Виноград в винном хозяйстве Abavas

Drinks with the ABAVAS trademark in Latvia began to be sold quite recently – since the summer of 2011, and at the moment they have received recognition and positive feedback from consumers and well-known sommeliers of the leading restaurants in Latvia.

The family business ABAVAS is the favorite brainchild of Martins and Liene Barkans. Together, the couple produces quality drinks made from fruits and berries grown in Latvia.

In the now distant 2007, Martins and Liene visited Italian Tuscany, where they were inspired by the work of small but so charming wineries. It was then that the couple decided to open their own in Latvia, for which they soon acquired a plot of 20 hectares not far from Sabile by the picturesque river Abava.

In the summer of 2010, with the financial assistance of the EU program, they received a grant under the agricultural development program, they equipped a vineyard in Sabile. They began to grow raspberries, black currants, rhubarb, and elderberry near the grapes. A collection of apple trees of various varieties was created, which in 2014 became an independent apple orchard. Growing grapes in the climatic conditions of Latvia is an experimental and risky business, where experience comes very slowly, therefore, in 2008, a certified agronomist Ivars Gailüns, a true storehouse of knowledge and an enthusiast of all new beginnings, joined them. Already in 2010, at the Sabile Wine Festival, Martins and Ivar invited visitors to taste their own fruit wines. The positive reviews inspired them to formally register the winery.

The idea comes from childhood

– Martins, how was the idea to start such an unusual business for Latvia born?

– It all started with that special feeling that arises when you find yourself in the countryside. I grew up not in a city, but in a country estate in Jelgava. We grew vegetables ourselves and then sold them. This “natural” approach is close and understandable to me. In the city, I always felt out of place. The desire to move to the village and do something exciting there constantly arose in me. And our trip to Italy strengthened me in it. In a way, this is a challenge for me.


Урожай Винограда в Винном Хозяйстве Abavas

Harvesting at the Abavas winery

I often wondered: why do we produce so little in Latvia ourselves? You can create so many interesting things. In 2007-2008, when the idea of ​​creating their own winery arose, there were still not so many entrepreneurs as after the crisis. After that, great changes took place in the minds of people – many wanted to open a business, thereby becoming responsible for their fate. We managed to find our niche a little earlier than others.

In the summer of 2011, ABAVAS presented the first three types of fruit wines – apple, apple aronia and apple-viburnum. 2,500 bottles were filled with aromatic wine and sold in just two months. In 2012, the batch volume increased to 10,000 containers. In the same year, we began to offer excursions and wine tastings around our estates in Sabile – our vineyards are one of the largest in Latvia! A wine room was immediately organized, where you can enjoy the company’s products in a romantic atmosphere for true connoisseurs of wine – looking at the waters of Abava and its beautiful curves.

Today, the volumes of ABAVAS products are growing rapidly, and it becomes obvious that the wines themselves are gaining more and more popularity. In 2014, ABAVAS has already produced 40,000 containers of products. So from a cute hobby, the business has grown into a real enterprise, which employs eight workers and is regularly expanded!

Sabile – the northern capital of vineyards

Why did you choose Sabile?

Главный Винодел винного хозяйства Abavas Мартыньш Барканс

– There is a myth that the famous Duke Jacob, famous for having founded the Courland colonies on the island of Tobago in the 17th century, was engaged in other interesting things. For example, he grew grapes in Sabile. There is also information that grapes were grown in Latvia in 1936 and we were considered the northernmost country where this could be done. True, the reason for the sudden fashion is not related to winemaking and lies elsewhere – grapes were considered very useful. 70-80 years ago, growing grapes in greenhouses was a great business, and among the wealthy part of the population it was more popular than growing cucumbers in gardens! Why not try to revive the former popularity of vineyards in Latvia? But only in the open air. And with the hope of a warming climate!

But why exactly winemaking? Latvia is a northern country, it is pretty cool here most of the year, and there are much fewer sunny days for grapes ripening than in Italy …

To tell the truth, I didn’t understand all the subtleties of winemaking very well until I started my own business and faced the first difficulties. I’ll tell you more about this.

There are 60 types of grapes in the world, but only three of them are suitable for winemaking, these are Vitis vinifera (considered the best for winemaking), Vitis labrusca and Vitis amurensis. The last two species can mature even in our northern latitudes and tolerate winter well. But what would we do without the labors of breeders! There was such a scientist in the history of Latvia – Paul Sukatnieks, who worked in the 60s of the last century. The main business of his life was just the search for those grape varieties that can be grown here. We, winemakers of Latvia, should be grateful to him for many new varieties. By the way, in Latvia there is even an association of those who grow grapes, and about 20 winemakers are members of it.

There are approximately 10-15 large vineyards in Latvia. Martins and Liene have 5.5 thousand seedlings on two hectares, that is, they are one of the largest local producers of fruit wines. So far, only experimental batches are being produced with wine from their grapes.

The problem is not at all that our grapes do not have time to ripen – there are specially bred varieties for this. The problem is that everyone is used to certain taste standards of wine, and anything that differs from it seems strange to us.

There are perspectives!

– What does your product taste like? How can you describe it?

– If we are talking about grape wines, they will be more acidic in general anyway. White wine has great potential. Freshness and aroma are our main strengths. But I want to emphasize that we are only at the beginning of the path of creating real grape wines. If anyone is interested in northern winemaking – welcome to visit us in Sabile, we will be happy to discuss it!

We also have the potential to create really good sparkling wine! For example, recently for a foreign exhibition, we grabbed a rhubarb sparkling wine – unexpectedly for us, it made a real sensation. At the moment, we have become the leaders in the production of cider in Latvia – it is very unusual for our country that natural apple juice is used to create a drink, and not an incomprehensible concentrated powder. If you have ideas for new drinks, you have to experiment! Now, when there is a worldwide revival of small enterprises (especially breweries!), It is quite easy to get into the market. The world is open to new things, and it is small firms with the coquetry of a young girl who use their charm and unbiased approach to doing business.


Подборка вин винодельни Abavas


• Martins Barkans and Ivars Gailuns gained experience in making wines on trips to Germany, Italy, Austria and the Czech Republic, where they studied the work of wineries.

• 2013 was a significant year for the company: a serious harvest of grapes was harvested in the Sabile vineyards. More than a ton of berries in total!

• In autumn 2013, ABAVAS drinks took 1st place in the Latvian fruit and berry wine competition. Dry chokeberry wine was the leader, and semisweet apple wine got the third place!