided to institute his anti alcohol campaign he decided that wineries had to cut down the plants and stop all production of wine grapes. A few years later many resumed the growing of grapes but much was destroyed and wine makers had to start from zero. The climate around Tashkent is a bit too tough for the grapes with cold winters but very hot summers. Much of the wine is grown in Parkent which is 50 km from Tashkent with milder summers since it’s on a higher altitude.

wine plantation in Uzbekistan

Wineries and grapes in Uzbekistan

Many classic grapes are grown like Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, Riesling, Pinot Noir but also more regional grapes like Bayan-Shirey, Rkatsiteli, Hindongna and Soyaki. When people ask after the best wineries in Uzbekistan, five names often come up. It’s Mehnat Group and Uzumfermer winery close to Tashkent and then Chateau Hamkor a bit further away. Closer to Samarkand it’s Bagizagan winery and Hovrenko wine factory. If you are using the wine app vivino you can for example se that Bagizagan has registered more than 30 wines and that Uzumfermer has 12 wines listed. Not all wines are listed since the production is smaller than the demand and most wines are sold locally. The total area of grapes grown for both wine and consumtion is about 150 000 hectares.

Uzumfermer winery outside Tashkent

Uzumfermer winery is easy to reach from Tashkent with a taxi. It’s just on the outskirts in a newly developed area. The winery has a beautiful garden with a few hectares of grapes around. But since the climate is too hot during summers, around 15 hectares are cultivated in the Parkent region and another five at the winery. The best grapes are grown in Parkent and brought to the winery after harvest. Watch some more pictures from the winery.

Uzumfermer winery outside Tashkent

The yearly production from the 20 hectares result in around 100 000 liter wine yearly. Uzumfermer does also have a hotel at the winery which is very popular and amoung the regional tourists. They have a small exotic garden with plants and inspirations from all over the world where guests can stroll around. The winery is popular and there are almost daily organized tours in the winery.

Uzumfermer winery has been at the location since 2008 but the land has been used for grape cultivation since the Soviet era. Today they grow around 20 grapes for wine with a mix of both green and red. The ambition is high and Uzumfermer does also compete on international wine events and have earned silver and gold medals for their wines. Particular their oak aged riesling was well appreciated by the international judges. Their wine Siesta is made from the grape Bayan-Shirey which is said to origin from Azerbajdzjan but according to our guide it’s from a village in Uzbeskistan. The grape is grown in both countries.

They have also a few specialities such as the grape Rundveis and the Jupiter grape. Jupiter is a newly developed American grape less than 30 years old and mainly grown in California and a handfull of locations where Uzbekistan is one of them. Their wine Callisto is made from mainly Jupiter. The notes are overwhelming, like the nose of an IPA beer, strong citrus, almost hoppy and it continues in the taste. Very different and a must try. One of their award winning wines (gold in Berlin) is Merry Tash made from mainly Cabernet Sauvignon and Pinot Noir, oaked for six months. It has powerful tannins and is a fruity but dry wine with a good body and finish.

Food in Uzbekistan

When talking about wine you also think about food to pair it with and Uzbekistan has much to offer. So let’s present a few local dishes. We begin with the Uzbek dumplings, called Manti, filled with mixed lamb and beef.

Manti, Uzbek dumplings

The famous Plov, a rice based dish with vegetables and meet has many variations and is flavourful but no too spicy so it goes well with wine. Samsa, is very similar to samosa. Dough filled with minced meet, herbs and vegetables or with cheese, spinnach and much more. It’s very popular street food and easy to find everywhere.

Lagman soup is popular duing the cold time of the year. It’s tasty but not too spicy. The famous ovens can be seen almost everywhere in Uzbekistan. One speciality with Uzbek food is that they use a lof of fat to give flavour to the food. When you order meat skewers, Shashlik, each piece of meat is divided with a piece of fat to give a rich flavour to the meat. Fat cubes are often added to Plov and other dishes as well.

some smaller Manti with beer and vodka in a restaurant in Tashkent

Uzbekistan is very interesting and a perfect destination for the more curious and adventurous travellers. Both wine and beer is popular and growing in popularity. You can travel to Tahskent from many places but Istanbul and Abu Dhabi/Dubai have good connections.

Keep an eye on Uzbekistan, it might be your next destination.

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