Over ten years ago, I led Young Pioneer Tours’ first trip to Tiraspol, the capital of Transnistria (a country not even MS Word – let alone the UN – will recognise). The legends of this trip abound; not too put too fine a point on it, but YPT invented Transnistria tourism.
Since then I’ve been back over twenty times, and even spent a month living in this Soviet time warp. One of the defining characteristics of my time there has been my ongoing love affair with one of the world’s best brandies – suck it, France – KVINT.
What is KVINT?
KVINT – or, to give it its catchy full name, kon’iaki vina i napitki Tiraspol’ia (“divins, wines and beverages of Tiraspol”) – is the most famous distillery in Tiraspol (which, we grant, is not saying all that much). It was founded back in 1897 to distill vodka; in 1938, some bright spark had the idea of adding brandy to their repertoire. At this stage it was, like everything else in the Soviet Union, nationalised.
In 2006 Transnistria got the memo on the fall of the USSR. The company was privatised and purchased by the ubiquitous Sheriff – a company owned by the President’s son, for the President’s son – who happen to pretty much own everything in Transnistria.
A national symbol
KVINT is everywhere in Transnistria, and is such a symbol of pride that it even appears on the back of the Transnistrian five-ruble note. It is also of extreme importance to the Transnistrian economy: it is exported to Ukraine, Russia and allegedly China (though I, being a resident of China, have never personally seen it there). KVINT accounts for 5% of the country’s GDP; nobody could accuse it of being small potatoes.
KVINT comes in many varieties, all the way from regular to high-end XOs. But one of the advantages of it being produced locally and in such abundance means that it costs only a few dollars per bottle when purchased in Transnistria.
If you’d like to sample KVINT from the source (and also nip next door to try Moldovan wine) then join us for a Chernobyl-Transnistria tour. If you’d like something more specialised, we can even organize a Moldova/Transnistria wine- and brandy-tasting tour!.