Saturday, October 24, 2009
Emerging wine country: Russia --- After the break down of the Soviet Union, many important wine growing areas became foreign for Russia
I have started to cover countries east of the former iron curtain(although Serbs may argue that they were not east of the iron curtain). These are all what I would call emerging wine countries, although in Hungary, but also Serbia, wine making has a long tradition. But they were absent from the international market since the Second World War, at least from a western perspective.
I covered Serbia on October 2009, 1,5,12 and 19, Hungary on October 2009, 12 and 15 and Poland on October 2009, 21. Today Russia.
Wine making during the period of the Soviet Union was concentrated in the South, reflecting the climating conditions there: Crimea in the Ukraine, the valley of Ararat in Armenia, as well as the Republics of Moldova, Georgia and Azerbaijan.
The founder of modern commercial wine-making in Russia is Prince Leo Galitzine , who established the first Russian sparkling wine estate in the Crimea. In 1889 his sparkling wine won the Gold Medal in Paris. Until today, Russian Sekt remains very popular in Germany.
After the Russian Revolution in 1917, the French wine-savvy professionals fled Russia, but during the Soviet Union, wine growing and making came back. Few wineries, however, had any bottling equipment. Wine was sent in tanks to separate bottling plants located close to the big cities in the Soviet Union. In general, priority was given to higher-yielding sorts of grapes, quantity over quality.
After the break down of the Soviet Union, many important wine growing areas became foreign for Russia. The Russian population is approximately 145 million people and the Republics of the former USSR total over 295 million.
The wine growing areas of Russia are located between the Caspian and Black Seas. Until today, the wine market in Russia is almost entirely a table wine market.
Jancis Robinson now has a report on Russia in the FT of October 24, 2009.