Wine, the Cold War and Communism

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On November 9, 1989 the Berlin Wall was hacked to pieces, officially destroying the border between Communist East Germany and Ally-backed West Germany. But the mauerfall (‘wall fall’) not only pulled down the Berlin Wall, it also marked the collapse of the USSR itself.

All those countries that became Soviet Socialist Republics or ‘satellite states’ to Russia after WWII would soon gain their independence and carve out new national identities. Slovenia and Croatia emerged out of what was once Yugoslavia, while nations like Hungary and Georgia ditched their Socialist Republic governments too.

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The Iron Curtain.

One could study the collapse of Communism for years and still not know what the hell happened. In order to fully appreciate the ways in which the melting of the Cold War impacted global politics we’d have to devote a hefty part of our lives to the topic. We’re not going to pretend that we’ve done that. But, we have focused in on a tiny piece of the puzzle that is near and dear to our hearts. What could it be? Wine? Good guess.

When the so-called Iron Curtain fell, people started to realize that some damn good wines had been hiding behind it. When we say people, we don’t just mean people in the United States and Western Europe, we mean like… everyone. Suddenly- or so it seemed -delicious wines were being made in surprising places like Slovenia, Croatia, Hungary and Georgia.

But here’s the thing, wine isn’t new to Eastern Europe at all… people were making wine in modern day Georgia 8,000 years ago. The WTF-worthy tastiness of these wines is appreciated by so few because hardly anyone had access to them for such a long time.

In communist economies like those of Yugoslavia and Hungary, wine production happened through large cooperatives. Private ownership of vineyards was highly discouraged, and very rare. Government officials would contact these cooperatives and tell them what and how much to make based on their facts and figures. Needless to say, this made the life of winemakers tricky.

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A poster from the Socialist Republic of Hungary

The myth is that because these winemakers were forced to produce such large quantities of wine for their comrades in the republic, they stopped making wines of any real quality. True, the quality of the wines that produced for the republic was often poor, but winemakers in the Eastern Bloc didn’t stop making great wine by any means… they just kept it all for themselves! Only now (about 25 years after the fall of the Iron Curtain) are these delectable and historically significant wines stepping out of small villages and winemaker’s cellars onto the world’s stage.

We here at Wine Awesomeness are not historians, economists, philosophers or politicians, but we are very very happy that the cookie of history has crumbled in such a way that these wines have finally made their way West, where we can drink them all night and day!

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