Russian wine refers to wine made in the Russian Federation and to some extent wines made in the former Union of Soviet Socialist Republics though this later referencing is an inaccurate representation of wines from Armenia, Azerbaijan, Georgia, Moldova, Ukraine. The phrase Russian wine more properly refers to wine made in the southern part of the Russian Federation-including the areas around Dagestan, Chechnya, Kabardino-Balkaria, Krasnodar Krai, Rostov, and Stavropol Krai. Russia currently have the following controlled appellations that correspond to the sorts of grapes: Sibirkovy (Сибирьковый), Tsimlyanski Cherny (Цимлянский чёрный), Plechistik (Плечистик), Narma (Нарма), and Güliabi Dagestanski (Гюляби Дагестанский).
Wild grape vines have grown around the Caspian, Black and Azov seas for thousands of years with evidence of viticulture and cultivation for trade with the Ancient Greeks found along the shores of the Black Sea at Phanagoria and Gorgippia.
The founder of modern commercial wine-making in Russia was Prince Leo Galitzine (1845-1915), who established the first Russian factory of champagne wines at his Crimean estate of Novyi Svet. In 1889 the production of this winery won the Gold Medal at the Paris exhibition in the nomination for sparkling wines, although several years previously the wine regions of Russia had been devastated by the Phylloxera epidemic. In 1891, Galitzine congratulated himself on becoming the surveyor of imperial vineyards at Abrau-Dyurso, where the sparkling wine was produced throughout the 20th century under the brand of Soviet Champagne, or "champagne for the people".
After the Russian Revolution of 1917 the French wine-savvy professionals fled Russia, but the industry was gradually reestablished, starting from 1920. The wine industry experienced a rebound in the 1940s and 1950s during the Soviet era until the domestic reforms pushed by Mikhail Gorbachev in 1985 as part of his campaign against alcoholism. After the fall of the Soviet Union, the transition to a market economy with the privatization of land saw many of the area's prime vineyard spaces being utilized for other purposes. By 2000 the entire Russian Federation had only 72,000 hectare under cultivation, less than half the total area used in the early 1980s.
Geography and climate
The climate of the North Caucasus region, where most of Russia's vineyards are located, is typical of a continental region. To counter the severe winters many vine growers will cover their vines over with soil to protect the vines from frost. In the area of Krasnodar there are anywhere from 193-233 frost free days during the growing seasons that allow the vines in the area to grow to full ripening. The area of Dagestan has a varied climate with some areas semi-desert. About 13 percent of Russian wine is produced in the area around Stavropol which has 180-190 frost free days. The region of Rostov is characterized by its hot, dry summers and severe winters which produces grapes in lower yields than other parts of the country.
Wine and grapes
Russia produces wine of several different styles including still, sparkling and dessert wine. Currently there are over 100 different varieties of grapes used in the production of Russian wine. The Rkatsiteli grape accounts for over 45 percent of production. Other varieties grown include Aligote, Cabernet Sauvignon, Cabernet Severny, Clairette blanche, Merlot, Muscat, Pinot gris, Plavai, Portugieser, Riesling, Saperavi, Silvaner, and Traminer.
- H. Johnson & J. Robinson The World Atlas of Wine pg 260-261 Mitchell Beazley Publishing 2005 ISBN 1-84000-332-4
- Tsimlyanski Cherny
- Güliabi Daghestanski
- J. Robinson "The Oxford Companion to Wine" Third Edition pg 598 Oxford University Press 2006 ISBN 0-19-860990-6
- J. Robinson "The Oxford Companion to Wine" Third Edition pg 597 Oxford University Press 2006 ISBN 0-19-860990-6