Lithuania is perhaps not best known for its wine culture. However, it certainly isn’t non-existent and it has an important role in culture as well. For instance, if you are invited to the home of a Lithuanian, you are expected to bring a bottle of wine. Whether that is a Lithuanian wine is down to your own discretion.
There are certain laws on alcohol in Lithuania, which make it very difficult to produce and distribute wine. Only those with a special license are allowed to do this. In other European countries, it is reasonably easy to produce and sell wine. However, there is no authority in Lithuania that protects the authenticity of wines. This is contrary to most other countries, where wines go through stringent processes in order to be allowed to be called a “wine”.
As a result of this, any Lithuanian wine is essentially a juice, with a label stating “made in Lithuania”, which is where it ends. The strength and flavour of the wine can be adjusted through various additives, but the content of the juice itself is irrelevant. Hence, it is very difficult to find a true “authentic” Lithuanian wine.
Lithuania does not export many of its wines either, mainly because of the abovementioned issues. However, as Lithuania becomes more open and knowledge from other countries comes into the country, it is believed more viticulture will start soon. At present, there are only some nine official wine stores in Lithuania, of which only two are actual wineries. These are Svyturys and Tauras. The first is found in Klaipeda and the latter in Panevezys.
At present, it seems wine will continue to remain a cultural beverage. As stated, it is custom to give a bottle of wine to people when you visit them. At weddings, it is customary for parents to meet the newlyweds at their door, where they share salt, bread and a glass of wine.
Interestingly, if a toast is presented, this is generally done using hard liquor and not wine. This is probably because wine has not made a large impact on the culture of the country yet. Furthermore, Lithuanians, having been part of Russia for so long, as known for their consumption of spirits and hard liquor, rather than simple and elegant wines.
With the country developing, it is certainly important to keep our eye on the country. If legislations change in the country, it may well be that we suddenly see a huge amount of wines starting to be developed.