Glass of wine (21st Century) by RustourismFederal Agency for Tourism
Winemaking traditions on the territory of what is now Russia date back to ancient Greek poleis and the Bosporus Kingdom in the south of the country.
Territorial gains boosted viticulture with the Don region winemaking owning its origins to Peter the Great’s late 17th-century Sea of Azov campaign.
Wine found its way into high society with Russian aristocrats favouring sweeter varieties from muscadine grapes.
Lake Abrau and a view of the Black Sea by Abrau-Durso wineryFederal Agency for Tourism
Today, wineries dot the Russian south. Good wines are made in Kuban, Rostov Oblast, Dagestan, North Ossetia and other regions. The popular 2020 Russian Wines guidebook includes over 60 large and small wineries.
Grape harvest at Abrau-Durso by Abrau-Durso wineryFederal Agency for Tourism
High scores at Decanter, International Wine and Spirit Competition, and the Wine Advocatе ranking is evidence of the recognition that Russian wines have gained internationally as well as domestically.
Abrau-Durso winery by Abrau-Durso wineryFederal Agency for Tourism
Lefkadia, Fanagoria, Sikory and Abrau-Dyurso are some of the wineries whose wines have scored 90 and above earning a price tag in thousands of roubles. Still, there are cheaper yet solid varieties under €11/$13.
Russian wine production is not confined to the south, however. If you have a chance, you should visit wineries in the Volgograd Oblast farther to the north.
Vineyards by Abrau-Durso wineryFederal Agency for Tourism
Russia has diverse conditions for viticulture. Due to varying climate, soil and grapes, Black Sea varieties will give an impression unlike those from the Don in terms of their bouquet, body and alcohol content.
Preparation of sparkling wines Abrau-Durso for release by Abrau-Durso wineryFederal Agency for Tourism
Russia’s sparkling wine owes its origin to Prince Lev Sergeyevich Golitsyn (1845–1915), who founded famed wineries that specialise in sparkling wine. Some of them, for example, Abrau-Dyurso, have survived to this day.
At the turn of the 20th century, Russian sparkling wines achieved a luxury status.
Abrau-Durso sparkling wine (21st Century) by Abrau-Durso wineryFederal Agency for Tourism
A more accessible variety called Soviet Champagne went into production in the 1930s. Today, it is one of the more popular sparkling wines in the country.
White wine (21st Century) by photo by Aleksander AverinFederal Agency for Tourism
Russia’s white wines are produced from grapes harvested both abroad and in Russia. Chardonnay, Sauvignon blanc and Riesling exude fruit fragrance and can compete with many foreign wines.
Local varieties, such as the Kokur, Sibirkovy and Pukhlyarovsky grapes have grown here for centuries and have distinctive herbal and floral aromas.
Glass of wine by RustourismFederal Agency for Tourism
In Russia, red wine is bright, full-bodied and spicy... To put it in one word: different. Experts have pointed out varieties such as Cabernet sauvignon, Cabernet franc, and Saperavi. There are winemakers who cultivate their own fine style.
Those keen on exotic and local tastes will appreciate Krasnostop varieties, which are full of powerful vibrance and a great choice for ageing.
Meat dish with wine by Gostinyi DomFederal Agency for Tourism
As legend has it, a Krasnostop vine was brought in by Don cossacks from their Napoleonic campaign, but recently, historians proved it is a local variety. Other local red wines such as Tsimlyansky Cherny or Kefesiya, are worth a try as well.
Glass of wine by Chin-ChinFederal Agency for Tourism
The winemaker's style determines the level of alcohol and colour, which may range from intense pink to pale salmon.
Compare the local Tsimlyansky Cherny variety with the Cabernet Sauvignon rosé.
Beluga restaurant by BelugaFederal Agency for Tourism
Beluga restaurant near the Moscow Kremlin.
Anton Obrezchikov by Anton ObrezchikovFederal Agency for Tourism
Wine may be very conservative, and expertise is key, including on the part of the buyer who should always stay critical. That's why it's even more heartening to see people being enthusiastic about the palate and aroma of Russian wines. These can be savoured at the Beluga restaurant, which overlooks the Kremlin, just as easily as at a small wine bar somewhere in the south resort town of Anapa.
With rare grape varieties, unparalleled vineyards, talented winemakers, and state-of-the-art equipment, a bottle of Russian wine is a great gift for a wine lover from any country.
Anton Obrezchikov, wine writer
Evening in a bar by RustourismFederal Agency for Tourism
Local wine tourism is growing in popularity with a majority of the best wineries opening their own centres.
Сhief Сonsultant — Ekaterina Drozdova, restaurateur, gastronomic entrepreneur, food and social activist, Contributors— Anton Obrezchikov, Proximity Russia, Denis Yershov