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Knights of the Vine RUSSIA


Summing Up 2005
Charles W. Borden

From an expat perspective, there were a few improvements in the Moscow wine market in 2005, not the least of which was the wine tasting and rating series from Passport. Those of us who seek quality together with value have had an opportunity to rate the wines available to us in Moscow, and see the results in these pages. We here present a summary of the best from each wine tasting, a quick reference list you can use when shopping for wine in Moscow. For details, see the archive.

In 2005, Muscovites continued to consume more wine and quality has become increasingly important and this should mean better selection and prices; so far at least selection has definitely improved. For the first time, a number of New Zealand wines reached Moscows shelves; these are some of the most refreshing and interesting wines in the market today. In addition, as reported in our January issue, Australian PGA pro Grant Dodd brought many more of Australias best to the city at years end.

A very important event in the Russian wine industry was the introduction of the wines of Chateau Le Grand Vostock, the first Russian winery to produce serious wines from an international perspective. This new winery, with French equipment and a resident French winemaker, has transformed the perception of possibilities for Russia wines.

Passports series has provided quantitative information about the wines we tried and rated, but beyond these results, there are wines that we have encountered in the shops and restaurants that are worth noting. You can try dozens of wines, but sometimes we find a wine that is just right or great. We first encountered the Glen Carlou Chardonnay 2003, a Wine Spectator Top 100 from 2004, early this year at wine tastings for the new Coconuts restaurant that Tim Cummins opened on Myasnitskaya, but the Backsburg Pumphouse Shiraz (South Africa - $23) was a real standout, a great wine to accompany a steak. Our publisher, John Ortega, discovered Kistler Winery Chardonnay 2003 (Sonoma - $125) that almost spoiled our appreciation of the Australia Chardonnays at last months tasting. He also bought some cases of Millaman Zinfandel (Chile - $25), a fine example of and one of the few Zins in Moscow. Another wine that left a deep impression was Tormaresca Bocca di Lupo (Italy - $80) that we tried during our interview with Steven Fisher at Cantinetta Antinori. Without a doubt, one of the greatest wines I tried this year was the Clarendon Hills Liandra Syrah 2003 (Australia - $80), a wine that somehow was left out of our Australian wine feast.

Our readers may know that I am a follower of the Russian wine industry, having worked with wineries in southern Russia for ten years. Chateau Le Grand Vostock has become the leader and my personal favorites are its Karsov White 2003 ($12), which is aged in French barrels, and the more simple, but powerful Terres du Sud Red ($5). Another Russian winery, Myskhako Winery in Novorossisk, has had fly-in Australian winemaker, John Worontschak, working their vineyards since 2003. Their Myskhako Chardonnay 2003 ($3.50) won a bronze in London and at 108 rubles is an unbelievable value in Moscow. Its an unoaked, light, bright and fresh wine. One of the best Russian bottles I tried last year was with the winemaker of Abrau Durso near Novorossisk, the famous sparkling wine producer founded in the 1800s by Prince Golitsyn. Mr. Napranov brought out the bottle of Abrau Durso Classic Brut, and when he opened it and took a small sip, he commented that this was an accident, that we had fallen on a great bottle. It was perfect, crisp, and breathtaking a bottle to remember.

We  look forward to continuing to provide you with information and insight to help you select wines in Moscow. Please join us at: or join us at: (Knights of the Vine Russia).

Ortega Easy Rating System

5 pts. I love this wine
4 pts. I really like this wine
3 pts. This wine is good
2 pts. This wine is not that good
1 pt. I dont really care for this wine

Tasting Notes

The wines of Chile make up the largest selection of New World wines in Moscow. In recent years, Chiles winemakers have followed the wine styles of California and produced good value, decent wines. We compared fourteen of Chiles better-known Chardonnays and Cabernets that are available in the city. The winners were:
Errazuriz Cabernet Sauvignon 2003
Casillero Del Diablo Chardonnay 2003
From Chile we ventured north to California, which has a rather paltry selection of wines in Moscow. We bought up all the Cabernets and Chardonnays we could find and pared our tasting to six of each. The best of the lot were:
St. Francis Cabernet Reserve 1997
Joseph Phelps Ovation Chardonnay 2002
South Africa
Most of the South African wines in Moscow are good, though the selection is sparse. We tasted most of the Chardonnay and Pinotage wines we could find in Moscows boutiques. Our panel was not very enthusiastic about the Pinotage wines and its not surprising that the best red was a Bordeaux style blend.
Glen Carlou Chardonnay 2002
Rupert and Rothschild Baron Edmund 2000
Once a backwater of Italian wines, Sicily has begun to produce New World wines in the Old World, and some of these wines have reached Moscow vendors. Again we selected Chardonnays, this time combined with the red grape of choice in Sicily, Nero dAvola.
La Planeta Chardonnay 2003
Donna Fugata Mille E Una Notte 2001
German Rieslings
German wines are almost entirely white, usually made from Riesling grapes. Unfortunately, almost all the German wines in Moscow supermarkets are mass-market German wines such as Liebfraumilch and Blue Nun, not the real German wines from the wine estates of the steep banks and cliffs above the Rhine and Mosel rivers. We searched Moscow boutiques for representative wines from the three principal classifications of quality German wines: Kabinett, Spatlese, and Auslese. The winners were:
Himmelreich Max Ferd Richter, Grach (Mittelmosel) Kabinett 2000
Ress Berg Rottland, Rudesheim (Rheingau) Spatlese 1996
Marimin Grunhauser Abtsberg Auslese 1999
Our first foray into France, which provides the lions share of imported wines in Moscow, was to Burgundy. Of course, the best rating went to the classic, at $786 a bottle, but this was followed by a triple tie at less lofty price levels. You be the judge whether the ratings of these French reds justify the price.
Domaine de la Romanée Conti Richebourg 2002 
Domaine Daniel Rion & Fils Chambolle-Musigny Les Charmes 1998 
Serafin Pere & Fils Charmes-Chambertin Grand Cru 2000 
Olivier Guyot Clos de la Roche 2003
We finished the year with a blowout six Chardonnays and 15 Shiraz (Syrah) from Australia, the countrys flagship varietals. These wines were uniformly good, and our winners below only slightly bested a dozen of their countrymen.
Dalwhinnie Moonambel Chardonnay 2001   
Dalwhinnie Moonambel Shiraz 2001   
Key: Shown above are rouble price, equivalent USD, and rating.

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