Kazakh Wine anyone?

Ok, I’m going obscure here but bear with me.

I’ve just been handed a work trip to Almaty next week and in my quest to find things to do, the top item I found on trip advisor is a wine trip into the Assa Valley. Which immediately was followed by an exclamation that I had no idea Kazakhstan was a serious wine producer.

I’m planning a trip to a wine shop located just around the corner from the hotel we stay in and a brief search into it reveals mainly cooler climate varieties in Kazakhstan - whites seem to be mainly Riesling and Gewürztraminer and reds - well actually, who knows? I’ve tried using google translate and have seen Cabernet Franc, a traditional grape variety called “Saperavi” and various cuvées. Prices seem to vary between >£10 up to around £60 a bottle for a “Reserve Cabernet Franc” from 2014.

So does anyone in here have any experience, knowledge or otherwise on Kazakh wine? Which ones to go for, which to avoid, which are best used as a drain de-blocker? Or if indeed, it’s any good at all?

Or am I heading off down another wine related rabbit hole, only to emerge with 6 bottles of “goodness knows what” and an angry wife demanding an explanation?

Many thanks!



Saperavi is Georgian, IIRC, so originating on the other side of the Caspian. I’ve had various brandies from the caspian coast, which were very nice. Odd, given the socioeconomic and political upheaval in the region and the widespread Muslim population (including some very conservative elements).

There’s only one way to find out if it is any good!


It’s not an area I’ve ever considered before, but I’ll let you know! I’ve found a couple of articles online singing the praises of some of the producers and it’s certainly awoken my curiosity. I have even seen a Pinot Noir mentioned now, and it’s getting more interesting still!

There’s 2 options for shopping - the hotel is 25 mins walk from a wine shop, or I take my chances in Duty Free on the way out to the aircraft.

One good possibility is emailing the shop near the hotel and see what they say? I’ll set myself a budget of maybe £150 and see what they come back with.

We’ll see!


So while I’ve never been to Kazakhstan, I lived across the Caspian in Baku, Azerbaijan for a time. At that point most of the wines being produced in the Caucasus were sickeningly sweet, both reds and whites so we, for the most part drank wines from Kakheti in Georgia, Saperavi, Mtsvane and Rkatsiteli being the fail safes . Georgia’s production has come a long way since 2008 so I imagine so has the wine making in Azerbaijan and Kazakhstan. It can get very very cold in the winter and very very warm in the summer so it would be interesting to see what you find there , I’m not sure how PN would fare in the heat of the summer months and I imagine the domestic demand for sweet wines will still play a part in what they produce but please do let us know .


Yes, Kazakshstan has been on my pot-boiler fantasy to-visit list for a while now.

It’s a very large country, about the same size as the whole of western Europe, and according to JR, it has about 7000 Ha under vines, (compare with England and Wales is currently just above 2000 Ha) but this is half of what it was 20 years ago. But a lot of that will be table grapes. Like Georgia the viticulture was encouraged by the former Soviet Union to produce large quantities of bulk wine for the Russian market, but since independence the focus has been on better quality and diversity of varietals.

And as @Leah says, the vines need protecting from freezing in the winter, such as is needed in some of Canada’s vineyards.

So, yes, I’m signing up to hearing about your exploits and discoveries.


Yes, Saperavi is native to Georgia, but was widely grown in the Soviet Union

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Thanks for the responses everyone! Very much appreciated…

My suspicion is that the “traditional” Saperavi wine refers to a traditional method of production - possibly in clay amphora as a guess? Anyway, I’ve done a bit of reading around the subject and came across this article from Jancis Robinson’s website:

Wikipedia mentions that Kazakh wine is weighted towards being very desert heavy with a view in mind about appeasing the local markets. Which has been referred to by a good few posters above.

So I’ve scoped out the local wine shop to the hotel and found their listings. There’s plenty to go on from here - 31 out of the 36 seem to be dry.

A quick flick reveals some interesting things. Saperavi and Rkatsiteli feature as expected, but I also found Merlot and Cabernet Franc - and Pinot Noir too.

My plan is to bring home 4 bottles (I’m stopping in Leipzig on the way home and need to pick up some of the latest Saale Unstrut vintage!), highlighting some of the local wines. Ultimately, I will be back to Almaty in the future - no doubt - so if this experiment works, I’ll take it further next time around.

Anyway, that’s the plan. Today I was in Majestic, spending Birthday vouchers on things I don’t need but do want. Ultimately more space in the cellars is rapidly becoming what I really need!!!

Thanks again for all your comments! Let’s see what happens!

I’m not sure what you mean by this, but Saperavi is a grape variety.

It is a teinturier variety with red flesh, and the name Saperavi means “dye” - practically the same as “teinturier”. The wines it makes are often a very dark inky purple that stains the inside of the wine glass.

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I think it is “qvevri” that refers to use of amphorae. There’s are a couple of Georgian wines, including a qvevri saperavi, on the list at the mo. I thought it was pretty decent.

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I meant more that the wine was matured in a clay amphora/qvevri but I am using google translate and anything is possible!

