This Central Asian republic between the Caspian Sea, Uzbekistan, Afghanistan and Iran, located between latitudes 38 – 41 north is a minor wine producer. The population of a little more than five million is mainly (90 per cent) Muslim, nine per cent Eastern orthodox Russians.
The vast Karakurum Desert occupies a large part of this hot and dry country.
Large diurnal temperature changes yield high acid grapes.
Winters are cold and summers warm to hot, with little rain, necessitating irrigation.
Greek and Roman writers reported grape growing as early as 300 B C in the Marghian Valley and in Aria. There are still wild vines in the ravines that have served as a basis for many indigenous varieties.
For centuries, the nomadic population resisted agricultural development, and only consented to settle after the country was annexed to the U S S R.
At the height of viticulture planted vineyards increased to 27 000 hectares.
The vineyards are mostly (70 per cent) around Ashkabad, the Mary- and Chardzahon regions.
Approximately 20 grapes varieties are cultivated, ranging from early to late ripening varieties to ensure continued harvest from June to October.
Of the 20 varieties, terbash, tara uzum Ashabadski, riesling, saperavi, kizil sapak, and bayan shirey are the most popular.
The population abstains from drinking alcohol but most of the wine produced goes to Russia and consumed locally by Russians.
A lot of the grapes are dried to raisin, some are consumed as table grapes.