Wednesday, 18 May 2011

Russian Wine

Yes, there is Russian not just Soviet wine, 100 km from Magarch (now in the Ukraine) are the vineyards of the Vedernikov winery on the right bank of the Don near Rostov. Vedernikov was represented at the London International Wine Fair by Maxim who jokingly turned around the fact some of his most interesting wines had been held up at UK customs. "You can feel safe" he said. "your customs are doing a great job!", Very Russian sense of humour and charming.

Maxim's enthusiasm for his wines was not tempered by this little mishap and we tasted an excellent Aligote thus satisfying one of our oldest ambitions. Aligote is the lesser grape of Burgundy as everyone knows. Burgundian Aligote is often pressed into service to make a Kir which is hardly a ringing endorsement of the variety. It is given the worst soils in Burgundy to grow in. The best Aligote we had ever tasted was from California when Au Bon Climat we think it was decided one year exceptionally to make a 100% example. Unfortunately and inexplicably never again.

We had read that for some reason Aligote had been widely planted in Russia and especially Bulgaria but had not had much opportunity of tasting one apart from a decent example from Laithwaites of all places.

The Vedernikov Aligote was a fine example, perhaps still not as revelatory as the Californian one but worthy of an international audience.

Maxim informed us that there are 3 native Russian grapes the others having been held up in customs. These are Krasnostop Zolotovskiy, Tsimlyanskiy Chorny (Black) and Sibir'kovsky (White). We were fortunate enough to taste the Tsimlyanskiy which had a strong but attractive character. The others were still detained at the pleasure, no doubt of HM Customs.

One delightful afternote; we asked the Abv. of one of the wines and were told 12% - 14%. Given the laudable attempts of Swiss and US vignerons to give uber-precise values (12.8%, 13.2%) we thought this was pretty hilarious and redolent of Soviet practices until we remembered the time we noticed BBR wines were routinely entered in the winelist as 1% lower than what was written on the label and most governments allow some tolerance in these matters. It is just that we at Slotovino believe degrees of alcohol act like the Richter scale and increase exponentially as far as effect is concerned. Hence 13% might as well be twice as intoxicating as 12.5%.

Vedernikov also make Rkatsiteli, Riesling and blends including the above reds, Cabernet Sauvignon and something called Golubok about which their literature and even Maxim was silent...(it's an old crossing including some Cabernet Sauvignon) and is used as a teinturier. It is early ripening and 'smoky'. Some has been planted in Puget Sound, Washington State, USA.

Vedernikov was not the only Russian winery represented. there were also Abrau-Durso whose sparkling Cabernet Sauvignon we tasted last year, Tsimlyanskoe wines and 5 others. There is a long tradition of wine in the area going back to pre-historic times. We wish modern producers the best of luck in reviving the tradition.

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