Let’s be honest, the first thing that you think of when considering Russia and alcohol is vodka. Few are likely to think of wine at all and even fewer are likely to think of wine first. However, there is no reason to dismiss wines from Russia.
Russia has a stable and long winemaking history. Most of the vineyards located around the borders that Russia shares with the Republic of Georgia (Georgian Wine), Ukraine, and Azerbaijan which is the area that is between the Caspian Sea and the Black Sea.
Russian winters are known for being very cold. This can cause devastation for the vineyards. In order to prevent this from happening, the wineries protect the vines by using mounds of earth around them. The summers are nice, warm, and very sunny. This causes them to need irrigation. Thanks to the Caspian and Black Seas there are fewer chances of droughts. The area around Dagestan and Krasnodar, the two top producing wine regions, is a desert.
Sadly bans on alcohol made the world quickly forget that Russia at one time was one of the leading producers of wine. Today they still have not come back from the strict laws that were put into place during the 1990s by President Gorbachev. However, the world is starting to take notice of the amazing wines that are coming out of Russia again so that is quickly changing the pace of things.
A to Z of Russian Wines
Abrau – Dyurso — Abrau – Dyurso is one of the most popular wineries and vineyards in all of Russia. Some of the country’s finest wines are produced here. They have a wine house that is located in Novorossiysk. The winery was actually started with a decree from Tsar Alexander II in 1870. More than 150,000 people visit the winery each year. The types of grapes that are produced here include Chardonnay, Pinot blanc, aligote, cabernet, sauvignon, merlot, riesling, and pinot noir. They produce eleven million bottles each year.
Aligote — The aligote grape is a white wine grape and was first produced in France. Today this grape is grown around the world and in Russia. The aligote grape is a white grape. These grapes make a dry white wine. The grape is more tolerant to cold than some grapes which is why it is a great choice for Russian winemakers.
Cabernet Sauvignon — One of the types of grapes that are grown in Russia is cabernet sauvignon. These grapes are popular and one of the types that currently are grown. This is one of the world’s most recognized grapes and one of the top choice wines throughout the world. These grapes can be grown in a variety of different climates and they are a wine grape.
Cabernet Severny — Another of the types of grapes that are grown in Russia are cabernet several. These grapes are a popular choice and one that is known for producing high-quality wine. These are a grape that is part of the grapes of Russia. They are a red grape. They are formed when you cross vitis amurensis and seianetze malengra.
Château le Grand Vostock — Château le Grand Vostock is one of the best wineries in Russia and one of the most popular. They produce more than eight hundred and twenty thousand bottles each year. They have been in business since 2003. They help to produce the following types of grapes: cabernet sauvignon, krasnostop, golubok, saperavi, pinot franc, merlot, aligote, pinot blanc, Rkatsiteli, Pinot Gris, Sauvignon, and Chardonnay.
Checheno – Ingush — Checheno – Ingush is a region where wine is made in Russia. This is one of the most popular regions in the world and is a great place where you can find great wines.
Clairette — Clairette is another type of grape that is used in the production of white wine. This grape was first produced and grown in France. The grape is now grown throughout the world and in Russia. The Clairette grape is often times called the Clairette Blanche. It is a white wine grape. They are one of the most widely grown types of wine grape that you can see in many different regions of the world.
Crimea — The Crimea region is located on the northern coast of the Black Sea within Russia. This is one of the largest wine producing regions in Russia.
Dagestan — The Southernmost republic in Russia is one of the key wine regions in the country. It borders the Caspian Sea and the Black Sea which is important in proving that it has the right climate for the production of wine. Thanks to the two seas this area is good for wine production, as the climate would otherwise not work for the production of wine.
Fangoria — One of the largest wineries in the Krasnodar region is Fanagoria. This winery produces more than twenty-five million bottles of wine each year. They produce a large variety of alcoholic beverages which include: balsam, grape vodka, sparkling wines, cognac, red wines, and white wines. The winery has the following types of grapes: aligote, chardonnay, sauvignon blanc, riesling, cabernet sauvignon, muscat ottonel, saperavi, merlot, and pinot noir. The winery was first opened in 1957.
