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Nick Antonaccio
Nick Antonaccio

I’ve been penning this wine column for over six years. I’ve written on topics relating to the finer points of winemaking, the broad expanse of new wines popping up all over the world and the lighter side of the antics of personalities in the wine industry.

Every once in a while, I’ve even drawn parallels between the world of economics and politics and the world of wine intrigue.

Remember the depths of the Great Recession when Western governments were thrown into economic stress and were cutting governmental expenditures deep and wide? The parallel affecting the world of wine: the French and British parliaments cut their wine budgets and sold off portions of their wine cellar.

Remember the national campaign by the Russian government to reduce the widespread problems of alcohol abuse? The parallel affecting the world of wine: the Prime Minister ironically offered his advice to reduce the alarming level of alcoholism. He exhorted the citizenry to “drink wine, not vodka.”

Remember the “rise of the machines” scenario that evolved when the United States switched its military tactics in the global war on terrorism by replacing a portion of its conventional bombing apparatus with drones? The parallel affecting the world of wine: a vineyard owner purchased a civilian drone to combat the terror being rained on his vineyards by insects and natural diseases. Drone flyovers spray pesticides and measure grape ripeness amongst a myriad of other efficiency- and productivity-enhancing sorties.

Last week I discovered another parallel between the world of economics and politics and the world of wine intrigue.

The tension over the ideological and military volatility between the Ukraine and Russia took me by surprise. Brinksmanship, Cold War and détente were phrases I thought had gone the way of the demise of the Soviet Union in the early 1990s. But lo and behold, the ousting of Ukraine’s president and Russia’s maneuvering to take advantage of the ensuing unrest provoked a worldwide crisis reminiscent of the 20th century Cold War.

The instability of the Ukraine government has fomented strange developments. Russia annexes Crimea, offers economic aid to the Ukraine, then threatens to cut off Russia’s natural gas pipelines to the Ukraine. The United States and the European Union counter with their own economic sanctions against Russia amid offers and assurances of political support for a free, united Ukraine.

The parallel affecting the world of wine: in the Ukraine and, more specifically, the Crimean peninsula, wines have clout. The Ukraine has been building its wine industry and its international wine trade. Crimea is the crown jewel of the Ukrainian wine industry, with a reputation for producing fine wines since the Russian czars ruled.

Crimean sparkling wine beat all French competition in a 1900 international tasting. Since then Crimean wines have been prized, both in-country, in Russia and in Ukraine.

Today, the largest wineries in Crimea are (were?) owned by the Ukrainian government, complicating the future of the newly segregated Crimean wine industry. Since these esteemed Crimean wines are no longer able to be sold to its largest market, the Ukraine, Russia has stepped in and ordered Russian wine shops to increase their inventory of Crimean wines. Sales of Crimean wines have doubled in Russia in recent weeks.

The battle is on to support the Ukrainian and Crimean economies. The IMF and Russia have each offered the Ukraine aid totaling over $15 billion each. Russia has gone one step further, contemplating $1 billion specifically earmarked for the development of the Crimean wine industry, just as it significantly raised its heavily subsidized pricing of natural gas sales to the Ukraine.

Economic news is now saturating the airwaves. Could the competing wine industries become the crux of a showdown on wines produced and exported to the rest of the world? Wines and natural gas seem like rather strange bedfellows.

Nick Antonaccio is a 35-year Pleasantville resident. For over 15 years he has conducted  wine tastings and lectures. He also offers personalized wine tastings and wine travel services. Nick’s credo: continuous experimenting results in instinctive behavior. You can reach him at or on Twitter @sharingwine.


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