Russian Wine and Grape Varieties

Tuesday, June 26th, 2007 at 12:00 am

Believe it or not, grapes intended for wine production has been grown in Russia for a very long time now. Being amazed with this revelation is not at all too surprising since Russia has been traditionally considered as the homeland of vodka. Although, it is true that wine drinkers in Russia are still in the minority the demand for quality wines is still enough to create a multi-million dollar a year industry. It is, therefore, quite unfortunate that of all the land mass Russia has, only a few areas are suitable for cultivating grapes forcing the country to import most of their wines to meet the local demands.

Most of the wines in Russia are from former Soviet states, Georgia and Moldova. In fact, 50% of the wines in the market comes from these two states. Only two years ago, Russia banned wines from Moldova and Georgia due to health concerns. Traces of pesticides and heavy metals were detected in the wines imported from the two states resulting to the ban. With Georgia and Moldova gone as good sources of quality wines, the country was left with nothing but locally produced wines that are far inferior that their other counterparts. Fortunately, in March 2006, after almost a year Russia lifted the embargo.

In recent years vodka sales have been constantly in decline while wine sales in Russia is showing slow yet steady increase. Russian middle and upper classes are showing much more interests with wine especially imported ones. Any wine that came from France is generally considered as a good quality product and are usually preferred on the dinner table.

But lately, Russia has started to introduce some good quality wine grown locally in vineyards south of Russia that are worthy of the picky taste buds of wine connoisseurs. The government has also started to address the issues regarding the local wine industry which began to attract a variety of outside investors.

The whole wine industry in Russia is pretty small with a few vineyards and wineries only qualified to be considered medium sized producers of grapes and wines. There are about 120 varieties of grapes cultivated in the country. Around 40 of the varieties are of table wine types and the rest are considered wine grapes varieties.

Major European wine grape varieties, such as Aligote, Riesling, Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, Sauvignon Blanc, Chardonnay, Pinot Blanc, Pinot Gris, Sylvaner and Pinot Franc, are cultivated in the Russian vineyards.

There are some local varieties as well like the Rkaziteli variety and northern Severny kind. Some local varieties like the Cabernet Severny, Stepniak, Fioletowy, Ranni and Lukomsky have shown great improvements in resisting winter frost and fungal diseases. It is said that the best grape varieties for Russian soil and climate are European varieties that have pretty good resistances against the cold and those that mature late.

Wines produced in the vineyards at Chateau le Grand Vostock, in the South of Russia have gained a reputation of being good quality and competitive to imported bottles. Among the wines produced in the vineyard are Reds that contain blends of Cabernet Sauvignon, Krasnostop, Pinot Franc, Golubok, and Saperavi. Whites on the other hand consists of either Chardonnay, Sauvignon, Aligote and Rkatsiteli grapes.