Krasnodar — Another one of the republics in Russia that borders the Black Sea and the Caspian Sea. This is another area where wine production is made possible by the climate that is brought into the area with the two seas. This would not be possible if there were not inland breezes from the seas.
Krasnostop Zolotovsky — One of the types of grapes that are grown in Russia is krasno stop zolotovsky. These grapes are known for their unique qualities and for the wine that they produce. This is a grape that is indigenous to Russia. They are considered to be one of the few varieties of local grapes. They are used to produce red wine.
Kuban – Vino — Kuban – Vino is a wine producer, winery. This winery was started in 1956. They produce about twenty-four million bottles each year. The winery produces a large variety of different types of grapes which include: Isabella, rose of Taman, chardonnay of Taman, muskat of Taman, krasno top of Taman, Madera, premiere rouge, cabernet, saperavi, merlot, Riesling, and Chardonnay.
Massandra — Massandra is likely the most popular winery in all of Russia. It is located in the Crimea Region which is a part of the area of the Crimean Peninsula which lies to the north of the Black Sea. The winery actually houses one of the biggest collections of rare and vintage wine in the world. There was a Sherry de la Frontera that was produced in 1775 and a bottle of this wine has actually sold for more than forty thousand dollars. The winery is one of the oldest in the region and was built between 1894 and 1897.
Merlot — Merlot grapes are one of the premier grapes in the production of red wine. These grapes are grown in Russia. Merlot grapes are a dark purple/bluish colored grape that is used for creating a dark red wine. They are a grape that is not native to Russia but can be grown in Russia with the right cultivation.
Muscat — Muscat grapes are quickly becoming popular around the globe. As a new generation of wine drinkers is being born and one that prefers a crisp but sweet wine, these grapes gain popularity. Muscat grapes are grown in many places including Russia.
Myshako — Another winery that is located near Novorossiysk is Myshako. This is another winery that has been around for a while as they have been producing wines for about one hundred and fifty years. This winery has been around since 1869. THey grow the following grapes: cabernet myshako, aligote, Merlot, muskat ottonel, pinot noir, Sauvignon, and pinot gris. They produce about three million bottles of wine each year.
Novy Svet — 1878 is the year when Novy Svet was started. This winery is in the Eastern part of the Crimean Peninsula. It was actually established by Count Golitsyn. The winery has not gone through any process of modernization, so it is still where you can find wines made the old world way.
Pinot Gris — One of the grapes that is grown in Russia and used in the production of white wine is the pinot gris. These grapes are originally from France. These are a white wine grape that is known as a few different names: pinot grigio, grauburgunder, and Vitis vinifera.
Plavai — The plavai grape is grown in Russia and is used in wines. These are a grape that has a cult-like following and many falls in love once they have had a taste. These are a white wine grape. They are known for their light color and their dry taste. These grapes were actually very popular during the earlier part of the 19th century.
Portugieser — Portugieser is another variety of grape that is used in wine production. This is one of the grapes that you will find used in Russian wines. These are a red grape that is useful in the production of red wine. These grapes are also called Blauer portugieser. They are one of the grapes that is grown in a wide variety of places throughout the world.
Riesling — The Riesling grape is one of the grapes that is used to make white wine. The grape is originally from Germany and grows in Russia. These are a white grape that is known for a delicious flavor. They range in flavor from being sweet to being semi-sweet. They are one of the more popular grapes that are grown as the Riesling is one of the most popular wines.
Rkatsiteli — The number one type of grape that is produced in Russia is the Rkatsiteli. This grape is actually one-third of all grapes that are produced in the region. These are a grape that is used to make white wine. They are an older type of grape that has been around for a long time.
Rostov — One of the regions where wine is produced in Russia is Rostov. This is one of the most popular regions.
Saperavi — The Saperavi grape is known for being used in wines. It is grown in Russia and you can find it used in Russian wines. These are a grape that is used for producing red wines. They are actually native to the United States but have since been grown throughout the world. They are a popular choice that offers drinkers to enjoy something unique.
