fighting vines will produce exceptional grapes

On the banks of the Bug River. From our special correspondent

They are there, across the river, 20 kilometers away. Sitting on the terrace of his castle, Pavlo Magalias observes ten hectares of vineyards that gently descend towards the Bug River before it flows into the Black Sea.

The Russians fire, ours respond; and counting the rockets in our garden…” because wine estate Olbia New dangerously close to the line of defiance.

At the age of 59, Pavlo reflects on the results of eight years of hard work. A three-hour drive south of Odessa, he and other vintners hold their ground and refuse to leave their farms. But for eight months, they are all in the middle of the shooting range. Below, several rocket corpses are piled up in the sun, looking like a work of modern art. This is the residue of everything that falls on the property. From a cluster bomb.

A view of the small vineyard of Pavlo Magalias. The calm is deceptive because war is so close. | F. THOMAS

Bald cap, khaki shirt, former minesweeper who tried to join twice (but they replied that they don’t need my qualification…​) knows well the models in his possession. After taking off, the missile opens and scatters dozens and dozens of small mines that prohibit access to the area. It’s terrible for people, he said, shaking his head. Although this type of weapon is formally banned by the Geneva Conventions, the Russians have used it extensively since the beginning of the war.

26 craters on the entire property.

This is the last one– said the winemaker, pointing to a large metal pot. A cluster bomb. He parachuted down before dropping his death payload into the vineyards. He shows a long metal frame planted deep in the middle of a vineyard at the foot of a row of vines. I cleaned everything I could. The army did the rest. But I leave that to the touristsshe said, shuddering.

The first harvest since the start of the war took place a month ago. Everyone was afraid of explosionscomments. Last week, a 152 mm shell exploded near the herd. Several sheep died from the shrapnel, but thank God the shepherd brought them out alive!

After installation in 2014, Pavlo and his wife Alla planted Johanniter, a grape variety close to Riesling that produces a dry white wine. Pavlo, who settled in Olbia, an ancient Greek colony founded in the 7th century BC, collected near the bodies of rockets, pottery and amphorae found during the development of the land.

White wine barrels await in the cellars. The 2022 crop was good. | F. THOMAS

Each year, his small estate produces 3-4,000 bottles, 60% of which are white. The rest are rose and red. For him, wine remains a family business. Parents and grandparents, originally from Moldova, are engaged in wine. It was a normal path for a former deminer to become a top weightlifter before he retired.

His tablet scrolls through black-and-white photos. Young men with bodies, hearts, posing like Arnold Schartzeneger. In 1987, he was in St. Petersburg with the USSR national team. another time. He is in the middle. Others were Russians. As if to mark the difference. Like many Ukrainians, after the annexation of Crimea in 2014, Pavlo stopped speaking Russian and decided to use only Ukrainian.

The threat of drones

Suddenly there was a distant boom. Pavlo listens, the connoisseur. Pravdino. This is the village that our people have been trying to liberate for a week. If they take it back, our soldiers will be only twenty kilometers from Kherson.

Along with the rumble of daily bombings, another noise entered their daily lives: the sound of drones flying over the area. Alla can recognize them by their voicelaughingly said: The Orlan Russians make lawnmower noise Martyr Iranians are louder…”

After three days, the late harvest will resume. All employees will return. Rain or shine, they will be thereAlla said laughing. Are they afraid? But we are all afraid. When it hits too hard, everyone falls on their stomachs, waits a bit, then gets up and continues. What else can we do? You have to harvest well and you get used to it anyway…says the philosopher.

Russian plunder

Another property continues to operate 30 km from the property, near the village of Slivino, on the Nikolaev road. In the great room, people from the neighboring village come to buy table wine directly from the cistern. The family estate, managed by Georgiy Molchanov and his father, encompasses six hectares of vineyards spread gracefully towards the river. Cabernet, Chardonnay, Pinot Noir, Alibernet thrive in the sun.

Another vineyard, along the Bug River, in Georgiy Molchanov. | F. THOMAS

There, as in Pavlo, Russian bombs largely destroyed the place. It was a rocket Hurricane. Six meters long with three on the ground »Georgiy explains in front of a huge metal pipe stuck in the ground. The other piece is further down in the forest.

200 hectares of nature reserve along the river. For several months, explosions have been heard from the dense forests. All the anti-personnel mines dropped by rockets scattered in the forest. Animals trigger them. Nobody hunts here. We are waiting for the end of the warhe said laconically.

Today, there are only nine owners to turn their vines. Five large and four small farms. Others, the Russian side, had no choiceGeorgi’s father explains. Either they became Russian and could continue to work, or they had to leave. Many of them gave their domains to the Russians and left. It was heartwarming. Years of hard work are gone. The properties have not been operated since then the Russians seized all the material to send to Russia.

Despite everything, the Molchanovs remain optimistic, wine occupies their whole lives. The scary thing is that this year is an exceptional year. The wine will be great. Georgiy hopes to reach 30,000 bottles in the future and is not giving up hope: What else can they do to us? War? It’s ready now.

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