Two men in dark sweaters stack shiny green bottles, each marked with a handwritten white number. Here in basement vaults along the Black Sea coast of the Crimean peninsula, the sparkling wine is maturing and each bottle is turned by hand daily. It is a fine wine, almost like authentic champagne, and just as costly.
Count Lev Golisyn founded the wine cellars in 1878, almost a hundred years after Count Potemkin annexed the peninsula for his beloved ruler, Catherine the Great. The winery was named “New World” – first in Russian, and then after the transfer of Crimea in 1954 by Soviet leader, Nikita Kruschev, in Ukrainian.
Today the winery once again bears its old Russian name: “Novyi Svet.” Its history mirrors the turmoil across the disputed region.
It was a year ago today – on March 16, 2014 – that Crimea’s 2.3 million residents voted to separate from Ukraine and rejoin Russia. Two days after the referendum, President Vladimir Putin officially annexed Crimea.