Silvaner — One of the types of grapes that is grown in Russia and used in Russian wines is the silvaner. It is a popular type of grape in some regions but is almost unknown in other parts of the world. These are a white wine grape. They produce a semi-sweet and dry flavor that is perfect for making white wine.
Stavropol — Stavropol is one of the regions that lie between the Caspian Sea and the Black Sea where wine is produced in Russia.
Taman Peninsula — The Taman Peninsula region is one of the top producing wine regions in all of Russia. They are home to some of the most popular wineries and many great and popular wines are produced here.
Traminer — The trainer grape is one of the grapes that grow in Russia and is used in the production of white wine. This grape is originally from Italy. These grapes are used for the production of white wines. They grow best in cooler climates which is not something that is seen often with grapes. In fact, when these grapes are grown in a cooler temperature climate, they actually develop a sweeter taste.
Zolotaya Balka — Zolotaya Balka is another one of Russia’s more popular wineries. This winery was opened in 1889. It is located about a half of an hour’s drive from Sevastopol. The winery is known for more than just tastings. There is a modern art park to explore, an annual music festival, quad tours, and all of the basic tastings that you would expect from any winery.
Our Top Picks
When it comes to finding a great bottle of wine, there are many that you should consider because they score well and taste great. However, they are typically not the type of wines that are going to break your bank either, so you might even find that the bottles of Russian wine that you fall in love with are cheaper than the wines that you are already consuming.
Abrau – Durso Russian Champagne Brut, $6
Abrau – Durso Russian Champagne Brut might only sell for $6, but that does not mean that it is not high in quality. In fact, the aggregated critic score is 88/100. This wine has won a few awards which include: International Wine & Spirit Competition, 2013 bronze medal, Decanter World Wine Awards, 2015 bronze meal, Decanter World Wine Awards, 2017, silver award, and Decanter World Wine Awards, 2017 bronze medal. This champagne uses a rare blend of white grapes, which include: pinot blanc, chardonnay, pinot noir, aligote, and riesling. It pairs nicely with white fish and is a sparkling wine that is noted for being fresh and youthful.
Fanagoria NR Numeric Reserve Saperavi, $6
The Fangoria NR Numeric Reserve Saperavi is another wine that is going to only set you back by around $6. That’s right, for less than a pizza you could be enjoying a delicious bottle of wine. The wine actually has an aggregated critic score of 87/100. It has won two awards: Decanter World Wine Awards, 2011 Commended and International Wine Challenge, 2011 Bronze Award. The grapes are grown in Russia where the wine is produced. The wine has a 13% alcohol content. The winery has a full line of wines and different types.
Fanagoria Cru Lermont Cabernet Sauvignon, $13
The Fangoria Cru Lermont Cabernet Sauvignon is another great bottle of wine from Russia. This wine is from the Taman Peninsula region. The wine costs just $13 and scores an 87/100 aggregated critic score. The wine was Commended at the 2012 International Wine Challenge. As a cabernet sauvignon, it is no wonder that this wine is popular, these are the fifth most popular type of wine.
2014 Alma Valley Chardonnay, $31
The 2014 Alma Valley Chardonnay is a celebrated bottle of wine. It is a medium body wine. This wine is produced in the Crimea region. It is made with the aromas of sweet apple, melon, and pear. It has a refreshing and light taste.
A Few Words About Vodka
Since Russia is mostly known for their production of vodka, we felt that it was necessary to share a few of our favorite Russian vodkas with you.
