The size and composition of the wine section in Russian stores and supermarkets is a good way to gauge the wine consciousness among the public in Russia. Supermarket world giants like Auchan from France and Metro from Germany have made deep inroads into Russia's retail sector, surfing on the booming economy and ever higher wages. They expanded tremendously year after year, first in Moscow, then in other towns, and as their product range is adapted from country to country, is is utmost interesting to look at the wines they sell there today. The globalization is already the norm over here and the wine sections in all the food stores feature wines from both the Old and the New World, with the exception of Georgia and Moldova, the wines of which suffered from an import ban in Russia last year. The Metro Wine Section featured on this page is the one in the Nizhniy Novgorod outlet, and even if supermarkets in bigger Russian towns may have a slightly larger choice, this is a good indicator of the situation of the Russian market as of today.
There are even wines from Russia proper, and while many are still of the syrupy/sweetened category favored in the Soviet era and among the older generation, there's been a few dry wines from Russia recently, hinting at a push toward a more traditional enological approach. Most Russian wines are cheap drinks made out of concentrate and only vaguely related to wine, especially those that are "made" in-or-near Moscow (don't be fooled by their Russian-Icon-looking labels). The most serious Russian wines come from the Southern region of Kuban and Krasnodar where a real tradition of vine growing and winemaking exists. Prices are usually lower than the imported wine [all prices are tax included ; 100 Rus. Rbls = 2,85 Euro or 4 USD]: Merlot, Joint Stock Company, Inter Republican Winery at 124 Rbls, Kuban Vino Kagor 32, Desertsnoe Krasnoe (desert red wine) with 16° alc. and 160g/L sugar at 120 Rbls, Massandra white Port wine 2006 with 17° alc. and 60gL sugar at 140 Rbls
The french wines benefit from a generous display in terms of shelves length and choice but the wines are unevenly represented in terms of regions and family estates. Maybe due to the difficulty of the import process into Russia, or the taxes (or maybe the Metro wine buyers are'nt very smart), you find quite a lot of mass-bottling wines along the property wines on the shelves. These big players are Negoce Houses of industrial size, like Jean-Pierre Chenet (Les Grands Chais de France), Malezan, Castel-Group or Ginestet. Castel for example, has even built a bottling factory in Kline, near Moscow: Its wines are imported from france in large containers, by rail I presume, and bottled in Russia to streamline the costs. These wines which back in France are relegated to the cheap-wine corner of the wine shops are displayed here alongside wines from family wineries and reknowned estates. The Russians are still learning the hows and whys of the wine culture but it shouldn't be long before they discover the difference between mass-bottlers or Negoce, and human-size wineries...
A few estate wines that caught my eye: Entre-Deux-Mers Chateau L'oiseau 2005 (Bordeaux white) at 313 Rbls [all prices are tax included ; 100 Rus. Rbls = 2,85 Euro or 4 USD], Cahors (Languedoc) Expression de Grezette 2000 by Alain Dominique Perrin at 471 Rbls, Alsace Riesling Trimbach 2004 at 761 Rbls, Premieres Cotes de Blaye (Bordeaux), Chateau Vieux Bourgès, coeur de cuvée 2003 at 302 Rbls (we took it for dinner, very good value), Touraine (Loire) Sauvignon, Domaine de la Charmoise (Henry Marionnet) at 342 Rbls, Buzet (Languedoc red) Baron D'Ardeuil 2003 at 405 Rbls, Cotes du Rhone red Jaboulet Parallèle "45" at 312 Rbls, Joseph Verdier, Rosé D'Anjou (pink) 2005 at 215 Rbls. These wines seemed a better value than the Negoce wines, which were priced very similarly in spite of the huge volumes involved: JP Chenet Merlot, Pays D'Oc 2005 at 337 Rbls, Ginestet Bordeaux red 2004 (Merlot-CS-CF) at 308 Rbls, Malezan Vin de Pays d'Oc red, Cuvée Cheval d'Or 2005 at 263 Rbls, Castel Merlot (Pays D'Oc) 2003 at 220 Rbls.
Otherwise, There's wine from the major wine regions of the world. Here are a few random examples:
Paul Masson, "California Burgundy" (no year) in one-liter jugs at 216 Rbls, Barefoot Merlot, California at 227 Rbls, Kendall-Jackson "Collage" 2002, Zinfandel-Shiraz at 280 Rbls, Western Cape, South Africa, Kumala, Merlot Pinotage 2004 at 291 Rbls, Yellow Tail (Aus) Chardonnay 2005 at 201 Rbls, Jindalee (Aus) Cabernet Sauvignon 2006 at 179 Rbls, Trivento (Argentina) Cabernet-Merlot 2006 at 177 Rbls, Gato Negro (Chile) C.S. 2006 at 189 Rbls, Concha Y Toro Sunrise (Chi) Carmenere 2006 at 196 Rbls, Cono Sur (Chi) C.S. 2005 Tocornal at 177 Rbls, Misiones De Rengo (Chi) Carmenere 2005 Rapel Valley at 270 Rbls (we had it for dinner, very correct wine), Fleur du Cap (S.A.) C.S. 2004 at 365 Rbls, Torres (Spain) San Valentin 2005, Catalunya (Garnacha) at 283 Rbls, Maestri cantinieri (Italy) Lambrusco at 165 Rbls, Ca' Ernesto Trentino (Italy) Cabernet Sauvignon 2004 at 248 Rbls, Megyer (Hungary) Yellow Label Tokaji Furmint (semi-sweet) 2005 at 154 Rbls, Szigetvin (Hungary) Kekfrankos Tisa Menti 2003 at 147 Rbls... Of course, lots of mass bottlings like Yellow Tail and Gato Negro, but this is still a very wide choice.
And on the lower-quality range, you can always try a wine from Bulgaria, like this bib of Kadarka on the right. We had a Bulgarian Kadarka served at some party here (probably from a bib like this one), and it was the worst wine I think I ever had. Sorry for the bulgarians (I'm sure they have other wines), but I wish our rioting Southern-France growers could taste this crap, they would realize that there's hope, their coop wines taste so good in comparison.... This 3-liter bib was at 349 Rbls, really overpriced for the quality (if it is, as I suspect, the one we had).