Miki Sa and I are enjoying a one-week Spring break from the MPA in the beautiful former Soviet bloc of Russia. Our trip consists of 3 days in Moscow and 3 days in St. Petersburg and naturally I figured… why not explore the local wines?! This marks the Crew’s second former Soviet bloc wine post. Miki Sa submitted a post on the Georgian wine, “Tamada Mukuzan”, back on December 24th 2008
Russian Wine Brief History
Wine has been produced for over 2,500 years on the coast of the Caspian Sea, beginning with the ancient Greek settlements. From the late 1800s to the early 1900s, Prince Leo Galitzine founded the modern day practices of wine production in the Soviet Union. He produced champagne-style wines at his Novyi Svet estate in Crimea, South of Ukraine. His sparkling wine gained international attention, winning a Gold Medal at a Paris wine exhibition in 1889. Although wine experts fled the Soviet Union after the Russian Revolution of 1917, putting a hamper on production, the industry rebounded and grew rapidly throughout the 1940s and 50s. By 1980 the Soviet Union ranked 4th in the world in wine production with Azerbaijan, Georgia, Moldova, Russia, and the Ukraine, among others, pumping out 4.8 billion liters of wine per year. Only France, Italy and Spain produced more wine. In 1985 Gorbachev launched an anti-alcohol campaign, destroying vineyards and wineries, and by 1990 annual production was down to 1.6 billion liters. A further push by market-driven policies and privatization, leading to vineyard land being utilized for other purposes, drove down production even more. By 2000 Russia had only 72,000 hectares of vineyards, less than half of the total vineyard area in 1980.
Russian Wine Production
The top wine producing regions of Russia are Stavropol and Krasnodar, located in the South between the Caspian Sea and the Black Sea. Krasnodar alone produces around 50% of the Russian wine today. These regions encounter severe winter cold and thus grape growers will often have to cover the vines with soil in order to protect the vineyards from deadly frost.
Over 100 different grape varieties are used in the production of still, sweet and sparkling wines in Russia. The rkatsiteli varietal is used in over 45 percent of the wine production. Other prominent varietals used are – aligote, cabernet sauvignon, cabernet severny, clairette, merlot, muscat, pinot gris, plavai, portugieser, riesling, saperavi, silvaner and traminer.
The wine I tasted for this post came from the Myskhako Winery (“Мьιсхаκо” in Russian), considered to be one of the top wine producers in Russia. Myskhako, also the name of the village from where the wine originates, is located in the region of Novorossiysk (“Новороссийсκ” in Russian), less than 200 kilometers southwest of Krasnodar. Since 2002 Australian winemakers have been assisting Myskhako with its development and production. The 2003 Myskhako Chardonnay was awarded a Bronze Medal at a London wine exposition.
2005 Myskhako “Cabernet Myskhako”
Appellation:Cabernet Myskhako (“Κаберне Мьιсхаκо” in Russian), Novorossiysk, Russia
Designation:Вино географичесκого наименования сухое κрасное (Equivalent to AOC, Dry Red Wine)
Tasting Notes:Blood red in the glass. A very fruity, candy-like nose with aromas of raspberry cream lollipop and cherry cotton candy, opening up to over-accentuated alcohol, despite only a 13% ABV. The fruit and the candy focus remain on the palate. This wine is dry with light tannins, a light-medium body and a very linear form. There are notes of cherry-flavored hard candy and very mild dark chocolate, with a spicy, peppery bite on the back-end. Drink this wine now, it’s not meant for ageing. (Miki-sa noted “red cabbage nose, light wine, flavors of fresh red berries”)
Price: 510 rubles @ Myskhako Wines & Vines in Moscow