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Stavropol Region Wines

1 Mar

Stavropol Region

Stavropol Region

The northern route of the Silk Road crossed Stavropol region long before it joined Russia’s frontier at the foot of the Caucasus mountains. During the reign of Catherine the Great, Cossacks settled the territory. Tolstoy’s The Cossacks chronicles the region’s conflicts over a century ago with enemies from the nearby Caucasus across the Terek River, which is today’s Chechnya. The book also lauds the region’s wines.

Stavropol is one of Russia’s greatest agricultural regions, and the birthplace of the last Soviet President, Mikhail Gorbachev, who carries his southern Russia accent even today. Stavropol region is also home to two of Russia’s favorite mountain resorts: Pyatigorsk (five mountains) and neighboring Kislovodsk, with their legendary mineral waters. Each has dozens of sanatoria and numerous tourist attractions.

In contrast with the greener lands of Krasnodar to the west, Stavropol is a vast open land, and dryer and colder than its neighbor. The capital, Stavropol, is about the same latitude as Bismarck, North Dakota, with little more rainfall. The farming season opens as early as March. For winemakers, spring means uncovering the vineyard roots that were buried over to protect them from the bitter cold.

In 1990, the first sister-state relationship between a US state and a Russian region was established between Iowa and Stavropol, prompted by Iowa banker John Chrystal and his friend Mikhail Gorbachev. Chrystal traveled often to the USSR and arranged many professional exchange programs after his uncle, Roswell Garst of the Garst Seed company, hosted Nikita Khruschev’s famous visit to Iowa in 1956. Garst weathered a storm of protests over his sale of high-yield corn seed to the Soviet Union, but Russian farmers today still complain about Khrushchev’s fascination with corn: “for years afterward corn was planted everywhere in the Soviet Union, even in Siberia where it could never germinate.”

Praskoveya - The early days

Praskoveya - The early days

It was this sister-state relationship that brought me to Praskoveya Winery, near the city of Budyonnovsk in early 1995, and then back in late May that year. There were about twenty wineries in Stavropol region at the end of the Soviet era, mostly producing dry white and sweet wines, but Praskoveya Winery near Budyonnovsk, about 200 kilometers east of the capital is by far the largest and oldest.

Praskoveya Winery - Modern Packaging

Praskoveya Winery - Modern Packaging

Compared to what I had seen at other Russian wineries, I was impressed with Praskoveya’s management, orderliness, and operation despite harsh rural conditions far from the region’s capital. During that visit we made final plans to set up a packaging line at Praskoveya for bag-in-box wines—a dry white wine, and red sweet wine. I was back in Iowa barely a week when the news came of Russia’s first major terrorist incident—in Budyonnovsk, killing 166 and taking more than 1,500 residents hostage in the local hospital. I returned to Praskoveya often until 2000, notably for its 100-year jubilee in 1998 and still follow the winery and its products. Read more in Passport magazine – March 2011


Russian Wine Country Update

25 Nov

Russian Black Sea Coast Wineries(Passport Magazine October 2009)
As you open this month’s Passport, the grape harvest is closing in Russia Wine Country, an area that stretches north and northeast of the Black Sea port of Novorossisk to the Azov Sea, where about eighty percent of the country’s wine grapes are produced. The village harvest celebrations should begin by the first or second weekend of October. This is a truly lovely time to visit Anapa and the surrounding region with its one hundred kilometers or so of golden sand dunes and beaches and mild weather. This is the “Velvet Season” and gone are the heat and summer crowds when “an apple could not find a place to fall on the beach”.
True, there are other Russian wine areas: Dagestan, the eastern Stavropol region north of Mineralny Vody, and a couple of locations in the Rostov region to the north. But the sun and land of Anapa, Temruk, Novorossisk and Krimsk districts of the Krasnodar region, approximately the same latitude as Bordeaux and Piedmont, have the potential to make very good if not great wines. This extended wine region stretches across the strait to the Azov Sea at Port Kavkaz along the coast of the Crimean Peninsula. Wine has been produced in this entire area for more than 2,500 years since Greek trading settlements were established near the coast. Anapa was then Gorgipia, and remnants of the old walls are preserved near the city center. Read more…

Black Sea Gold Coast

25 Nov

Russian Wine Tasting 2008(Passport Magazine August 2008)
Text and photos Charles W. Borden
Recently Passport’s Knights of the Vine gathered to gauge the progress of Russian wineries. With a selection that included 28 bottles from the Metro discount cash-and-carry chain and eight more from Château Le Grand Vostock in Krasnodar region, Russia’s only modern winery, and Praskoveya Winery near Budyonnovsk in Stavropol region, preparation for the event reminded me of my first trip to a Russian winery, in September 1992.
On the way to the station to catch the train, my hosts warned me not to say anything. They explained that to save money that had bought me a ticket that was for Russian citizens only – not the more expensive ticket foreigners were required to buy. My train fare cost the equivalent of $1.25.

Ignorant of Russia’s vastness, I was looking forward to a nice train ride that would afford views of the Russian country side. I soon learned the trip to Novorossiysk, Russia’s principal port on the Black Sea, would take 36 hours. The train windows were so dirty that I saw little of the countryside, and the state of the bathroom…well, I shudder at the memory (please email me if you feel you can’t live without the gory details).

Upon arrival, we headed north to Anapa and the Ural Sanitorium, one of many health resorts that stretch along the beautiful beaches of the Black Sea coast. The next day I visited my first Russian winery, Primorsky, and over the next few days, I came to think that the economic opportunities here resembled those of southern California in the early 20th century. Thus began ten years of “experience” with the Russian wine industry. Read more…

Russian Wine Country

25 Nov

(Passport Magazine October 2006)
Text and photos by Charles W. Borden
Two months have passed since Russia’s wine crisis began, and supermarket Sedmoi Kontinent still has only a handful of wines. The bureaucrats have crippled Russia’s wine industry and it is difficult to understand how they can fix it anytime soon. Despairing over our inability to provide a wine tasting in Moscow, we set off on a tour of Russian Wine Country, just as harvest was about to begin. September and October are the bakhardniy (velvet) season in the south, a beautiful time to take a few days to see one of Russia’s bounteous wine areas, the northern Black Sea coast in the Krasnodar region.

Russia’s principal wine producing area stretches from the port Novorossiysk on the south, through the coastal children’s resort at Anapa, and then north through the Taman Peninsula at the south end of the Azov Sea where wines were produced in Greek settlements over 2,500 years ago. Although there are now approximately 20 wineries in this area, only a few still produce authentic wines from their own grapes. Unfortunately, some wineries import bulk wine or grape concentrate to produce wines labeled as Russian – I have heard of one winery that imports one type of cheap red Spanish plonk to produce 11 different “Russian” wines. Read more…

Russia’s Wine Regions

22 Nov

Russia's Wine RegionsThe wine grape growing regions of Russia are located in the south between the Black and Caspian Seas. See the following pages for information about the regions where authentic Russian wines are produced:
Krasnodar region
Stavropol region
Rostov region