At the recent China Wine Awards I was fortunate enough to try Russian wine, yes, wine – not Vodka, wine! It’s not very often that one gets the opportunity to taste wines from places you never knew made wine so it was a real eye opening experience.
Fanagoria Estate winery is located in the south of Russia on the Taman Peninsular in between the Black Sea, The Sea of Azov and The Straight of Kerch, and all this water creates the specific microclimate that makes for great grape growing conditions and thus, some very nice wines.
Mikhail Lelyuk, senior export manager from the winery was in Hong Kong to promote three wines of their vast portfolio as a prequel to the winery’s visit to Vinexpo Asia Pacific 2012 and he gracefully walked us through a quick tasting of the wines he had on offer.
Fanagoria was established in 1957 and since then has established itself as the benchmark for Russian wine. The plot where their grapes grow was originally planted with vines by the ancient Greeks thus there is a grape growing pedigree in the area.
They are bold, it must be said. The aim of the winery is to bolster wine consumption culture in Russia and shape the international reputation of Russian winemaking.
At one time, Russia was the largest consumer of Champagne in the world with the Russian Czars having a lust for the product and major Champagne houses set up offices and export import routes to St. Petersburg. Fanagoria makes a sparkling Blanc de Blancs (not a 100% chardonnay I might add) and still calls it champagne – something the EU and local governments may take issue with in the future.
The wine itself, NR Blanc de Blancs Champagne Brut is not as ‘brut’ as a dry champagne and has a touch of fruit sweetness to it and, overall, is a pleasant drinking experience.
The Fanagoria Cabernet Rosé Numeric Reserve 2011 was a real delight to drink and very much a cross between old and new world styles of rosé wine. It won a bronze medal at the last Hong Kong International Wine and Spirits Challenge and won Bronze in last year’s China Wine awards. It’s a young rosé and has a hint of sweetness making it very approachable and overall a nice drinking wine.
The last wine they brought over was the Fanagoria Saperavi Ice Wine make entirely from the Greek grape Saperavi. This wine is sweet and unctuous and a real crowd pleaser and also has won medals at The Vienna International Wine Challenge (Silver) and at the Hong Kong International Wine and Spirits Challenge (Bronze).
I am really looking forward to catching up with Mikhail at this year’s Vinexpo in Hong Kong and trying out more of their wines and really trying to understand more about Russian wine. It’s not a place that immediately springs to mind when one thinks of wine and I think this is what makes it so appealing.
Look out for our full report on Fanagoria wines with an interview with Mikhail and maybe, just maybe, there will be some wines on the market here one day for all of us to try.