Stolichnaya Elit Vodka, $50
Stolichnaya Elit Vodka has an aggregated critic score of 91/100. The vodka runs average in price and costs around $50. It is produced in Russia and has a 40% alcohol content. The producer does not just make plain vodka either. They have a wide range of additional vodkas, which include: Stolichnaya Red Vodka, Stolichnaya Elit Himalaya Limited Edition Vodka, Stolichnaya Gold Vodka, Stolichnaya Stoli Salted Caramel Vodka, Stolichnaya Pertsovka Pepper Vodka, Stolichnaya Blue Label 100 Proof Vodka, Stolichnaya Okhotnichya Hunter’s Vodka, Stolichnaya Stoli Hot Jalapeno Flavored Vodka, Stolichnaya Blackberry Blackberry Vodka, Stolichnaya Chocolat Razberi Flavored Vodka, Stolichnaya Vanil Vanilla Vodka, Stolichnaya Elit Ushuaia Limited Edition Vodka, Stolichnaya Cranberi Cranberry Vodka, Stolichnaya Ohranj Orange Vodka, Stolichnaya Blueberi Blueberry Vodka, Stolichnaya Citros Citrus Vodka, Stolichnaya Gala Applik Apple Vodka, Stolichnaya Chocolat Kokonut Chocolate Coconut Flavored Vodka, Stolichnaya Cucumber Vodka, and Stolichnaya Stoli Sticki Honey Flavored Vodka. With so many varieties and such a wide range in the varieties, there is always a vodka for you if you are looking at what Stolichnaya offers.
10 Interesting Facts About Russian Wine That You Probably Do Not Know
#1 — The wines that you taste today that are produced in Russia are nothing like their ancient counterparts. In fact, the wine was actually produced in Russia before it was produced in Ancient Greece. However, that is not the same type of wine that you are going to get when you pick up a bottle today. The modern wine industry got an update from Tsar Alexander II. Tsar Alexander II loved French wine. So, he decided that Russia should invite some French winemakers to teach the process to create these types of wines. This was actually the beginning of the modern wine production in Russia.
#2 — History played a big part in why Russia is not commonly thought of when talking about wines from around the globe. The Russian Revolution and World War II both caused there to be a halt in wine production, in fact, some question whether there was wine being produced at all during this time. However, the wine industry was able to come back years after these events, but it did take time. It also caused people to not think of Russia when they think of wine which has had a lasting effect on the wine industry within the country.
#3 — Mikhail Gorbachev actually hated alcohol. He enforced some of the strictest alcohol bans that have been seen in the entire world. Because of this, there have been many wineries that were not able to make it through these years. Some of these wineries were able to come back, but others were not so lucky. The anti-alcohol politics of the time were the reason that there are so few wine producers and vineyards today. Sadly, some of the best vineyards which carried generations of grapes that had been growing for centuries were destroyed in anti-alcohol efforts.
#4 — While Stalin was in charge many changes were made to wine production and the processes. This caused the wines to be very sweet and critics were not interested in the styles of wine that were produced while Stalin was in power. In fact, these wines were low rated and very cheap. They just did not taste well. The biggest reason behind this is that Stalin attempted to get higher yields and make the grapes frost resistant by adding ethyl alcohol and grape sugar.
#5 — Russia is probably the last place that you think of for grape production when you think about the climate. This is very true, there are few regions or areas of Russia in which grapes can be grown and/or produced into wine. In fact, much of the country is actually too cold for grapes to ripen properly.
#6 — Being able to protect grapes from the harsh winter conditions is also very important. In fact, with the icy winters and the continental climate, the vineyards are not able to protect their vines naturally. They have to put systems in place. They also had to protect the grapes and vines from the extreme cold. Today growers are experimenting with different methods for being able to keep the grapes growing well and alive during these conditions. One of the most unique things that they have done is with using the cold-resistant genes from the Mongolian vines. This is helping the vines to be able to grow naturally and stay alive during the winter months.
#7 — There are five main wine growing areas in Russia. These include Rostov, Stavropol, Dagestan, Krasnodar, and Checheno – Ingush. These are all regions that lie between the Black Sea and the Caspian Sea. The wines from Russia are almost all produced in this area.
#8 — While wine is not nearly as popular in Russia as it is in other countries, there are a lot of people who reside in Russia. Due to the large population, Russia is actually one of the top ten wine consuming nations in the world. Today there are more than three hundred million liters of wine produced in Russia each calendar year. In addition to the wine that is made within the country, nearly six hundred millions of liters are imported from other regions throughout the world.
