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Knights of the Vine RUSSIA


Scandinavian Tapas and Spanish Wines
Text by Charles W. Borden
Photos by Maria Savelieva

This month we decided to go back to Night Flight for our Spanish wine tasting, and give Chef Michael Willuhn a chance to serve us some Scandinavian tapas and Night Flight’s classic Planksteak.

I seldom try Spanish wines, but this month learned this was a mistake. Long relegated as poor cousins to their French neighbors and with dozens of Denominations of Origin (DOC), Spain’s wines seem just too difficult to select.

Katerina Medvedeva, MTS

Steven Fisher, Citigroup

Todd Nalven, Chiron Capital LLC

Alex Anikin, Arcum Wine

Spanish wines are mainly red, and the country is the world’s third producer by volume. Spain’s wines at their worst are as bad as any plonk, and some make it to Russia as cheap vinomaterial (bulk wine – the source of most Russian wines), which is then reformulated, bottled and labeled as Russian. However, Spain has always produced some powerfully great red wines to rival the best French and have been of better value. Some of the best come from the Ribera del Duero, Priorat and Rioja regions.

The Spanish Denominación de Origen (DO) controls the classification and labeling of wines, and works in a way similar to Italian and French systems. Vinos de la Tierra is similar to the French geographical designation ‘vin de pays’. The Denominación de Origen and Denominación de Origen Calificada are the designations for quality wine areas. Crianza are wines aged less than two years, Reserva at least three years with one on oak, and Gran Reserva requires at least five years aging.

During recent months we have followed a new format to select wines for a wine tasing. Rather than picking wines from the shelves, I cull through the price lists of the principal fine-wine importers before the shopping trip. In each case I create a long spreadsheet of all the wines in the category we are seeking, in this case Spanish, from these importers. This resulted in about 150 wines from about forty bodegas (as wineries are called in Spain), if not to count the vintages of each wine.

Once the spreadsheet is prepared, I log on to Robert Parker’s Wine Advocate and Wine Spectator and search for each winery. These are good sites that provide short comments and ratings for thousands of wineries and wines around the world. Search results are displayed by wine and vintage and it just takes a brief look to get a rough idea about which wineries consistently have good ratings. This lets me pare down the list to a manageable number of well-rated wines for a short list to take to the wine boutiques.

A substantial short list is needed because many of the wines on the importers’ lists may not be currently available, at least in the shops. Also, some wines are primarily destined for restaurant wine lists rather than retail.

With five boutiques each owned by one of Moscow’s top wine importer, Kutuzovsky Prospekt has everything we need. Heading in from the Third Ring Road, the first stop is L’Intendant, the sole Moscow shop owned by MBG Impex. Swinging back around to leave town, the next four shops are within 100 meters of each other: first Kollektsiya Vin, then Grand Cru and Kauffman in the same building, and last Magnum, owned by DP Trade.

We ended up with a set of well-rated wines, four whites and eleven reds. The Night Flight sommelier decanted the reds and prepared the whites and she suggested a new routine. Rather than sampling one wine at a time as is our tradition, four glasses were placed in front of each guest and four wines were poured at once so that we could compare them. We started with the four white wines. The next flights went four, four and we finished with three spectacularly rated red wines, with Parker ratings of 96, 96, and 99 respectively. John Ortega splurged on a stratospherically priced Dominio de Pingus, a legendary cult wine that Parker has called “One of the greatest and most exciting wines I have ever tasted.”

The Tapas al la Night Flight came out with the white wines; it put the pretender tapas bar we reviewed last month to shame.

Tapas al la Night Flight

Gambas al Ajillo
Baked Salmon with Hot Mojo
Bacon-wrapped Dates
Ensalada Russia
Serrano Rolls with Cream Cheese, Pine Nuts and Chili
Manchego Cheese
Swedish Gingerbread with Green Cheese

Our guests finished the evening with the Classic Night Flight Planksteak, a perfect way to mop up the remains of the eleven Spanish reds that we enjoyed that evening.

The Top Wines

The top scoring white this night was the Naia Naiades 2005 from Rueda in northcentral Spain in Castille and Leon, made from Verdejo grapes that has a Parker 91 rating. It received a 3.84 (out of 5) from the Russian Knights of the Vine. Wine Advocate described this wine as “sourced from a single parcel of 80- to 100-year-old, ungrafted, Verdejo vines located in La Seca, a village which the locals consider to be the “grand cru” of Rueda. Light gold-colored, it exhibits an attractive perfume of vanilla spice, lemon-lime and honeysuckle.”

The best red was a 2001 Clos Martinet, from Priorat in Catalonia, which tied with the Pingus that followed it, but at one tenth the price. Wine Advocate describes the Clos Martinet as “a blend of 38% Grenache, 35% Cabernet Sauvignon, 20% Carignan, 12% Syrah, and the rest Merlot. With great density and fabulously explosive aromatics (acacia flowers, crushed blackberries, blueberry liqueur, and wet stones), this full-bodied, compellingly rich, multilayered, awesome wine is a great example of what makes the Priorat appellation so special.”

Knights of the Vine

John Ortega, Fashion Mart
Charles Borden, OnLineMA.Com
John Harrison, Passport Magazine
Steven Fisher, Citigroup
Lucille Fisher
William Reichert, Haynes & Boone LLP
Alex Anikin, Arcum Wine
David Lane, Tablogix
Katerina Medvedova, MTS
Todd Nalven, Chiron Capital
Giorgio Palucci, Giorgio’s Milano
Stephen Schueler, Procter and Gamble
Jeff Combs, NCI
Masha Stupak, Arcum Wines
Natalia Zorina, Vogue Magazine
Shiraz Mamedov, SJS
Bert Lamaire, Soncotra

Moscow’s Wine Boutiques

DP Trade Shops – several in Moscow including:

Decanter, Bol. Polyanka 30,
Tel: +7 (495) 238-3808

Magnum, Kutuzovsky Prospekt 24,
Tel: +7 (495) 937-6515

Magnum, Ul. Plyuschkina 20,
Tel: +7 (495) 775 0674

Vinum, Prechistenka 40/2,
Tel: +7 (495) 775-2305



Kutuzovsky Prospekt 33,
Tel: +7 (499) 249-6114

Kollektsiya Vin – several in Moscow including:

Kutuzovsky Prospekt 18,
Tel: +7 (499) 243 2008


Grand Cru Shops – several in Moscow including:

Tel: +7 (495) 510-6565

Novinsky Passage, Novinsky Bulvar 31

Novy Arbat 36/3

Kutuzovsky Prospekt 22


Kauffman Shops – several in Moscow including:

Kutuzovsky Prospekt 22,
Tel: +7 (495) 243-2238

Ul. Kuznetsky Most 3,
Tel: +7 (495) 624-0464

Ul. Ostojhenka 27,
Tel: +7 (495) 291-3671


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