Raise a glass to Russia’s world-class wines (by Denis Puzyrev)

Posted: May 2, 2013 by wynmaker in Cellars, Farms, Origin, Vinification, Vintage, Wine, Winemaking, Wineries, World wine news
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Russian girl stomping grapes during Russian wine harvest.

 

Cheap sweet whites dominate the home market but a handful of ambitious Russian wine producers are raising the standards.
For most westerners, the whole concept of “Russian wine” sounds a bit like an oxymoron. And if you ever sip wine at a Russian party, the chances are you won’t like it much. Or at least you will find it perplexing.

That’s because four-fifths of wines sold in Russia are poor quality semi-sweet varieties, and involve the use of concentrate.

The reasons for this date back to Soviet times, when Russians’ taste for semi-sweet and sparkling wines was formed. Many Russians today consider dry wines too sour. It was Joseph Stalin, an ethnic Georgian, who did most to foster this tradition.

It may be hard to believe but, according to the International Wine Office, the Soviet Union ranked fifth in the world in terms of area under vines and seventh in terms of wine output by the end of the Fifties.
The young Soviet winemaking industry found enthusiastic support from Stalin and from Anastas Mikoyan, his Armenian minister for food production. Both Georgia and Armenia, in the fertile, Mediterranean-like climate of the South Caucasus, have a rich tradition of winemaking that predates even the ancient wine culture of Greece.

Wine was drunk in Russia only by the aristocracy before the 1917 Revolution. But all this changed under Stalin, who believed wine had to be affordable for every Soviet citizen.
Scientists managed to produce frost-resistant, high-yielding varieties of grape. But the quality suffered: wines made from such grapes were barely palatable because of their high acidity and lack of taste. To remedy this flaw, grape sugar and often ethyl alcohol were added to the wines – practices that are still widely used in the Russian wine industry to this day.

Read on …

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