#9 — The actual amount of wine that is consumed by people in Russia is not nearly as much as what is consumed in other countries. Each adult in Russia consumes only an average of seven liters of wine each year. However, people from France actually consume more than forty liters of wine each or those in Italy consume more than thirty liters of wine each year.
#10 — Today a lot is being done to increase the area of land where there are vineyards in Russia. This increase started in 2014 with the Crimea who helped to add an additional twenty-five thousand hectares and then when Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev took over he announced his own plans. He wanted to increase the total amount of land where the vineyards were to more than one hundred and forty thousand hectares by the year 2020.
The Rising Popularity of Russian Wine
While is no surprise that you realize that Russian wines are becoming more popular, there are some things that you probably should know about why the Russian wines are quickly becoming more popular. However, that does not mean that you should discredit Russian wines. In fact, recently Russian wines have started to experience success as they are becoming one of the leaders in the industry. There are numerous awards that are currently being held by Russian wines and many different wines that have won past awards. They are even starting to have a great score among international competitions. One of the things that you might have noticed during this transition is that more restaurants are starting to include Russian wines on their wine lists. Plus, you can find supermarkets and liquor stores in Russia.
Russian Wine is Nothing to be Afraid of
While you might not have been able to talk to your friends and family into trying Russian wines in the past, today you are not going to have a hard time. You will probably find that your guests are actually going to be excited to try these new types of wine. The reason that your guests would have hesitated in the past is that there were not high-quality wines coming out of Russia for some time.
In fact, the wines that were produced were overly sweet and did not have the flavor profile that you would want from a good bottle of vino. Today Russian winemakers are starting to increase their efforts and this increase in effort is paying off with higher quality wines.
The reputation of Russian wine is continuing to improve as well. Today there are actually a wide range of different types and styles of wine. These wines are available in a large range of price points and in a variety of different budgets. You will even find that there are many great high-quality wines that you can have as you are dining out.
Russian Wine Can Be Cheap or Expensive
Another thing that you should remember is that Russian wine is going to have different price points than wine from other countries or regions. Sometimes Russian wine is cheaper than other foreign wines, but other times it is more expensive.
There are times when you might even notice that Russian wines are the same price as your favorite wines from other regions. If a line of wines is produced in smaller batches and there are not as many bottles, then the price might be higher. However, for the wines that are produced in larger batches, the price can be extremely low. There are even producers that specialize in wine for drinking at home and those who specialize in producing wines that is mostly consumed in restaurants.
Russian Wine Guides Can Help
If you feel overwhelmed when thinking about Russian wines, one of the best things that you can do is use a Russian wine guide. Today there are actually a large number of books that help to pinpoint different Russian wines and the process of Russian winemaking.
If you are interested in a specific type of wine or a wine from a specific region, there are specialized books that you can pick up to meet these needs. These guides will tell you the types of wines, the region where the wines are from, the overall best winemakers, trusted and well-known ratings, and even descriptions and tasting notes.
Final Note on the Best Russian Wine
Fifty years ago there could have been many different types of wines that you would have preferred and there is no chance that one of those would have been from Russian. Unless you were Russian, you did not enjoy their overly sweet wines. Today there are so many amazing wines coming out of Russia, that you must give them a chance.
There are many different ways in which you can try Russian wines. One way is to visit the wineries during a visit to Russia. If you live too far or cannot afford that level of travel, there are still some options. One of the easiest ways to explore Russian wines is to purchase a variety of different types of Russian wine and invite some friends over to taste and discuss.
There are many great options today, so you will be able to find some unique styles and types of wines. With so many delicious types of wine, you will be able to find exactly what you prefer as there is really a little something for everyone.
With the new wines being a great part of the game, you will be able to find what you are looking for. The above list gives you some of our favorite choices that we can try. There are also some great vineyards and wineries on our A – Z list. These are a good place to start and a great way to be able to “taste” the wines of Russia.