Passport Magazine December 2009
Text by Charles Borden
The past two Passport wine articles covered the Russian and Ukrainian wine industries respectively. Although there is seldom news on Russia’s wine industry to report, during October Jancis Robinson, one of the world’s best known wine experts, visited the Kuban to see several wineries that employ Australian flying winemaker John Worontschak: Fanagoria, Mysakho and the remnants of Sauk Dere. The results of this pioneering visit by a western wine journalist were reported in the Financial Times on October 24 in her article “Russia’s wild world of wine.” Ms. Robinson was able to sample some of Mr. Worontschak’s excellent work with some of the wines from Fanagoria and Myskhako. There is not much left of the Sauk Dere. I visited a few years ago; the remnants, primarily a collection of older wines, were acquired recently by Myskhako.
Ms. Robinson also visited Abrau Durso, Russia’s historic sparkling wine producer on the coast near Novorossisk, but unfortunately in the brief visit did not have a chance to see Chateau Le Grand Vostock, which is clearly by an order of magnitude or two Russia’s leader in terms of modern wine production.
The problem with selecting a Russian wine, as Ms. Robinson pointed out in a later article is “sorting out which wines labeled as Russian are made with some or all Russian-grown grapes and which constitute the 70% or so that contain non- Russian wine imported in bulk.” The industry has been glacially slow to change, but during the past two years there have been several other, young promising developments in the region. Ms. Robinson’s visit brings hope that others will follow to shine some light into a region that surely will have more attention during the run-up to the 2014 Olympics.
Season Wine Shopping – Russian Selections
Ms. Robinson provided a very detailed report on her visit in her Purple Pages (jancisrobinson.com) together with tasting notes from some of the more that 100 wines she tried during the trip. This brings us to the point of this article, which is to provide Moscow shoppers with a seasonal buyers’ guide and some recommendations. Let’s start with just a couple of Ms. Robinson’s expressive tasting notes from Fanagoria Winery.
“Fanagoria Cru Lermont Sauvignon Blanc 2007 Kuban 16 Drink 2010-11 A year’s lees contact with six months’ bâtonnage. Pale lemon straw. Fresh and lively. From a very old vineyard – probably not 100% Sauvignon Blanc. Very lively and mineral. Lots of structure. I’d pay £7.99 for this.”
“Fanagoria NR Cabernet Rosé 2008 Kuban 15.5 Drink now Very, very slightly syrupy – fashioned expressly for Russian women, apparently. Mid rosé colour. Defi nitely some Cabernet, good acid and then quite a bit of sugar, but all in a nice package. Remarkably like a Cabernet Rosé d’Anjou!”
Moscow buyers can find Fanagoria wines at several supermarkets; the NR is the mid-level, Cru Lermont the premium.
Myskhako wines are more difficult to fi nd but they do have a nice shop across from the Hard Rock Café on Old Arbat. Myskhako produces an icewine and an organic red, which Ms. Robinson rated well.
Put Chateau Le Grand Vostock on your party list. This Frenchequipped, completely new and modern winery is managed by French winemaker Frank Duseigneur and his wife Gael Brullon. The CGV wines can be ordered from their website at www.grandvostock.ru and they deliver case quantities.
Other Russian and Ukrainian wines and drinks worth trying include sparkling wines from Abrau Durso and Tsimlanskoye, and the Crimean Novy Svet, which can be found in several Massandra shops in Moscow.
From Abrau Durso (Kuban), try a Classic Brut (500r) and from Tsimlanskoye Winery (Rostov region), try the its sweet, purple sparkling wine made from local grapes “according to an old Cossack method,” now sold in a fancy designer metal case. From Novy Svet (Sudak, Ukraine), try the Pinot Noir Brut (577r); the 2002 bested fi ve top French Champagnes in a completely blind tasting. Make sure to serve very cold.
Another interesting seasonal selection would be from Praskoveya Winery near Budyonnovsk of Stavropol region, which specializes in brandies (konyak in Russian), produced under a French-trained winemaker. Praskoveya also makes a retro-labeled Samogon No.5 (Russian moonshine), which is a grape based and 45% alcohol. Praskoveya has a collection of wines dating back to 1945, after the German occupation. Praskoveya collector wines, such as a 1992 Uliybka (Smile – a sweet Muscat wine) at 1,460 rubles or a 1955 Buket Prikumya at 17,660 rubles are available at a small shop off Krasnoprenya Prospekt near the Moscow zoo.
These wines represent a good value in a market that now has much higher import wine prices, and this selection gives you the chance to show off the knowledge of Russian wines you gained from reading Passport.
Where to Buy
Old Arbat 51 (across from Hard Rock Café)
Chateau le Grand Vostock
Gogolevsky Bulvar, 10
Ulitsa Malaya Gruzinskaya 12
Tel: 252 1408
Massandra (Kriymskikh Vin)
Zvenigorodskoye Shosse 7
Komsomolsky Prospekt 15
This article originally appeared in Moscow’s Passport Magazine in December 2009