This still-life picture sums up beautifully all the aromas that you can come across when drinking Pinot Noir. This page appeared in the glossy magazine Simple Wine News, which is published by the wine group Simple Wine. It helped me improve my Russian as each of the fruits & spices were tagged (I may forget some of these words soon after, though). What a nice way to learn a foreign language and memmorize the aromas of Pinot Noir (пино нуар):
Sladkiy Perets(сладкий перец) : sweet pepper--------- Chernosliv (чернослив) dry plum
Klubnika(клубника) garden strawberry------------------ Vanil' (ваниль) vanilla
Gribi (грибы) mushroom--------------------------- Koritsa (корица) coriander
Triuffel' (трюфель) truffles-------------------------- Injir (инжир) fig
Vishnya(вишня) cherry-------------------------------- Iezhevika (ежевика) blackberry
Gvozdika (гвоздика) clove----------------------- Rosa (роза) rose
Malina (малина) raspberry------------------------- Chernika (черника) blueberry
Banan' (банан) banana----------------------------Lakritsa (лакрица) liquorice
Persik iz kompota (персик из компота) cristallized peach--------- Barenye iz krasnykr yagod (варенье из красных ягод) jellied small red fruits
Jivotnie tona (животные тона) animal notes (pic of a piece of meat behind the truffle on lower right)
and a few others that you will learn by yourself...
This story takes place in Cheboksary, the capital city of Chuvashia, an obscure autonomous Republic inside the Russian Federation that I didn’t even know existed. Here is a 600 000-soul city which seems to run smoothly, not really beautiful except a few old building in the center area, that’s a soviet-era city but people live their lives and there are large forests around.
Whatever, in this city that came from nowwhere in my face, we dropped with my friends in a 24-hour (24 часа) Pizza parlour (not a chain) and guess what ? they have no license for alcohol but if your order makes at least 800 Roubles (20 €), you can bring your own booze for no additional cost. I love this country... That made our evening, especially that being a party of 5, we reached the limit without difficulty. Vadim & Marina went out in a shop nearby to buy a bottle of Vodka and we enjoyed our pizzas with a reasonably-good vodka. There were several «american» pizzas on the menu for 140 Rbs each and 20 cm diameter (100 Rbs = 2,5 €) and several «italian» pizzas for 23O Rbs (30 cm diameter) among other things. Very good service, and you can go there just for Ekaterina’s gorgeous smile...
Kubanskyi Vina is the shop window of Kuban wines in Krasnodar. Its goal is to promote Kuban wines and give a direct access to the largest choice of wines made in this region. I don't know the exact status but while it's obviously a business, it seems to be at least partly funded and helped by the region or the local wine industry. There aren't Maisons des Vins in Russia on the French model, unuinized tasting-rooms/shops where you can walk in and just taste for free a large range of wines (every French region has one generally), but this Kubanskyi Vina venue is another way to help the visitor discover the local wines. It is at the same time a shop with a wide selection of wines, a restaurant (in the basement), and a souvenir shop with many artifacts related to the Kuban traditions and wine culture. You can purchase Russian wine there in the shop, including the ones of Gaï Kodzor (at 610 Roubles or 15 €) which are still difficult to find in ordinary shops and supermarkets. I do hope that one day the artisan wineries that I visited will be allowed to sell their wines here, then Russia will really rock...
Kubanskyi Vina is managed by a young man named Eduard Dolgin (pic on left) whose help was precious during one of my visits in the region.
In a few occasions, we came across some wine and spirits being sold on small markets, either discreetly displayed in sport bags or in the trunk of a car. This was black-market booze of course, and the two wines that the guy on the picture above was selling for about 100 Rbs a 1,5-liter bottle if I remember, which makes 2,5 €, were really undrinkable to me. But the man acted very professionaly, I would say, and people were proposed a free tasting in plastic glasses... I think very likely that these wines are made from concentrate grape juice, maybe from a combination of concentrates. But actually, the worst wine I ever had here was bought in a legal place, by the glass. It was one of these shops that have fake casks on the wall, with taps. I frankly don't think this weird wine was made from actual grapes.
In an other village in the Kuban, we saw a well-organized man who had in his trunk all sort of wines and spirits, bottled in 1,5-liter bottles with a letter or two marked on the screw caps to tell what type of booze this was. I didn’t take picture there, but you can see on the sides the bottle of Brandy that we bought for our camping dinner, and the flyer that he gave to prospective buyers, complete with the letter index and the contact phones ( I photoshoped off the phone numbers of course)...
I tasted a spirit which was quite awful and the another which was more drinkable and that we bought (also in the same range of price), but not knowing how it had been made, and knowing that this type of black-market production is where dangerous stuff reaches the consumers, I’d advise not to buy in these conditions.
Byelyi Medved (белый медведь) means white bear in Russian, and that's how you learn about Russian vocabulary all the while sipping a 1,5-liter bottle of Russian unfiltered beer...You understand in the same occasion that the family name of the Ruissian president (Medvedev) is related with the word bear, which makes sense for a Russian leader...
