Mother Russia: Wines on the Rise in Land of Putin


Believe it or not, it’s a good time to be a winemaker in Russia.
That’s according to a recent Bloomberg Business story, in which reporters Ilya Khrennikov and Jason Corcoran detailed the state of the country’s wine industry, noting a resurgence. 
“Spurned over Ukraine and squeezed by recession, Russians are starting to measure patriotism by the glass,” the article said. “The social shift has winemakers with ties to the Kremlin popping their corks.”
Khrennikov and Corcoran highlighted Abrau-Durso PJSC, a winery found in 1870 “to supply sparkling wine to Czar Alexander II. 
“(Abrau-Durso) is leading a revival of the industry as swelling national pride and a weaker ruble make foreign products less palatable,” the article said. “Long the official bubbly at premier events like the Sochi Olympics, its cabernets and chardonnays are now winning awards and gracing some of Moscow’s finest dining halls, from the Four Seasons and Ritz Carlton to those run by Arkady Novikov, Russia’s most decorated restaurateur.” 
Part of the resurgence of Russian wine is do to austerity measures the national government forced on its own, sommelier Sergey Aksenovskiy told Bloomberg. 
“Russian officials recently stopped ordering the most expensive (French wines),” Aksenovskiy said. “They’ve been told not to show off amid the economic crisis.”
To give readers an idea of the type of crisis the import wine market is facing, the Bloomberg reporters noted that Russia was the world’s fifth-largest wine importer last year, and that heading into this year the market saw a 33 percent decline.
“Premium Black Sea marks like Abrau-Durso’s Usadba Divnomorskoye have benefited from the ruble’s 40 percent decline since Russia annexed Crimea from Ukraine last March, while Italian and French labels have suffered the most,” the article said.
The surge in Russian wine popularity is not without controversy, though. According to the Bloomberg report, there’s a blurry line between Putin’s presidential office and certain famous Russian wineries. 
And yet, Abrau-Durso boss Boris Titov said, Russian wine consumers’ choices are most often influenced by the red, white and blue of the country’s flag. 
“The first impulse for people to buy Russian wine is patriotic,” Titov said. “But patriotism alone isn't enough to make them order a second bottle if they didn’t like it.” 
In order to maintain quality, winemakers have enlisted the help of winemakers from around the world. 
“The biggest winners of this trend are the local producers who invested in high-quality wines years ago,” the article said. 
Businessman-turned-winemaker Mikhail Nikolaev, who invested $100 million in his winery, turned to France to find consultant.
“Nikolaev lured French vintner Patrick Leon … to Russia to oversee the project,” the article said. “Leon helped create California’s Opus One winery in the 1980’s, producing the first U.S. ultra premium brand.”

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