Just a hunch, but I discovered in Bulgaria that they are increasingly introducing “western” grape varieties to improve their export chances, on the basis that “foreigners don’t like Mavrud” and so on. The same may be true in Kazakhstan, in which case their native varieties (if they have any) could be the more interesting choice.

If you like a big red then Saperavi is it.

I really like it, and I’ve had it from wineries in Armenia and New York State’s Finger Lakes region, from where I have also enjoyed (dry) Rkatsitelli.

I expect you’ll have a chance to sample local wines with dinner.

I was gifted a Kazakh 2013 Ak Arba Riesling some years ago: so, from exactly where you will be going! It was much more interesting than I had anticipated, though unfortunately I don’t have my notes to hand. I would say it’s certainly worth exploring - it may well exceed your expectations.

Enjoy Almaty! You may well find something good. I spent quite a bit of time, a decade or more ago, working in Almaty (and Astana, Uralsk, etc.); the occasional KZ wine I had was awful, but most dinners were arranged and more about the meeting & greeting / business than anything else, and so a lot of vodka was the priority for our hosts to shove down our throats. Wine, fine otherwise, wasn’t really part of the culture.

KZ is, though, a huge country, the size of much of Western Europe all added together. Four times the size of Texas! (I don’t know what it is in traditional units of “Wales”, but it would be a lot). And yet has only about half the population of greater London IIRC. There’s plenty of space, in other words, and as it stretches from W to E, the variety of terrain in one country is staggering. There must be places in a land so vast where grapes would grow very well indeed.

I’d be very interested to hear of your discoveries. I’d love to go back as a tourist and see some of the place properly, and investigate things like this - do let us know how it goes after your trip!


Ah, sorry, I see you have reworded your post, and I now understand better what you were saying

I realised how confusing my originally worded post was - the joys of being used as a climbing frame by a 2 year old whilst trying to post! :rofl::rofl:

More bad news - I’ve woken up to a whole string of notifications on my roster and I’ve lost the trip. I do, however, still have 30 hours in Leipzig so will be able to buy some of the latest vintage of wines from Sachsen and Saale-Unstrut.

Disappointing but I’ve enjoyed doing the reading up on the wines and I think it’ll only be a matter of time before I end up with an Almaty back on my roster. Who knows? It might well be that I still end up going this week?

Let’s see!

So… a follow up on this.

My good friend, who is also a self-professed “wine geek” is out in Almaty this week and has promised that she’ll bring back some of the local ones for me.

I’ve got a little order in for a Saperavi and Rkatsiteli from the Assa Valley, from just outside Almaty - and will put some notes on here when I safely receive them.


And here they are! 2 Saperavi and 1 Rkatsiteli.

My good friend recently bought these home from Almaty, Kazakhstan. Almaty has long been on my list of places to visit but each time I have a trip, rostered, it’s taken off me. As such, with the latest disappointment, she bought me home 3 bottles of the local wine. Although I’m yet to try it, she has said that actually it’s pretty good and I’m prepared to go on her recommendation!!

So what do we know about Kazakh wine?

Really, not much in the UK!! It appears to have it’s origins in 7AD when grape vines were imported from China and Uzbekistan. Under the Soviet Union, a vast amount of wine was produced in the region, with a preference of sweeter styles of red. Generally inexpensive and mass produced though would be the best way to describe it. However, since the break up of the Soviet Union, a number of producers are starting to flourish across the country, and Arba wines is one such one of these. Based just outside Almaty in the Assa Valley, Arba wines took it’s founding from an abandoned Soviet Vineyard that had grown wild and disused over around 20 years of neglect (the claim is that due to poverty, nobody could afford to touch the vineyards or redevelop them!). Traditional grape varieties for the area come from the Georgian varieties of Rkatsiteli and Saperavi, but also, as a left over from the Soviet times, various off cuts of Riesling, Pinot Noir, Syrah and Cabernet France have also been allowed to grow.

The abandoned vineyards of Arba wines were finally able to produce the quality of fruit to be utilised for wine production and this is how this story has developed until this point. A number of the wines have won decent international recognition and I’m now keen to explore this element of the wine world further.

So what do I have?

3 wines:

1 Rkatsiteli Reserve from 2018

100% Rkatsiteli aged for 8 months in French Acacia barrels - normal price is around £16 a bottle.

1 Saperavi Reserve from 2015

100% Saperavi aged for 18 months in French Acacia barrels. The price paid was around £30 a bottle.

1 65% Saperavi 35% Syrah mix from 2018

The wild card of the group - more of an indicative, everday wine from Kazakhstan. Priced around £7 a bottle - but without the ageing process of the other 2.

I’d like to think that I have a good mix of wines from across the spectrum here from this producer - and hopefully, I’ll be able to pop out to Almaty with work soon and continue with this “vital” area of research.

In the meantime, I very much look forward to trying this bundle in due time and will post my tasting notes in here as and when I do so!

As an aside, I’m mildly amused that you can’t feed the Saperavi to Foxes. I was very worried there for a minute!!



Looking forward to your notes. I’m headed to Astana (& Tashkent) in September, so would be good to know if there’s anything worth keeping an eye out for.

I’ll very gladly put my notes on here when I open them! Not many people have encountered Kazakh wine before, so it’ll be interesting to see what it actually is like!

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