Chateau Tamagne is part of one of the biggest wineries of Russia, Kuban Vino. As its name hints to those who remember their geography lessons, it is located near the village of Taman in the Taman peninsula in Kuban, southern Russia.
For historic reasons rooted in the Soviet socialism, Russia has had for years only industrial-size wineries. These were more kombinats by the way than wineries in the European sense of the word. These facilities were producing wines of low quality for the masses and as grapes were not produced massively enough for the needs of the soviet masses, this «wine" was either completely artificial (i.e. made with conzentrat) or it was made with various imported bulk wine from other socialist countries which was later reconditionned, sometimes with additional sugar and SO2 to conform to Russian taste. With the demise of socialism and the comeback of the free enterprise, this type of large wine-production facility survived. Chateau Tamagne is one of the major industrial wineries that have been steadily improving the quality of their wines through investment in modern tools and with the help of foreign consultants.
This visit gave us a glimpse of how a giant winery looks like in Russia, taking into account that Chateau Tamagne, unlike some other industrial wineries, makes wines from grapes grown in the region.
I toured some of the vineyards with Maxime Gruner, the agriculture director of Yujnaya. The one we drove through in his Land Rover were located on the flatland, on a relatively rich soil [Actually much of the vineyard in the region lies on what looks like regular agricultural land, and I will only later during my stay in this area discover that there are hills and dry slopes more appropriate for vineyards].
Maxime Gruner works here since 1976, he joined the vineyard kolkhoz just after graduating from the Krasnodar Agricultural Institute in Krasnodar. The oldest vineyards of the farm were planted in 1982-1984. Most have been planted recently [the region hasn’t yet reached its pre-Gorbatchev vineyard surface]. He says that usually they don’t use older vines, they prefer the younger ones. The region went through serious frost problems 10 or 12 years ago and many vines died, he says, and they had to replant massively. Younger vines also tend to recover more easily from the frost.
The varieties grown here are for reds : Cabernet-Sauvignon, Merlot, Saperavi, Krasnostop, Amour (several hybrids). For the whites :Sauvignon, Chardonnay, Pinot Blanc, Riesling, Aligoté, Traminer.
Near the gate of the winery, there’s the weighing platform first, where the incoming load arriving by tractor-pulled gondola or by truck is not only weighed but also briefly analysed for sugar and Ph. It’s visually surprising : a sample of juice is taken from within the grapes load with an articulated and motorized device which seems to crush grapes deep inside the load and funnel the sample through a pipe back to the lab located on the side of the weighing platform. Inside this lab, white-coated chemists check the data and take into account to decide what to make exactly with the grapes.
It's important to notice that the place is immaculate, with an easy to clean type of lining on the ground on the presses level.
After this heating process and the following cooling down, the juice is pumped into fermentation vats elsewhere.
After this stage, the juice goes in fermentation vats.
On a corner of one of the vatrooms, there are a couple dozens vats for experiments.
The enologist, who is called the director of production at Chateau Tamagne, is Mr Vladimir Yaroshenko.
While the mother winery Kuban Vino makes 2 million bottles a year (including Chateau Tamagne as I understood), Chateau Tamagne's own output is 500 000 bottles.
Chateau Tamagne employs 80 people altogether (not counting the vineyard workers, which are employed by Yujnaya, the farm). In september, more people are temporarily hired for the harvest.
At Chateau Tamagne, the number of cuvées is about 18, most of them being reds. Retail price for Chateau Tamagne goes from 130 Roubles to 300 Roubles, which is in the lower tier of wine prices in Russia.
__ Chateau Tamagne Merlot 2009. Nose : cooked red fruits. The top of the vats are used for this wine, with the best quality of juice. Mouth : cooked cherries. Quite light-colored red wine.
__ Kuban Vino Cabernet 2009. Just the result of the prerss, says Caroline, this is a wine to drink now. No tannicity at all here, mouth so-so. Very light wine.
__ Chateau Tamagne Traminer 2009. With residual sugar (added). A bit aqueous, with light Muscat-type aroma, it seems to me. the label says 10,5-12,5 °.
__ Chateau Tamagne, cuvée Roze Tamagne. Cabernet-Merlot-Traminer. Very light red color, almost pink. Only 2nd year for this cuvée. Nice legs on the glass. A bit too warm but lets itself drink. Interesting candy feel, with a very light tannicity and the aerial side of Traminer.
__ Chateau Tamagne Muskat 2009. Added sugar on a dry-wine basis, I'm said. Pleasant feel, not too sugary actually. Some small lemon-peel bitterness at the end.
__ Chateau Tamagne Kagor 2009. Made with "red hunter", the 75 ° C boiler. Bottled july 28 2010. No year of vintage, I understand it's 2009. Made with Cab-Merlot-Saperavi. Nose is very encense, concentrated fruits. Bouche is sugary indeed, but that's interesting to drink this type of sugary wine which has still a following in Russia. Smelling the wine again, I realize that I prefer the nose, actually. 140 gr sugar and 16 ° alcohol here.
Thank you to Nadya and Caroline for their time and their help.