The beer is a quite good drink with a velvety feel, it's only 4,5 ° strong in alcohol and it's Jivoï, meaning it is unpasteurized and unfiltered, that's why it looks turbid in the glass. It's made by a beer giant named EFES. The EFES mother company is based in Turkey. The brand doesn't make only this light, unfiltered beer, but other types of beers as well.
this Abkazian wine was indeed weird, but there must be good wines over there, Georgia from which it was part of until recently being known for its wines quality.
In comparison, we had this same evening a reasonably-drinkable Chilean red wine for only 220 Roubles (also bought in a Magnit food shop if I remember) : Carmenere 2009 by Lus Felipe Edwards. Proves again that industrial wines from Chile are still the easy/safe option in Russia when you want to spend a bit more than 200 Rbs (5 €) for a table wine.
Edit : look at this page about a vineyard and a winery in Abkhazia.
Some drinks have the power to make you travel in time, like did the madeleine cookies for the French writer Marcel Proust who wrote in his The Remembrance of Things Past that when he had one of these madeleines with his tea, he would immerse back in his childhood. The Russian soda drink on the pic above has the same effect on me, it has the exact taste than the one of the aromatized water that you could have for almost free in the ubiquitous Gazirovka machines of the soviet years. These massive self-serve machines could be found in major towns, often near Metro stations (see the pic on left that I shot in Moscow in the 1980s'), and you could grab a big glass and fill it for almost free in the machine (there was a high-pressure water system to clean the glasses). The almost-colourless drink was lightly fizzy and had this lightly caramelized aroma, a very refreshing experience. I'm sure that many Russians who remember this era share the same nostalgy, even if the country was no rosy paradise. These machines, which were installed first in the 1960s' or so allowed to quench your thirst conveniently with a drink low on sugar. They were mostly made in Ukraine and were a common feature of the soviet urban landscape until the 1990s', when they gradually disappeared. Here is a page (in Russian) about these Gazirovka soda machines. In the last few years, some nostalgic people reintroduced a few Sovyetskaya Gazirovka in trendy cafés or in the street (see this page).
A vodka-drinking country has a love affair with milk. Kubanskaya Buryanka is one of the flagship products of the Russian dairy and beverages giant Wimm-Bill-Dann, a 100%-Russian company which is a serious rival with the French giant Danone, also well-established in Russia. This milk is a classic, it's a lightly-beige milk named from the brownish cow breed of this southern Russian region, the Kubanskaya Buryenka.
The company's page on the Kubanskaya Buryenka has words similar than those of a winery website when speaking of its wines and grapes (my approximate traduction) : Integral part of the Kuban landscape, the Kuban milk cows reflect this Russian region thanks to its unique micro-climate under the influence of two seas, the Black Sea and the Azov Sea. The warm sun and the delicate prairies of the region give this wine milk a special taste... We had a discussion that day about what this 20 let (20 years) on the lower-right side of the pack meant : Was it meaning the milk came from a 20-year-old Buryanka cow ? or did the milk go through a 20-year-long élevage ? Sounds interesting, see how aged Buryanka milk ages... It seems that this is the brand which is 20, and I may prefer this option after all...
This Buryanka milk also is the other side of the Russian coin, a soft and innocent counterpoint to the unruly vodka and its excesses. This commercial on the left for the Kubanskaya Buryenka seems to send a message to desperate vodka addicts : this milk is your salvation....
I'm a loyal vodka drinker in Russia, it seems to me that it goes well with lots of food, but this particular brand made me come back to my teenage years when I was an avid milk drinker.
The white buildings on this beautiful coast on the black sea belong to the Abrau-Durso winery. I planned intially to visit this sparkling winery but later decided not to. This winery is a big business producing millions of bottles and it's opened daily for wine-tourism visits. I gave a few calls to see if I could meet someone there but like often in the big-business wineries, my enquiries didn't seem to reach the right person. It's a bit disappointing because Abrau DUrso, like Novy Sviet, are the places where it all began in Russia, thanks to a visionary Russian aristocrat/winemaker named Prince Prince Lev Sergeyevich Golystsin : this man who was born in 1845 and who died in 1916 (he sure guessed some trouble was coming his way...) set up the first winery in Russia, and his Russian Champagne was soon one of the very best sparklings in the world. As I recalled last year in my Soviet Champagne story, his sparkling went out first in a blind tasting in Paris during the World Exposition of 1900.
The Abrau-Durso winery is now a big company where most of the production is industrialized (using the "reservoir" method, that is, champanization in huge containers), with on the side, smaller volumes of more qualitative cuvées (traditional Champagne method). Somehow, it was suddenly obvious that it wasn't the sort of winery I was looking for here and I didn't feel that this visit was so important any more, so I didn't call again. This trip allowed me to discover far more interesting wine ventures, some of them being as passionating as the life of the early pioneer winemaker Golytsin....