So-called Old World wines from France, Spain and Italy still come to mind when people talk about good quality wine. The emergence of “New World” wines from California, Chile and Australia has also expanded the tastes of the millions of wine drinkers around the world. This less stringent notion about origin has led to a wider appreciation of wine from lesser-known producers.
It may come as a surprise to many that Kazakhstan can also hold its ground when it comes to top-notch, award winning Riesling and Cabernet.
Arba Wine, a vineyard founded in 2006 by Zeinulla Kakimzhanov, is situated at the heart of the Assa Valley just east of Almaty, Kazakhstan’s largest city. At 2,500 meters
above sea level, Assa Valley possesses unique climate, mineral-rich soil and crystalline mountain water that produce the perfect conditions for wine production.
“One of the defining characteristics of our vineyards is that we do not treat them with pesticides and chemicals because of the pure mountain climate,” said Kakimzhanov, who also notes that the country’s unforgiving winters, with deep snow and temperatures going as low as -35 degrees Celsius, spare no room for vine pests to survive and flourish. We have some of the lowest vineyard disease pressures in the world. We use no chemical pesticides and follow sustainable and bio-diverse practices. Phylloxera free soils give Arba Wine a unique and rare opportunity to grow vines on their own roots,” he stressed.
Despite Arba Wine’s status as a newcomer to the wine market, the produce has won numerous awards. Its Saperavi wine won a Silver Medal at the 2014 International Wine Challenge, while its AK Arba Riesling 2012 and Kyzyl Arba Cabernet Franc 2012 grabbed gold medals at the International Mountain Wine Competition in Italy that same year.
Currently, Arba exports its wines to the UK and Italy and just recently entered the massive Chinese market. Kakimzhanov sets his sights on Asia’s fast-growing economy, which has shown a growing appetite for luxury products. However, Kakimzhanov still considers Japan the standard-setting market for luxury goods in Asia.
“Our wines have received praise in Japan because Japanese people value cleanliness and purity in taste. My next plan is to enter the Japanese market, so that more Japanese people can discover the beauty of Kazakhstan in a bottle,” he said.