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Spotlight Article

Azerbaijani Wine for Thanksgiving

Azerbaijan America Alliance
November 24, 2014

 Thanksgiving is an American tradition that highlights America’s unique position as both a very old and very young nation. Thanksgiving is traditionally a celebration of the peaceful cooperation between the European settlers of America and the indigenous people who previously inhabited the land. Although the accuracy and cultural sensitivity of this traditional interpretation of the holiday is now disputed, the Holiday reminds us of a truth about the United States: it is both young and old. The United States, as we know it now is only a few hundred years old, but its sovereign land was inhabited long before the country was founded.

Azerbaijan shares this duality with the United States; it is both young and old. The country as it is currently conceived is only 23 years old, however, its sovereign land was a Soviet colony, an independent nation, and an early human settlement before the country was founded.

Although there is no holiday like American Thanksgiving to highlight Azerbaijan’s past lives, the duality can still be seen in Azerbaijan’s wine. 

Photo from the collection of Vinagro, Azerbaijani Wine Producer Source: Vinagro.az

Azerbaijan has mountainous regions perfect for the cultivation of winemaking grapes, but surprisingly Azerbaijan is not generally known for its wine.  Azerbaijan had a long history of wine production, but it was almost entirely wiped out by Gorbatchev’s war on drunkenness. Gorbatchev’s campaign included the destruction of vineyards and the uprooting of ancient vines.  

Before the Soviet Union’s occupation, there was a tradition of wine making in Azerbaijan, which dated back to the second millennium BC. Archeologists have uncovered stone fermentation and storage vessels, which contained remnants of grape seeds, at digs of settlements in Kültəpə, Qarabağlar and Galajig. These discoveries corroborate the writings of Greek historians, such as Strabo who wrote about an Azerbaijani wine known as Albania. The epic poem Kitabi Dada Gorgud written in 7th-11th centuries also describes Azerbaijani wine culture.

Although these traditions were lost for a time, Azerbaijan is bringing wine making back to its culture. Today approximately ten vineyards are operating on the foothills of the Caucasus Mountains and the Kur-Araz lowlands. Vineyards now account for an impressive 7 percent of the countries cultivated land and produce 17 varieties of wine grapes. Additionally, The Ministry of Agriculture has recognized wine production in Azerbaijan as an important growth industry, and recently participated in the 37th World Congress of Vine and Wine and the 12th General Assembly of the International Organization of Vine and Wine (OIV) in Argentina.

Azerbaijan is not yet exporting its wine to the United States, but hopefully it will be by this time next year. Azerbaijani wine, a symbol of a new country born from old traditions, would be a perfect pairing to a Thanksgiving meal.  

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